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Policing dates back all the way back to the days of Robert Peel in the early 1800’s when the British “Bobbies” were commanding their posts and respond to the cries of help from citizens. Throughout the years since then though, many cases and incidents involving police officers and offenders have been brought to the public and seen as what is considered “police brutality.” Police brutality can be defined as “a civil rights violation that occurs when a police officer acts with excessive force by using an amount of force with regards to a civilian that is more than necessary.” (U.S. Legal, 2012.) Some of the more common cases may be seen during the Civil Rights Movement in the deep southern states in the 1960’s as well as the Rodney King beating and its riots in 1991. Many of these cases have pressed legislators to put guidelines and limitations on police discretion throughout the United States.
There are many cases of Police Brutality all throughout the World and some are more violent or corrupt than others, some receive more media coverage and then that’s when it gets blown out of proportion. Sometimes the cases involve racial discrimination, some are just a poor decision by the police and some of them are just the police following their training. Many of these cases, although a small percentage of the law enforcement personnel as a whole, give police a bad reputation to the public and citizens of the United States. Most of this stereotyping towards police as corrupt and overpowering use of discretion comes through the threads of media and their portrayal of a news story to catch the audience’s attention. To the media a headline news story usually has to involve a dramatic story, jaw-dropping accident or incident such as a murder, or some type of an extreme act. Without one or the other the news casters usually won’t capture the viewer’s full attention, which are their main intentions in the first place. One of the most known cases of police brutality known is the case of Robert Davis in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Robert Davis was a retired school teacher and in early October of 2005 he was returning to New Orleans to help his family with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which had struck only a month prior and the damage was widely spread and plagues the city more than it have ever seen. The incident occurred after Davis was going to get cigarettes in the French Quarter of New Orleans and was crossing the street when approached by officers accusing him of being belligerent and resisting arrest, when Davis said he hadn’t had a drink in 25 years. (New Orleans Man, 2009) The beatings were caught on tape by an Associated Press producer and then he became the victim of an assault later on by a New Orleans Officer that was separate from the Davis incident. This was also caught on videotape and the charges of battery were cleared of the Police Officer in this case. The Davis case made headlines on CBS National News and Davis’ lawyer plead the case that Davis was not resisting arrest and that there is a point when being beaten that a natural survival instinct kicks in that may make an individual resist and fight back but Davis never even did that. New Orleans Police Superintendent said any punishments that are on the table would be handled quickly and that the video only showed not all of the video, but only “a portion of that incident.” (New Orleans Man, 2009) This case may have help prove that the New Orleans Police Department is still strung with allegations and accusations of police brutality and corruptness as it has been known for in its long history. Another case of Police brutality that was known Nationwide is the incident between Frank Jude and Milwaukee Police officers.
Frank Jude was a 26 year old and his friend Lowell Harris were leaving a party hosted by a Milwaukee police officer when some of the Milwaukee Police Officers at the party accused them of stealing another officers wallet with his badge in it from a bedroom in the house. The officers approached the two young men and then began beating them. Harris escaped the wrath with a knife wound to his face but Jude was under the officers flying fists, kicking feet and even a pen was used as a weapon. It was reported that Jude was stabbed in both ears and kicked in the head repeatedly. (Milwaukee beating, 2007) Many officers were involved in this beating; seven Milwaukee officers committed or watched the unlawful act unfold. The main offending officers, Jon Bartlett, Daniel Masarik and Andrew Spengler whom hosted the party and invited the victims were suspended swiftly after the incident. Later on after trial these officers were sentenced to more than 15 years in prison, the harshest of all the punishments dished out in this case. Two other officers received a lesser punishment of two years in prison for their involvement in the incident. This case was viewed as possibly another case of racial profiling and racial discrimination because Jude was bi-racial and Harris was African-American. Although this case was one of the very few where the officers were convicted and the outraged citizens of Milwaukee got their way, it shows how hard it is to prove evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt to convict an officer. Many officers are tied to an unwritten law in the police subculture to what is known as the “Code of Silence.” This “Code of Silence” is when an officer will not “rat out” his or her fellow officers in an incident involving Police Brutality. When the “Code of Silence” is involved in these cases it is very hard to come to a guilty conviction for the jury and judge. A man named David Allred was a part of the federal criminal prosecutor with the Department of Justice and looked into this case and with his 30 years of experience even was surprised this case had an officer conviction, let alone several. This was a valid and reasonable statement because about 96% of the hearings referred to the Justice Department of Civil Rights Division go without a conviction of a law enforcement officer. This statistic just shows the rarity and difficulty in conviction of cases involving police brutality.
The many accusations, allegations and cases throughout the history of the United States of police brutality have led to more acquitted and cleared officers than convicted. There are many factors contributing to this result, it could be the police cultures “Code of Silence” or the notion that jury members are more inclined to believe an officer’s word over a victim’s because of their duty to uphold safety for the public. From the major headlined cases brought to the highest courts of the Federal Government to the less publicized incidents, police brutality is present all across the United States and it will continue to occur if strict legislation is not implemented to protect the victims.
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