The Aspects of Police Brutality in the United States

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As an administration of justice major I have had to analyze a long list of potential police brutality videos in order to determine whether or not the officers used a justified amount of force to stop what they perceived to be a threat. The beatings and killings of African American individuals are definitely something we are all aware of, which is why I chose this topic; I plan on becoming a police officer in the future. Police brutality gained recognition in the early 90's when the Rodney King beating, one of the first public assaults by a police officer caught on camera, was videotaped by a bystander and released as proof of hurting and degrading a Black individual. This sense of racial differentiation dates back to early American history when enslavement was in practice, and was brought back in the nineteenth century with lynching laws. Many people (including myself) believe that the excessive use of force at the hands of the police against African American individuals mirrors racial profiling and the historically bad treatment of People of Color. It should not shock anyone that Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are disproportionately killed by the police; police brutality is a significant topic transcendently influencing African Americans that should prompt changes in law implementation. Others have contended that police brutality is more unpredictable and that there isn't enough evidence to say that it is actually racially motivated.

One particular police brutality case that struck the nation was that of Rodney King, in which some argued that the force implemented by the police was justified. Lt. Dan Marcou argued in his article “A Cop's Perspective” that “If King would have just pulled over and complied with the officers there wouldn’t of been 2,000 injured people, 53 dead, and 1100 buildings wouldn’t of been destroyed due to the riots” (Marcou 2012). Although he has a valid perspective, I believe that the officers could have handled the situation in a more professional manner without calling King racial slurs and beating him repeatedly after he had clearly given up. If the officers had not behaved the way they did that night, there would not have been 2,000 injured people, 53 dead, and 1,100 buildings would have not been destroyed due to the riots; people protested because of the lack of professionalism shown by the police. Due to that, I disagree with Lt. Dan: especially since it took place in Los Angeles, where they have some of the most intensively trained officers in the whole nation. That said, we have to take into consideration that when cops are assaulted or fear for their lives, especially when they are separated from everyone else and believe a firearm is involved, they run the risk of lethally shooting someone potentially innocent, yet they are supposed to be trained to not make any mistakes because they can cost someone’s life.

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I strongly believe that Mr. King’s arrest was motivated by police racism and was a very clear scene of police brutality. If he had been white, police likely would not have considered him to be such a risk. However, I can see why some people think that the officers’ use of force against King was justified since he did not comply with the officers’ commands, and he could have killed someone during the high speed chase he provoked. The video served as concrete evidence of King’s arrest, and you can clearly see that he gave up at one point. Instead of the officers arresting King right away and putting him in the back of a patrol car, the officers at the scene continued to beat him when he was already down and allegedly called him names and racial slurs. One actually Stomped on King’s head, and another kept beating him with his baton, striking multiple times while King was defensively on the ground with his hands above his head. To me, that is a very clear use of excessive force and police racism.

Although some studies have pointed to the idea that there's no racial bias present in policing, the majority of real life data proves otherwise. Lisa Thurau’s article “Police Killings, Brutality Damaging Mental Health of Black Community” states that in 2015, Berkeley Law Professor Franklin Zimring broke down “1,100 deaths by Officers and found that the passing rates for African Americans were increasingly higher than the rest of the population” (Zirming 2015). An analysis done by Roland G. Fryer, an African American economics teacher at Harvard University, found that “African Americans are bound to be cuffed, pepper spray or pushed to the ground by a cop, even subsequent to representing how, where and when they experience the police”(Fryer 2016). However, his study concluded that there was no racial bias in police shootings. I have to disagree with that since Fryer himself mentions that African Americans are more likely to be treated poorly by an officer, so it would not stand to reason that there are no racial biases if African Americans are more likely to be involved in police confrontations.

Although the incident with Rodney King happened almost 30 years ago, cases dealing with police brutality are still prevalent. For Example, On the morning of New Year's Day of 2009, 22-year-old Oscar Grant was fatally shot in the back at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, California by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle. The officer claimed in his statement that “he confused his gun for a taser.” (Tucker, Zeto, Knight 2009). A variety of

witnesses filmed the incident on their camera phones and posted it on social media: it instantly went viral. Grant died in the hospital the day after the occurrence, and Oakland erupted in protest and riots: many believed that the officer was acting out of racism. The officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and got the minimum sentence of two years in prison, but he was released 11 months later on parole. John Burris, a civil rights attorney specializing in police brutality cases, explained why cases like these are hard to win. “The vast majority of people who serve on the jury are basically pro police and it’s very difficult for them to rule against a police officer for conduct that has happened in the course of their work” (Burris 2017). The case gained so much attention that the film Fruitvale Station featuring Michael B. Jordan was made in 2013 to explain the incident and spread awareness for the prevalence of police brutality against African Americans.

Grant, along with Rodney King and many more, are all symbols of the ongoing battle against police brutality in the United States. The similarities between the cases, most notably the fact that they are primarily directed towards People of Color, proves that it is time to make a change. The riots prove that the people of the United States are ready for a revolution: it is now up to the government to fulfill their end. It also showed people (in a very extreme way) that they have the power to stand up, come together, challenge governmental decisions and make a change towards a less racist and brutal community.

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The Aspects of Police Brutality in the United States. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from
“The Aspects of Police Brutality in the United States.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022,
The Aspects of Police Brutality in the United States. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
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