George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are only two of the many names within the number of African Americans that have lost their lives as a result of police brutality. As a consequence, from police officers acting on police brutality, or “…excessive…often illegal use of force…,” the majority of cases reported have resulted in African Americans suffering “from assault and battery to mayhem, torture, and murder” (Moore). To reduce this issue, the policing system, must be reformed by adjusting the way officers are trained in order to decrease the mental and physical effects present in African American communities.
The issue of police violence towards Black Americans originates from faulty police systems, stereotypes, and the tensions that arose as a result of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Devon Carbado, a Professor of Law at UCLA, found that there were higher chances of police violence when officers are “poorly trained, in work cultures that promote violence, and suffer no administrative sanctions for their acts of violence” (Carbado and Rock). He also explained that previous policies, such as the “broken windows” policy, resulted in unjustified patrolling as police were reported to patrol in areas with higher crime rates despite the fact whether or not a crime was reported in the area. As a result of this policy, Black Americans are exposed to greater incidents of police violence because areas with higher crime rates that leave them vulnerable to police suspicion even if they haven’t done anything out of the ordinary. Carbado also reported that that officers are more likely to approach and shoot African Americans due to the fact of associating them to “violence and dangerousness” (Carbado and Rock). This causes an increase in police violence, which creates a greater distrust towards the law enforcement. Statistics from the Pew Research Fact Tank found that in a 2016 only 33% of Black Americans believed that the police department carried out their jobs appropriately (DeSilver et al.). This distrust between the Black community and police enforcement has only risen tensions causing the populations from both sides to fear for their safety. As a result of these tensions as well as the stereotypes and the faulty police system, police violence has continued to prevail in Black communities, which continues to greatly effect African Americans both physically and mentally.
As a result of police violence, the mental health of African Americans is affected and was found to contribute to the aggravation of their mental health. Jacob Bor, an epidemiology professor from the Boston University School of Public Health, conducted a study where he surveyed African Americans from a range of different ages on how affected their mental health was based on witnessing “police killings of unarmed Black Americans” three months prior to the day of the interview. Despite conducting the interview a few months later, he found that participants were still found to be affected as they “experienced on average 4.1 days of poor mental health in the month prior to the interview” (Bor). He also found that the unjustified deaths of unarmed African Americans due to police violence could result in “55 million excess poor mental health days per year among black American adults” (Bor). His findings prove that when African Americans witness police violence, they are most likely to experience higher impacts on their mental health, despite not being the victim of the violence. Due to the severity of his findings, Bor makes the comparison of how police killings affect Black Americans to diabetes and he concludes that since diabetes causes “75 million poor mental health days among black Americans” (Bor). This means that the effects of witnessing police killings are almost as large as the mental health effects from diabetes. His conclusion demonstrates the great impact police violence has on Black Americans by comparing a disease that could potentially lead to death to police violence. Overall, police violence contributes to the poor mental health of African Americans as well as physical effects.
In addition to the mental effects, the current police system has resulted in immense cases of unjustified deaths of Black Americans and should be reformed to decrease this number. African Americans become victims of police violence when the police when an illegal excessive use of force. According to Sarah DeGue from the Division of Violence Prevention, from examining cases from 2009 to 2017 where an excessive use of force used, she found that the majority of victims white, 52%, while Blacks composed of the demographic with the next highest percentage of 32% (DeGue et al.). Despite these findings, DeGue found that even though Whites made up the majority in cases where an excessive use of lethal force was used, the cases that resulted in death were found to involve African Americans with a “fatality rate 2.8 times higher” than that of Whites (DeGue et al). She also added on that majority of the Black victims were less likely to be unarmed. In viewing this statistic, it is interesting to see that even though there were more cases of police using lethal force with Whites, Blacks were more likely to die from the use of lethal force despite not having a weapon. This goes on to further prove that they were perceived as dangerous to the police officer, despite being of no threat to the officer. With the current police system, not only was police violence found to affect the lives of African American adults, but also with the addition of the lives of Black youth.
The system of law enforcement must be reformed in order to decrease the number of Black American youth that are being arrested and the reason that they are being arrested. In the year 2013, it was reported that out of the one million youths that had exposure to the criminal justice system, Black youths were found to have “experienced more than twice the rate of arrest than white youths” (Gase et al). This greatly affects the youth’s life in terms of their relationship with their family, education accomplishments, future job opportunities, increase violence rates, and worsen their mental health (Gase et al). Carbado believes that African Americans youth have higher arrest rates comparing to the other racial demographics due to stereotypes and their exposure that comes into play. Carbado found that police tend to dehumanize Black youth and deem that to be more mature and worthy of being “culpable” comparing to their White counter parts. These points further prove the reason why the policing system must be reformed. In addition, Carbado believes that if the issue of police brutality isn’t addressed than it would cause African Americans youth to be more vulnerable to police violence. As a result, this would continue the high arrest rates of African American youth.
To address this issue, police trainings should be amended to include more time to address racial bias within the policing system. In implementing this solution, the required trainings of the law enforcement system can place emphasis on addressing racial bias rather than the physical aspects such as the use of firearms and self-defense. By doing so, it would create a more balanced training, as the previous training of police officers was reported to consist of only about 4 hours of training on hate and bias crimes, while 46 to 60 hours addressed firearm training, self-defense, and fitness (Lopez). In addition, in improving their training, the racial bias that was previously presented during shooting simulations would be able to decrease. It was found during shooting simulations racial bias was present when police showed more hostility towards black suspects rather when crime was warranted (Lopez). Furthermore, police trainings should also amend the required amount of force used by reducing the circumstances that could potentially require greater uses of force. From research done by Philip Atiba Goff, a criminal justice and racial bias expert at John Jay College, he found that in having backup officers go after the suspect rather than the initial officer, the use of force was able to be reduced (Lopez). As a result, from his research, he found that there was a twenty three percent decrease in the use of force and an eleven percent decrease in police injuries (Lopez). In implementing these changes to the current system of policing it would lessen the drastic effects that come to be as a result of police brutality and produce more benefits.
In changing police trainings, it would help reduce the tensions between the police and the Black community as well as reduce the number of deaths on both sides. According to Seth W. Stoughton, a professor of law at the University of South Carolina, he found that when the police department in Richmond, California reduced the amount of force that officers used, the amount of police deaths was found to neither decrease or increase (Stoughton). Despite the fact that there was no change in the fatality rate, this is an important fact because if the continuation of this amendment continues to occur it could potentially lead to a decrease in the amount of police deaths.
Despite these solutions, many believe that changing the police system can endanger the lives of police enforcement and could potentially raise crime rates, however in changing the system it would lessen the number of deaths and crime rates. In changing the policy of use-of-force, which requires officers deescalate situations before resorting to force, many police officers fear that eventually they will be killed. Some argue that in attempting to deescalate a situation, it can cause the officers to lose control of the situation and allow openings for the suspect (Kaste). Instead of amending the content of police trainings, others believe that a potential solution to the issue would be to defund the police. Despite this the belief of this solution having more benefits rather than disadvantages, it is believed that if there are budget cuts, it could raise the crime rates. In the year 2017, it was found that in England and Wales when police budgets were cut, it resulted “14% fewer officers and 20% more gun, knife, and serious violent crimes (“Defund the Police – Top 3 Pros and Cons”). Even though both sides of the issue must be considered, in making amendments to the policing system it would be able to resolve the physical, mental conditions, and the rates of arrests and deaths of African Americans.
Ultimately, the policing system should be reformed to decrease the mental health effects as well as the physical effects, such as the deaths and arrests, present in African American communities. In doing so, it would lower the number of names that are announced of the people that deceased as a result from police violence. Overall, to overcome this issue, the best solution would be to adjust police trainings so that they spend more time addressing racial issues.
- Bor, Jacob, et al. “Police Killings and Their Spillover Effects on the Mental Health of Black Americans: a Population-Based, Quasi-Experimental Study.” The Lancet, vol. 392, no. 10144, 21 June 2018, pp. 302–310., doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(18)31130-9.
- Carbado, Devon W., and Patrick Rock. “What Exposes African Americans to Police Violence.” Harvardcrcl, harvardcrcl.org/wp- content/uploads/sites/10/2009/06/HLC104_crop.pdf.
- “Defund the Police – Top 3 Pros and Cons.” ProCon.org, 17 July 2020, www.procon.org/ headlines/defund-the-police-top-3-pros-and-cons/.
- DeGue, Sarah, et al. “Deaths Due to Use of Lethal Force by Law Enforcement: Findings From the National Violent Death Reporting System, 17 U.S. States, 2009-2012.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6080222/.
- Gase, L. N., Glenn, B. A., Gomez, L. M., Kuo, T., Inkelas, M., & Ponce, N. A. (2016). Understanding racial and ethnic disparities in arrest: The role of individual, home, school, and community characteristics. Race and Social Problems, 8(4), 296-312. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxylib.csueastbay.edu/10.1007/s12552-016-9183-8
- Kaste, Martin. “For Police, A Debate Over Force, Cop Culture And Confrontation.” NPR, NPR, 25 Sept. 2014, www.npr.org/2014/09/25/351373721/police-mental-stamina-metrics-shed-light-on-deadly-force.
- Lopez, German. “American Policing Is Broken. Here’s How to Fix It.” Vox, Vox, 29 Nov. 2016, www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/29/12989428/police-shooting-race-crime.
- Moore, Leonard. “Police Brutality in the United States.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 27 July 2020, www.britannica.com/topic/Police-Brutality-in-the-United-States-2064580.