Police Brutality and Racial Profiling
We have all heard the news stories surrounding the controversy behind police brutality as well as abuse of force and how it is a growing issue. While some think the police’s use of force is excessive, they are doing their job to protect the citizens and unfortunately, sometimes that involves using lethal force to stop a threat. There’s no way to make it look good. However, if a subject is targeted by police, the suspect often do not listen to the orders of the police, which can very easily escalate a situation. Keep in mind, officers have no way to know that someone does not pose a threat without searching the suspect, even someone who is unarmed can pose a huge threat. As a result, police brutality can play a role because if an officer senses a threat, he or she will do whatever is in their power to stop the threat, which usually involves shooting the subject. Many times an officer may use excessive force to stop a threat, and may do things that were not at all possible. The police aren't always right and their actions are not always justified.
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While the media may portray police brutality as a very common issue, it’s actually not increasing too much from how common it was before. The thing is, when it does happen, it is more transparent than before, when not everyone had a camera on them at all times. Nowadays, with nearly everyone having a smartphone, equipped with a high quality camera, it makes sense that now people see what’s been happening just as often, more than they have seen it before. It may possibly even be happening less than it did before, but just more exposed. Therefore, the increasing popularity of smartphones nowadays is a very good thing because now police officers need to be aware of the image they put out and they are less likely to use excessive force because they know that they will be held liable for their actions.
Racial profiling comes up as a big question in policing today. Although there are numerous racist police officers throughout the U.S., most cops don't go out to work and just say to themselves,”I'm gonna kill a black man today.” It really has nothing to do with race, it's just dependent on who the criminal is… doesn't matter what race. Officers have to be on guard every minute of their shift and there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop. They are always watching where a subject’s hands are placed, and if something is even slightly off, the officer may perceive it as a threat in a split second decision. Again, this leaves very little time for the officer to even think about race. According to the Post, “Unarmed black victims in the Post’s database were so fiercely resisting arrest, judging from press accounts, that the officers involved could reasonably have viewed them as posing a grave danger. In October 2015, a San Diego officer was called to a Holiday Inn in nearby Point Loma, after hotel employees ejected a man causing a disturbance in the lobby. The officer approached a male casing cars in the hotel’s parking lot. The suspect jumped the officer and both fell to the ground. The officer tried to Tase the man, hitting himself as well. The suspect repeatedly tried to wrench the officer’s gun from its holster, according to news reports, and continued assaulting the officer after both had stood up. Fearing for his life, the officer shot the man. It is hard to see how race entered into that encounter. Someone who tries for an officer’s gun must be presumed to have the intention to use it. In 2015, three officers were killed with their own guns, which the suspects had wrestled from them.”
Why do police use excessive force? The short answer is insufficient training. If all departments made it their top priority to provide sufficient ground tactics training to their officers, they would be able to disable the threat with their body instead of with a weapon. This is safer for both the officer and the suspect because no guns or other weapons are involved. If an officer has to go down on the ground with a suspect, and the suspect is in a dominant position, the officer is in a fight for his life and may very easily resort to having to shoot the suspect to stop the threat. However, this is not always the case, some officers panic and try to stop a non-existing threat out of instinct. They may feel threatened even when there is no threat and sometimes this results in a non-justified use of force outcome. Often times this is prevented because recruits are thoroughly tested to make sure they can remain calm in an extremely stressful situation and the recruiters have to ensure that the officers can make logical, split-second decisions that result in a safer outcome for all people involved in the crime.
Why do cops go for their weapon so fast? If you put yourself in an officer's shoes, you'd very quickly realize why resorting to using lethal force can be the easy option. After seeing so many other officers being killed by criminals, it's not easy to know who is a threat or someone who is good. Most people say cops should try to talk to the criminal to see what they are up to before just using force. But most of the people that police have to deal with are not exactly mentally sound, or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and the suspect can go crazy and attack the officer at any moment. That is why an officer can be very defensive and if the suspect does something suspicious it can trigger the officer to associate them as a threat. For an officer to pull out their weapon is such a quick reaction because it is in their muscle memory to do so if they see a threat. And they have to make a decision in a split second on whether or not to resort to lethal force. For example, if during a traffic stop, the officer orders the suspect to exit their vehicle and they do so, but then run back to their car, an officer will most likely draw their gun and use lethal force. This is simply from muscle memory from training in the police academy so much. There are so many situations where a suspect will run back to their car to grab a weapon and shoot the officer. This is an extremely common way that police officers are killed and there are so many videos of this happening. So if an officer pulls you over for whatever reason, if you want to be completely safe, then keep your hands in their view at all times and move them slowly after notifying the officer of every move you are about to make. You can see how if you reach really fast for your registration in your glove box, this can spook the officer because he has no idea if you have a gun in there or if it's just a piece of paper. If you do that and the cop goes for their weapon, you might think he's just trigger happy and he wants to kill somebody. But in reality, the cop just wants to be alive to go home that night.
A common misconception is that police officers are there to try to kill you. Taking a life is the last thing a cop wants to do. In fact, they are putting their lives on the line every day for you to stay alive, and they are willing to lose their lives to protect you. If you ask me, that's some pretty serious commitment and selflessness. Although most cops don't have to ever shoot their gun their whole career, the unlucky few that have to, have a really hard time dealing with it, even if they had to kill someone as a last resort to save their life. When a police officer has to resort to lethal force, and kill someone, it has a huge emotional toll on them and they will never forget that. Based on accounts with retired police officers, some were barely able to eat for weeks knowing that they had killed someone. Even if it happens again later in their career, it still doesn’t make it any easier.
The hiring process for being a police officer is usually very rigorous to filter out those who are unfit for the job. Recruits have to be of extremely good moral character and extensive background checks are run to prevent any “bad apples” from slipping through. All recruits that are unfit for the job are weeded out early in the process with psychological tests and polygraphs to determine who the recruit really is and what they would do in a stressful situation. However, there are some recruits that slip through the process, no matter how extensive and there are always a few bad cops just like there are always a few bad teachers or a few bad doctors, etc. But this doesn’t simply mean that all cops are crooked cops.
After numerous accounts of police officers making false claims in reports after an incident, the Department of Justice decided to require some officers to use body cameras to record what really happened. In May 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would spend $20 million to expand the use of body cameras and study their impact. The cameras are very small and clip onto the officer’s uniform to record everything the officer does that day. The use of these cameras are believed to reduce the incidents of police brutality. The cameras can also show all the good actions of law enforcement officers as well as catch the unruly officers in the act of abusing their powers. Although these cameras can be extremely helpful, they also can have a lot of drawbacks. One of the biggest being, impeding the officers from performing their jobs. The things that police officers have to do on the job are not always pretty, there is no way to make shooting someone of tasing them look good, but sometimes that’s what they have to do. Another drawback of the use of these cameras is the invasion of privacy in citizen’s homes. Throughout their day, a police officer interacts with many people who may be at their worst and really don’t want that side of them to be seen on the internet. Once a video makes it onto youtube, it will live on the internet forever and millions of people can watch it at any time. Steven Strachan, police chief of Bremerton, Washington, who opposed a plan to purchase body cameras for his department, agreed. "Our view is we don't want to be part of violating people's privacy for commercial or voyeuristic reasons," he told the New York Times in April 2015. "Everyone's worst day is now going to be put on YouTube for eternity."
A new policy of “Stop-and-frisk” is being proposed in which police officers can stop anyone suspicious to search them for anything that can harm them or others. This new policy can reduce police brutality because if the officers are certain that the suspect is unarmed, they can treat them accordingly. “Stop and Frisk” has saved many lives and made New York City one of the safest large cities in the U.S. Through this policy, the NYPD was able to disarm dangerous criminals, and in turn prevent many possible murders. Although this policy has many good intentions and has saved many lives, some believe that the authorities target the minorities. “Even though blacks and Hispanics constitute only about 50 percent of New York City's population, they make up about 83 percent of stop and frisks.” Numerous claims of harassment and racism have been made throughout the years as well as the claim that this policy violates the fourth amendment, which protects our citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. Although this policy can be unfair at times, it has, does, and will save lives again and again because criminals are often times caught in the act.
To conclude, numerous claims and reports of police excessive use of force and racial profiling have been filed recently, and although many efforts are being made to reduce the number of these incidents, there is no guarantee of prevention. Body cameras are gradually being adapted as funding allows and “Stop and Frisk” policies put in place but the issues still continue to take place. The law enforcement of our nation is doing everything to protect and serve its citizens but success is not always a guarantee. Eventually the corrupt LEO’s will be caught and held liable for their actions, but the best thing we can do for now is to support and strive to obey our law enforcement officers to ensure everyone’s safety.