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Police brutality involves the mishandling, mistreating and the use of overly excessive force by law enforcement on suspects or civilians. The term can also be used when correctional personnel use similar abusive force in the penal facilities. Within the last few years, cases of police brutality have risen in the United States. A few Americans have died in the hands of irresponsible law enforcement officers who employ the use of excessive force while on duty Some cases include the death of Michael Brown in St. Louis Missouri, Eric Gardner in New York City, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore. These cases are just some examples of the many occurrences that take place across the United States that have reached the media. Police brutality in America seems to be focused more on racial profiling of black people in the country, and it appears to be worsening over the years.
To understand the causes of police brutality, it is essential that police behavior be studied. Through studying police behavior the factors that cause police brutality can be determined. The theories of police behavior are connected to the evidence of excessive use of force by the police. The main theories applied in the study of police behavior include the sociological theory, the organizational theory and the psychological theory.
The sociological theory focuses on the idea that police behavior is based on the social dynamics of the encounters between the police and citizens (Duffee and Maguire 150). This theory states that the police are less likely to use excessive force against lower-status citizens whose accusers are also of lower status (that is poor, and the racial/ethnic minorities). On a more general perspective, this theory bases on situational factors. For instance, in a situation where a suspect resists arrest, the police officers are more likely to employ deadly force to ensure they make the arrest. Furthermore, most lower-status regions of the US where poverty and slum life is dominant are inhabited by Black Americans; another probable reason why cases of police brutality are high against Black people.
The psychological theory, on the other hand, focuses on the outlooks as well as personal characteristics by different officers that produce different reactions to similar situations (Duffee and Maguire 152). This difference in response is usually determined by the difference in attitudes of the police officers. Police brutality towards the Black Americans is mostly due to this issue of negative police attitudes. Skolnick and Fyfe argue that two notably dangerous police attitudes that stimulate police brutality towards Black people in the United States include the role of police officers as soldiers against drugs, and the insularity as well as authoritarianism of some police administrations. The police officers have an attitude that most black people in America who wander the streets are drug dealers, and therefore they use deadly force on them. Additionally, the ignorance of other cultures by mainly white police administrations coupled with their authoritarianism leads to more racial profiling and hence the use of brutal force against black people. Moreover, this psychological reason for police behavior argues that the law enforcement tend to believe in the stereotype that black people are bad and dangerous people; hence they use deadly force on them (Chaney and Robertson 482).
Furthermore, the organizational theoretical perspective argues that the behavior of the police officers is also determined by the features of the organization of their places of work (Duffee and Maguire 155). Major factors in the organizations that influence the police behaviors include the system used to provide incentives as well as disincentives, and the rules and regulations as well as their application. This theory suggests that excessive force is more likely to be used by individual officers in watchman style environments as a reaction to disrespect for police authority by the citizens. The death of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman is a case in example.
While police brutality is viewed to be based mostly on prejudice, stereotype, and irresponsibility, there are instances where it should be allowed. According to Harmon, based on the distinctive nature of police officers and their work, the use of deadly force by police officers should be considered reasonable and therefore lawful within the directives of the Fourth Amendment. This consideration should be made if the excessive force is necessary to protect the state’s interest against any imminent threat especially those that seek to interfere with the facilitation of criminal justice, preservation of public order, as well as the protection of the safety of the officers.
Most cases of police brutality end with the police offices arguing that the suspects resist arrest. This act of using scapegoats to defend their unwarranted use of force on suspects and other citizens creates a need for a police administrative reform. Furthermore, police accountability should be enforced through not only the courts but also by the public. Courts must observe seriously the circumstances in which law enforcement officers use deadly force to limit and reduce these cases of death of citizens due to police brutality. While some acts of police brutality can be justified, it remains that most of the occurrences of excessive police force is usually on Black Americans with no solid basis.