police brutality

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Police Brutality


Police brutality occurs in many different segments of the community and as the result of a variety of criminal actions. Probably the most well publicized act of police brutality was the videotaped beating of Rodney King on March , 11 (Surette 1). But in recent years, a number of different cases have refocused community attention on the issue of police brutality against minorities and the use of what has been maintained by the law enforcement culture as necessary force.


In terms of the law enforcement culture and the creation of policy, the issue of police brutality is never black and white. Unfortunately, police often find themselves in situations that require their immediate physical response, and they are pushed into situations where they must act and react in ways that do not always insure the safety of the criminals they are attempting to apprehend. Police have also had to take action in the realm of protecting the public welfare as a whole that has placed others in physical danger based on a weighing of the best options for resolving a criminal interaction.


The police culture determines a level of acceptable violence described as necessary force (Cole and Gertz 11), and within the criminal justice system, leeway is provided for police officers to provide protection for themselves and others based in this central concept. But police actions that surpass necessary force, in which individuals are injured or killed with no immediate justifiable threat, as recognized as brutality, and the increasing prevalence of police brutality has erupted in a call for repercussions within the criminal justice system for police who step over the line.


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The beating of Rodney King might have been dismissed like many other conflicts between white police officers in the predominantly white Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the urban communities that are predominantly African American. But the difference in the Rodney King beating was that a videotaped recording of the actions that occurred and the brutality substantiated King’s assertions by police officers (Kovach ). One of the conflicting issues, that is commonly raised upon claims of police brutality, is whether the level of force that was utilized was actually controlled and necessary, or if it was a form of reactive, unrestrained brutality that occurs when individuals personal perspectives come into their job as police (Kovich ). Within the criminal court, the acceptability of the violence enacted against King was supported by the concept of necessary and controlled force. The jury initially determined that the LAPD officers had acted in a way that judicious and indicated the use of controlled force to limit the actions of a person they perceived as a direct physical threat (Kovach ). Though the King videotape divided many communities and brought into question the issue of necessary force, it did not prevent officers from taking similar actions in recent years. In the spring of 16, for example, a number of illegal refugees were brutally beaten by Los Angeles police deputies who had pursued them in a lengthy high-speed chase (Newton and Slater PG). And in February of 1, New York City police officers faced similar charges of brutality when four police officers in search of a serial rapist corners Amadou Diallo in the foyer of his apartment building and fired at him 41 times in 5 seconds, shooting Diallo, an unarmed man, a total of 1 times (OSullivan ). Though in each of these cases, the police have asserted the use of necessary force as their underlying reason for action, the circumstances of these interactions suggest that police officers are using excessive force with greater frequency, especially in their interactions with minorities.


One of the central problems for these police officers is that many make assumptions about crime and criminality based on elements like race and socio-economic characteristics, and judge individuals before they have a chance to assess actual dangers or create an accurate view of what has occurred. The call for increasing accountability among police officers for their actions even when they claim the use of necessary violence has provided revealing insights into the necessity for careful consideration about the nature of police brutality and the implications for policy-making.


The police defense of the use of necessary force, and sometimes even excessive force, stems from the belief that in urban regions, especially Los Angeles and New York City, aggressive campaigns against crime have reduced the number of crimes being committed (OSullivan ). the Street Crimes Unit of the NYPD, the same unit that the four policemen who shot Diallo belong to, accounts for over 40 percent of all the gun arrests in the city of New York, and their successes have been attained through the aggressive actions of officers who have jumped on reasonable suspicion and taken control of often dangerous situations (OSullivan ). In the course of just one year, 17-18, this unit participated in some 45,084 frisking that resulted in the arrest of ,546 subjects for gun possession (OSullivan ). The justification for the police brutality, then, comes from the desire to reduce the number of individuals with guns and provide a direct threat to the criminal population.


Officers should be peacekeepers, not people who enact their own forms of justice or who create victimization through their behaviors (Pollock 156). Unfortunately, many police officers are viewed as individuals unable to maintain impartiality when dealing with individuals of varied ethnicity. Even within the prison system, corrections officers have been charged with brutality, but a level of force has been noted as acceptable. Brutality by corrections officers has also been viewed as a significant issue, and the acceptability of their actions has been linked to the view of the prison as a place where punishment for crimes occurs (Irwin and Austin 68). This view can be readily linked to the perspective on police officers as a whole; rather than seeing the police cultures as one of enforcement, police are often viewed from a punitive angel as well, and as a result, police brutality has become an acceptable part of the criminal justice process.


There is clearly a need to reconsider the way in which the public policies and criminal justice system responds to claims of police brutality. Over the next few decades, theorists have argued that the country will move towards a reshaping of the criminal justice values towards a due-process and crime-control orientation that will limit the claims made by police regarding their use of extreme force (McCoy 141).


Works Cited


Cole, G. and Gertz, M. The Criminal Justice System. (Belmont, CAWest/Wadsworth Publishing, 18).


Irwin, J. and Austin, J. Its About Time Americas Imprisonment Binge(Belmont, CA West/Wadsworth Publishing, 17).


Kovach, Bill. The Rodney King video revisited. Nieman Reports, (1)Winter, pp. ().


McCoy, Candace. The Future of Criminal Court. In Klofas, J. and Stojkovic, S., Eds. Crime and Justice in the Year 010. (Belmont, CAWest/Wadsworth Publishing, 15).


Newton, J. & Slater, E. (16, April 6). Deputies in Beating May Have Violated Policies. Los Angeles Times.


OSullivan, John. Black and Blue New York erupts over a race-tinged killing-again. National Review, (1) April, pp. (1).


Pollock, Joycelyn. Ethics in Crime and Justice. (Belmont, CAWest/Wadsworth Publishing, 18).


Surette, Ray. Media, Crime and Criminal Justice Images and Realities.(Belmont, CA West/Wadsworth Publishing, 18).





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