The whole world is no stranger to police brutality. A dreadful spine-chilling event has never failed to amplify the citizens’ voice throughout generations. Yet it seems like not much has changed no matter how enraged the people get at the unfair treatment whose root cause is mainly race. Police brutality is something like a manifestation of modern racism which excessively abuses power. Since police brutality has been happening for a long time now, has there been any change or is the situation still the same?
What is police brutality?
Police brutality, as mentioned earlier, is the use of unnecessary excessive force against civilians and is illegal most of the time. It caused civil unrest in many locations around the world for people are unable to trust their police force to not inflict harm on fellow innocent citizens. Police brutality takes on many forms: corruption, intimidation, false arrest, racial and criminal profiling, assault and battery, repression, harassment, surveillance, sexual abuse, and even murder. Police brutality is not just about a police officer pulling out a baton or a gun and inflicting physical harm onto someone.
In the United States, Black Americans are five times more likely to be put under the spotlight for greater scrutiny. It is imperative to keep in mind that the situation is not limited to Black Americans. Latinos and Asians are, respectively, thrice and twice more likely to become victims of criminalization by association. These Americans are afraid to call and ask for help from the police because of the high number of cases of racial disparity, aside from the fact that they are being scrutinized on the grounds of security and safety.
Police brutality was and even more closely related to discrimination and racial profiling in the past years. This is most likely due to the fact that historical accounts on police brutality is disturbingly brutal. The reasons behind police brutality are plenty: race, sex or gender, religion, appearance, and social standing. These issues precede the high incident reports of police brutality, and police brutality is not just limited to excessive use of force. It can also be a case of verbal attacks or psychological intimidation that can be proven highly unnecessary in implementing justice and safety.
Police Brutality in the United States throughout the Years
Washington Post reports that in 2020, 1008 people died because of fatal force either by a gunshot or use of brutal force by the police officers. This is probably the biggest irony that the modern society is facing – another face of danger from the supposed protectors of citizens themselves.
For August 2018 alone, the recorded number of deaths due to police brutality is 74. On the same month of 2019, the recorded number of deaths due to police brutality is 84. The figures are not that far from each other in the past five years. However, looking at the bigger picture, the number of deaths caused by police brutality keeps on rising from January to December every year since the shown records which starts at year 2015.
A case of police brutality is the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965. The violence that took place during the march was not coined as “Bloody Sunday” for metaphorical purposes. It was called “Bloody Sunday” because of the amount of brutality enforced by the police officers towards the marchers, despite the abolition of slavery and involuntary servitude in 1865 via the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Six hundred people marched from Selma to Montgomery in March of 1965 to fight against white supremacy and discrimination. It became a landmark phenomenon in the fight for civil rights, particularly for the right of African Americans to vote. It was a key step in ending the racial segregation, and just as the marchers were crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were attacked by the police. It was indeed a bloody Sunday.
Another is the Stonewall Riot in 1969. The Stonewall Riot was a landmark event in the LGBTQ+ pride history around the world. It happened at a time when it was illegal to operate gay bars and so the New York Police Department raided a guy club in the wee hours of the morning. The raid started a riot in the neighborhood and the protests lasted for almost a week and involved the employees and patrons of the bar, the police, and also a few prisoners along with a local news writer.
A few years back, Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy, was shot dead within two seconds after the police arrived just because they believed he was carrying a gun, which turned out to be a fake pellet toy gun. The police received reports of a boy who was pointing a “probably fake” gun at passers-by. The police only thought of checking if the was gun after they have shot the boy. The police who shot Tamir dead was dismissed 3 years after the event. He had not been dismissed due to the shooting for there were no prosecutions following Tamir’s sudden death.
Police Brutality outside the United States
Of course, police brutality is also present in places other than the United States. An incident of police brutality happened in the United Arab Emirates just last 2019 when a Briton student was arrested on alleged drug charges. The student denies the charges and says that he was beaten, stripped naked, and threatened to be raped by police officers. Another, a former Emirati royal bodyguard, was also beaten, kicked, and Taser was used to threaten him. The former bodyguard was also forced to sign a document in Arabic, a language he was unable to read. He later learned that what he signed was that he confessed to the drug charges.
Recently in the Philippines, a video of a police officer mercilessly shooting an unarmed woman and her son was posted on social media. The police officer came over to the house to confront the family about a noise complaint that soon turned to him threatening a member of the family that he was going to arrest them. The police officer’s anger seemed to be triggered by the bickering of his daughter and the woman. As he was enraged, he literally threatened to kill the woman and immediately proceeded to shoot both the woman and the son. The case proceeding is still ongoing as of the moment. This inevitably reignited the arguments about police impunity.
Yes, there is an unmistakable correlation between the cases of police brutality and discrimination. Apparently, it is an unbreakable bond – like how milk complements a coffee or how strawberries draw out the better flavor of the champagne. On a sour note, all of the deaths that happened because of police brutality throughout history cannot be compared to coffee or champagne.
Police brutality is the reason why so many lives ended prematurely and it is something that needs to stop. It may sound far-fetched as it will require a massive worldwide change but concrete actions can and should be taken in order to make an actual change. Hopefully, over time, the weeping of families who have lost loved ones due to police brutality will decline.
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Moore, L. (2020, July 27). Police brutality in the United States. From Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Police-Brutality-in-the-United-States-2064580
Police shootings database 2015-2020. (2020, January 22). Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/