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Sample Research Paper on Police Brutality
Recent police brutality reports, such as the George Floyd case in 2020, have ignited the issue regarding officers’ use of excessive force. The police are supposed to be the symbol of safety and protection, however, the increased number of police brutality reports has caused the public to perceive officers in a negative light. Instead of respecting and looking up to officers, civilians develop fear and anxiety when around them. This concerning issue compels immediate action to repair the police’s image and ensure public safety. The future of police brutality must lead to its decline through the establishment of reform programs and other solutions that will decrease the use of excessive force.
The Police Brutality Issue
Police brutality , or the use of excessive force, has been an issue since the 19th century. While the issue was significant, the few cases did not alarm the public. Today, the issue of police brutality has become a relevant topic due to the high-profile cases related to it. According to Cheatham & Maizland (2022), the death of George Floyd, due to the use of excessive force, became a pivotal point in the issue of police brutality and modern racism . The video recording of George Floyd’s death became viral on social media which then sparked controversy. This highlighted the police brutality issue; leading to the formation of various movements, studies on police brutality, and attempted reforms in policing agencies.
The various studies regarding police brutality revealed that there is an unchecked trend in the use of excessive force. In the United States, law enforcement officers kill 1,000 civilians per year (Peeples, 2020). In Nigeria, police forces open fire on protesters which led to civilian casualties. In Kenya, the police use deadly force to enforce pandemic regulations (Cheatham & Maizland, 2022). Other police forces from other countries also use similar methods, including the use of rubber bullets and tear gas. These data showcase that police brutality is not only an issue in the United States but also in other countries. This paper, however, will focus more on police brutality in the United States.
The police brutality issue has a connection with discrimination and racism . Various studies revealed that Black people tend to experience police brutality more than other groups (Peeples, 2020). There is also the trend where white officers fire their guns five times more than Black officers when in Black neighborhoods (Hoekstra & Sloan, 2020, cited in Peeples, 2020). These suggest that police officers, especially white individuals, tend to use excessive force because of racial profiling. They may perceive Black people as more likely to be criminals and Black neighborhoods as more dangerous areas. This biased perception causes them to use excessive force, perhaps due to fear for their lives.
Other Causal Factors
While racial profiling is one of the main factors in the increased rate of police brutality, other reasons can cause the use of excessive force. According to Peeples (2020); bad tempers, insecurities, and other personal characteristics are predictive factors in police brutality. A bad temper and impatience can lead an officer to use unnecessary force to apprehend a suspect. Insecurities and other personal characteristics can increase the likelihood of an officer relying on their weapons, such as guns and police sticks.
However, it is important to note that police officers are not the only party who is accountable for the issue. Since police officers have to serve the public, their work includes performing duties in situations alien to them. For instance, studies revealed that one in ten U.S. police calls involve individuals with mental illness which leads police officers to shoot and kill individuals with mental illnesses (Cheatham & Maizland, 2022). Engaging in these situations requires a specific approach that regular officers may not have learned in their training. Since the only way to defend themselves is to use their tools, such as their guns, they have no choice but to use force.
Solutions for the Police Brutality Issue
Even before the death of George Floyd, the U.S. government has issued reforms to address the police brutality issue. The reforms were due to a similar case in 2014, that of Eric Garner, a Black man who died because of the police’s use of excessive force. Since then, the United States promoted the use of body-worn cameras, banning chokeholds, implicit-bias training, de-escalation training, and other methods. These changes led to a significant decrease in police shootings which may have helped reduce police brutality-related casualties (Peeples, 2020). However, since recent data show that U.S police kill 1,000 civilians per year, such as in 2021 when they killed 1,139 people; the solutions are not effective in addressing the issue (Cheatham & Maizland, 2022; Peeples, 2020). This means that there is a need for more reforms that will address the issue aggressively and reduce police brutality rates significantly.
While body-worn cameras were included in the initial proposals in 2014, it is still important to include them in the discussion since it plays an integral role in policing. Body-worn cameras provide concrete proof of events that protect both officers’ and civilians’ interests. According to Peeples (2020), officers with body-worn cameras use less force and receive fewer complaints. The body-worn cameras ensure that officers follow protocol and prevent them from incriminating behaviors. However, since some agencies allow officers to turn off their cameras during certain situations, some departments still receive the same amount of complaints and police brutality cases. This suggests that police agencies and departments must implement strict rules to ensure that officers wear their cameras at all times.
Centralized Policing Authority
One of the main issues in the U.S. police force is the thousands of law-enforcement agencies available. According to Cheatham & Maizland (2022), the U.S. has 18,000 agencies while other countries only have a single or few policing forces. The non-centralized authority in the U.S. leads to varying policies, such as body-worn camera implementation, which can make it difficult to standardize protocols and training. However, experts suggest that a centralized policing authority in the U.S. will be beneficial in addressing police brutality. Additionally, a centralized authority can prevent discharged officers from entering other agencies and going back on duty. This will prevent officers who commit police brutality from remaining in the field and potentially repeating their crimes.
Acquisition of Better Data
Despite the various research regarding police brutality, there is a lack of significant data regarding the extent of the problem. According to an FBI data set in 2019, only 40% of officers provide data regarding their use of excessive force (cited in Peeples, 2020). This is because data submission is voluntary and many agencies do not want to incriminate their officers. This means that the current data on police brutality is unreliable and the real numbers may be significantly higher (Muggah & Abt, 2020). A centralized authority can help in establishing better data acquisition, as well as government legislation requiring regular reports regarding police use of lethal force.
Demilitarization of the Police
Demilitarization is another solution to significantly reduce the use of lethal force. Since some police agencies possess armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and other military-grade tools, overreliance on force becomes a problem and increases lethal violence incidents (Muggah & Abt, 2020). The U.S. government, or at least police agencies, should set limitations regarding the type of tools that officers can possess. While equipping officers with handguns, tasers, and batons is necessary for their protection, military-grade weapons are unwarranted tools for their duties. However, demilitarization can only reduce lethal violence and cannot address certain types of police brutality, especially those related to racism.
Lastly, police agencies can reduce police brutality rates by recruiting more women in the field. According to various studies, female officers discharge their firearms less and receive fewer complaints from citizens (Muggah & Abt, 2020). They may follow their de-escalation training more and rely on protocols instead of their biases. For instance, one of the causal factors in police brutality is insecure masculinity. This is absent in women which removes a causal factor, potentially reducing police brutality risks. Furthermore, diverse recruitment in the field can help address the recruitment of unqualified individuals who have high tendencies to use excessive force.
The active efforts in addressing the issue of police brutality ensure that the future of police brutality does not lead to more violence. Since there are ongoing solutions, such as the wearing of body cameras, implicit bias training, and others, police agencies and the U.S. government are aware that the issue is significant. However, since police brutality rates and police-related casualties remain despite the efforts, there is a need for more reforms in the system. Police agencies and the U.S. government must find a way to form a centralized policing authority that will set the standards for law enforcement officers. This centralized policing authority can help in the acquisition of accurate data and establish programs that will safeguard the interests of both officers and civilians.
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Cheatham, A. & Maizland, L. (2022). How Police Compare in Different Democracies. Council on Foreign Relations. Available at https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/how-police-compare-different-democracies . Accessed August 22, 2022.
Gutierrez, D. (n.d.). Why Police Training Must be Reformed. Harvard Kennedy School, Institute of Politics. Available at https://iop.harvard.edu/get-involved/harvard-political-review/why-police-training-must-be-reformed. Accessed August 22, 2022.
Muggah, R. & Abt, T. (2020). Calls for Police Reform Are Getting Louder–Here is How to Do It. Foreign Policy. Available at https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/06/22/calls-for-police-reform-are-getting-louder-here-is-how-to-do-it/. Accessed August 22, 2022.
Peeples, L. (2020). What the Data Say About Police Brutality and Racial Bias–And Which Reforms Might Work. Nature. Available at https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01846-z. Accessed August 22, 2022.
Schuppe, J. (2020). From Eric Garner to George Floyd: Protests Reveal How Little Has Changed in 6 Years. NBC News. Available at https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/eric-garner-george-floyd-protests-reveal-how-little-has-changed-n1220501. Accessed August 23, 2022.