Are The Police In USA A Threat To Ethnic Minority Groups? Essay
Following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in the United States in 2014, it is my view that the police in the U.S. are a threat to minority groups. The deaths of the two African-American men occurred at a time when they posed very little threat to the police officers whose responsibility it was to apprehend the men. In Michael Brown’s case, the police officer involved, Darren Wilson, from Fergusson, Missouri fatally shot Brown even though he was unarmed and had even raised his hands during the shooting. Darren Wilson fired 12 rounds at Michael Brown. In Eric Garner’s case, a confrontation with police from the NYPD occurred after the police became suspicious of him selling single cigarettes without tax stamps. One of the NYPD police officers at the scene, Daniel Pantaleo, placed his arm around Garner’s neck in an attempt to subdue him. Pantaleo placed Garner in a chokehold after pushing him to the ground, in such a position that Garner’s face was facing the ground. Four other NYPD police officers got on top of Garner as well. In the scuffle, Eric Garner told the NYPD police officer that “he could not breathe” eleven times. After Garner lost consciousness Daniel Pantaleo released him from the chokehold, but the officers did nothing to revive him as they thought he was still breathing. Garner died an hour after the scuffle began; he never regained consciousness.
In Michael Brown’s deadly shooting, the Fergusson police involved, Darren Wilson, reported that the reason he discharged his service weapon at the unarmed African-American teenager was because he felt threatened. Following a robbery earlier in the day on 9th August, 2014 in Fergusson, a description of the robbery suspects had been issued to all police officers. As Darren Wilson was patrolling the streets later in the day when he spotted Brown in the company of another African-American man walking on the street, Wilson said he asked the two men to move to the sidewalk. Wilson reported that Brown did not heed the request; instead he approached the officer’s car and punched him as he was exiting his car in an attempt to grab his gun. In the altercation that occurred inside the officer’s car, Wilson reported that he grabbed Brown, but his huge stature placed the officer at a disadvantage. Wilson indicated that he drew his gun and ordered Brown to back away, but that he did not.
The two men struggled for the gun. In the struggle, Wilson tried to discharge the gun twice but the gun failed to discharge. When the gun discharged, Brown took off running but stopped after a short distance. Wilson then ordered him to the ground, but he did not obey the command. Instead, Wilson reported that Brown charged at him, with his left hand by his side and his right hand under his shirt. It was at this moment Darren Wilson, fearing for his life, fired several shots at the charging teenager, killing him instantly.
In Eric Garner’s case, the NYPD police officer reported that the maneuver he performed on Eric Garner on 17th July, 2014 was not a chokehold. Daniel Pantaleo stated that the move was a takedown maneuver he learned at the police academy. He reported that his contact with the victim’s neck during the actual arrest was only incidental. He also indicated that he did not apply any pressure to the victim’s neck. After the incident, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton indicated that the use of chokeholds by his police officers was not an illegal act by law. His words came despite the fact that his department forbids the use of the same.
In Michael Brown’s case, it is my view that the use of deadly force by Darren Wilson in Brown’s fatal shooting is an act that depicts the use of excessive force. The incident involved a white police officer and an unarmed black teenager. While Darren Wilson’s actions during the struggle that took place in his car were within standard police procedures, his actions, after Michael Brown had moved away from the car, were questionable. For one, Michael Brown did not have any weapon on him at the time. The use of live bullets, by a police officer, on a person who he simply suspects of being a threat to him, shows how heavy-handed his response was. Normally, police officers have several items they can use to subdue a hostile suspect. These items include mace, batons, and Tasers. In the Fergusson police department, like in many other police departments all over the country, all police officers were issued with mace, a baton and Tasers.
An item that would have surely ended all of Brown’s hostility was the Taser. Darren Wilson had a Taser, but he did not walk around with it because he felt it was large and “not comfortable”. In the police force, such items are designed to be used to bring hostile individuals under control. Had Wilson been carrying his Taser on the fateful day, then it is likely Michael Brown would not have died. Fergusson Police Department has a force almost entirely made up of white police officers, and its location is in a town whose population is predominantly black. The town required from its officers a particular amount of fines and tickets to be issued to the town’s residents as a way to raise money. Such an activity leads to very random and unnecessary searches and traffic stops being carried out on the town’s black residents by the police officers. The heightened profiling of black people in the town fueled racial bias by the police force.
In Eric Garner’s case, the police officers involved in his arrest were wrong in their use of numbers to subdue him. Even after Garner repeatedly said he could not breathe the officer did not check on his well-being. It is possible that the officers paid no attention to his claims as they thought he was looking for a way to get free from the police. The actions of the police in Garner’s case followed the recently introduced Broken Windows campaign. The campaign is a hostile enforcement of low-level offenses such as drinking. The Broken Windows campaign in the New York area has been found to target mostly the ethnic minorities. In the Clinton Hill and Fort Greene neighborhoods of New York, three-fifths of the population are made up of Latinos and Blacks. In these areas, 87% of those summoned to court following Broken Windows offenses belong to the two ethnic groups.
The cases of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner highlight significant bias by the police officers in the country’s states towards racial minorities. Creating more awareness in the police force by overhauling the current training procedures that encourage the use of force is, therefore, important. Diversifying the personnel in the various police departments to include more officers from the racial minorities will check against racial bias.
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