Example Of Research Paper On “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”
An Insight on Police Brutality and Racial Discrimination
Police misconduct and brutality continues to generate headlines as monthly controversial cases intensified the people’s unrest. Last year signalled the height of the outrage following the consecutive deaths of three African American citizens in the hands of the police and recently, another one was shot down in a routine traffic stop.
In Staten Island New York on July 2014, Eric Garner was apprehended by the police by selling loose and untaxed cigarettes on the streets. As the police put him on chokehold, he pleaded for the officers to loosen up but to no avail. His plea for life with his last words “I can’t breathe!” was even captured on camera.
A month after, protest against police brutality escalated as teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri was shot in cold blood by a police officer under the premise of allegedly robbing a store. The case triggered further unrest as the court sided with the police officer claiming it was self-defences against the unarmed teenager.
On November, 12-year old Tamir Rice of Cleveland Ohio was shot by police while playing with a toy gun. This April 4, 2015 in South Carolina, Walter Scott was shot by a police officer Michael Slagger after a routine traffic stop. The police claimed that it was self-defence however; video clearly showed that Scott was unarmed and he was shot while running away from the police. Out of all these cases, Slagger was the only police officer suspended because lying.
The incessant occurrence of police brutality during civilian apprehension aggravated further the public sentiments on racial discrimination because of the evident pattern involving white cops killing black citizens. Even under the first African-American President, Barrack Obama’s rule, racial discrimination still run rampant all over the country. Coloured people are still suffering from police brutality and the courts, always turning a blind eye towards these cases.
Police brutality and racial discrimination can be solved by uprooting the causes of the problem. To shed light to this, we should first look at where this kind of culture originated from and its causes.
History of violence against races
In the United States, police brutality and racial discrimination especially among the African-American and other minority citizens is historically rooted. Before the emancipation of the African-American people, they had been suffering from the brutality of the whole system of slavery. It was only in the first part of the 20th century that the struggle for equality has ripened, escalated and gained fruitful results. However, the history of the race was never bloodless.
According to the report of the 1968 National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, from the early part of the 20th century and throughout the 1960s, the most eminent symbol of racial oppression is police violence. The NACCD survey on attitudes of residents in cities where riots always broke out during those times proved that police practices were the major source of complaint (Briggs, “National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders: A review article,” 202).
During African-American Civil Rights movement in its struggle for racial equality and justice, countless incidents of police brutality was experienced especially during the 60’s Birmingham campaign and Selma to Montgomery marches. Over the years, strings of race protests and riots have been a phenomenon as people of color incessantly experience violence from the police. The most notable case was the arrest and beating of Rodney King on 1991 by Los Angeles police, which was captured on camera and broadcasted widely on television. When the police officers were acquitted, riots broke out. The unrest and the popularity of King’s case forced the government to revise laws on using police force (Tuck, “Civil Rights Movement”).
However, until now amidst all the equality movements and the change in the policies and system, the negative effect of how white people view African-American and other minorities, still manifest in how authorities treat them up to the present.
Culture of Violence
Colin Jenkin’s view in this matter sheds light on the cultural roots of racial discrimination and police brutality. In his article "Coming Home to Roost: American Militarism, War Culture, and Police Brutality" published in The Hampton Institute, he gave deeper understanding on the matter by describing his own experience in the military and how US shapes the minds of the youth in viewing violence against other people of color as justifiable. Jenkin mentioned internalized culture of war and oppression, objectification, empathy erosion, class-based society and white supremacy as the factors contributing to the culture of violence that is persisting in both the military and the police forces in the country.
In his words, “White supremacy is fuelled by objectification and, more specifically, the collective dehumanization of peoples of color. Its power lies in the fact that it not only transcends the fundamental societal arrangement of class, but that it is embraced largely by working class whites who have shown a willingness to internalize and project their own oppression onto others - in this case, the non-white working classes” (Jenkin, "Coming Home to Roost: American Militarism, War Culture, and Police Brutality").
White supremacy doesn’t only have cultural manifestation but also shows in the large gap of the whites and blacks in economic stature. Despite the changes in society, a survey conducted by Pew Research Center found out that only 45 percent of American population believe that America has made considerable progress toward racial equality. More of them or the 49% say that there is tons more to be done.
The research also found out that even after 50 years since the civil rights movement, economic gulf between races still exists in the whole country. Statistics on household income and wealth between both races have widened. The gaps in poverty and homeownership are even roughly the same as it was four decades ago.
Pew survey also showed that men of color are more than six time as likely as white men to be incarcerated in state and federal prisons. It’s more than the five times of the recorded disparity in 1960.
Blind Law Enforcers and Courts
Police officers on patrol always follow the buddy system as much as possible. However, this buddy system also applies so effectively as when one of them commits misconduct, the other turns a blind eye. According to government survey on police officers opinion on police misconduct, 52% agree that it is only normal to turn a blind eye when colleagues commit improper conduct because (67% of them believe) they will get a “cold shoulder” once they report it.
In 2010 National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP), using excessive force garnered the highest percentage of 23.8 in all of the 6,613 reported cases of police misconduct. Although the reports are very high, the chances of police officers being prosecuted due to misconduct is very low as statistics from NPMSRP clearly shows that incarceration rate, conviction rates and the time they spend in jail for the criminal misconduct are also very low as compared to ordinary citizens with criminal charges.
According to Susan Bandes’ “Patterns Of Injustice: Police Brutality In The Courts”, there is probable evidence that courts cannot and choose not to view police brutality as a systematic pattern happening in the force because “courts tend to portray incidents of police brutality as anecdotal, fragmented and isolated, rather as a part of a systematic institutional pattern” (1275).
Regina Lawrence supports this view in the article “The Politics of Force: Media and the Construction of Police Brutality” stating that several institutional systems encourage police brutality. The criminal justice system for instance, often discourages prosecutors from vigorously pursuing cases of police misconduct and the political system is lenient to the police as compared to civilians in slums and racial minorities.
Based on the history and the opinions of scholars cited above, it can be derived that police brutality and racial discrimination is embedded in the culture of American society. Socio-political institutions aggravate this issue further by helping shape every American’s opinion towards justifying the prevalence of the culture of violence in the police force, knowingly or unknowingly.
The causes of the problem are systematic and cultural; therefore the solution to this is drastically changing the government’s point of view and what they teach its citizens - in other words, law and education.
More laws should be passed protecting the rights of the citizens against police brutality. This will not only benefit the African-American citizens, but the entire nation as well
One step in policy making is being lobbied by civil rights activist Al Sharpton. He recently called for a federal law nationalizing the law on policing. “We can’t go from state to state, we’ve got to have national law to protect people against this continued question,” he said. His proposal included also the nationalization of police officers wearing body cameras as the gadgets were deemed beneficiary when it comes to persecuting police officers sued for misconduct.
It’s still a long way to go when it comes to finding a solution for police brutality and racial discrimination in apprehending civilians. However, simple the steps we can do today, when accumulated, it will still reach the future wherein these kinds of human rights violations are non-existent. The people should not falter in lobbying for their rights as citizens and at the same time, the police as, law enforcers living through citizen’s taxes, should always serve and protect them, as they’re supposed to do.
Bandes, Susan. “Patterns of Injustice: Police Brutality in the Courts.” 1999. 47 Buff. L. Rev. Print.
Blinder, Alan and Santora, Marc. “Officer Who Killed Walter Scott Is Fired, and Police Chief Denounces Shooting.” New York Times, 9 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 April 2015
Briggs, Vernon Jr. “National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders: A review article.” Journal of Economic Issues. Vol. 2 (1968): 200-210. Web. 12 April 2015.
Dewan, Shaila and Oppel, Richard. “In Tamir Rice Case, Many Errors by Cleveland Police, Then a Fatal One.” New York Times, 23 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 April 2015.
Goodman, David and Godstein Joseph. “Handling of New York Chokehold Cases Disappointing Review Board Chief Says.” New York Times, 5 Aug. 2014. Web. 12 April 2015.
Lapotin, Katie. “After North Charleston Shooting, Al Sharpton Proposes ‘Solution’ to the Issue of Police Brutality.” IJReview. 9 Apr 2015. Web 12 April 2015.
Lawrence, Regina. “The Politics Of Force: Media And The Construction Of Police Brutality” University of California Press. Web. 12 April 2015.
Pacman, David. “2010 NPMSRP Police Misconduct Statistical Report.” The Cato Institute’s Police Misconduct Reporting Project. 5 April 2011. Web. 12 April 2015.
Skitka, Linda and Mullen, Elizabeth. “When Outcomes Prompt Criticism of Procedures: An Analysis of the Rodney King Case.” Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, Vol. 6, No. 1 (2006): 1-14. Web. 12 April 2015.
Tuck, Stephen. “Civil Rights Movement.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 9 Aug. 2009. Web. 12 April 2015.
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