INTRODUCTION:Government policies reflect choices made among conflicting values and many
different people, groups, and institutions influence policy decisions. Police brutality is influenced by
many, such as our American political ideals of civil rights and liberties, the political process in terms
of the media and our political institutions, one which the courts.
CIVIL RIGHTS:Whats are out civil rights and liberties relating to the public policy issue of police
brutality? Our civil rights and liberties are embedded in our constitution and state religion, freedom of
speech, the rights to assemble peacefully and to petition the government, the right to bear arms,
freedom of the press, the rights of the criminally accused, requirement of due process, and equal
protection of the laws. Among these rights and liberties, we also have the right to not be inflicted
any kind of cruel and unusual punishment. We as citizens of America have many rights and
freedoms, of which we exercise everyday. The police are there to ensure us these rights and to
protect harm to individuals or to society. However we as citizens tend to mistake police officers for
robots who entail no hatred nor prejudices in other words society forgets that are also human.
Human enough to feel many different feelings, emotions and attitudes towards many different issues
or even people. This is not to say that every police officer would subject a citizen towards this
negative attitude but current events and statistics show that the civil rights and liberties of Americans
are being challenged everyday of the hands of “our protectors”, the police.
Police brutality may occur violating the rights and liberties of any individual at any given time.
However, witnesses report that white police violence against black citizens is more likely to occur
than black police violence against white citizens(1). Many people in the minority community believe
that white police officers are far more responsible for abusive conduct toward minorities than any
other group(2). The authors of Beyond the Rodney King Story conclude that “ Police abuse in
America largely consists of white officers abusing minority citizens. Rickie Clark of the National
Black Police Association, testified that his organization has yet to receive a complaint from a white
person claiming mistreatment by a black officer”. Carol Heppe of Police Watch testified that the
“federal government has a duty to compile statistics on state prosecutions of the police and to
conduct studies of police abuse in its capacity as guranteed of the civil and human rights of all U.S
citizens”(4). Though our civil liberties and rights are supposed to be guaranteed, it clearly seems as
if they are deeply violated when it comes to police brutality, especially against minorities. Ronald
Hampton, a retired D.C. police officer and executive director of the National Black Police
Association says “Politicians and police have said that for us to deal with this effectively you almost
have to be willing to give up some of your rights and privileges”(5). Though we have rights, the
police seem to have more.
“-Police men have the right to stop one when one is driving a car and ask to see ones license and
-Police men have the right to briefly ask one questions on the street and get an answer in return.
-Policemen have the right to pat one down if they think one is carrying a concealed weapon.
-We have the right to ask officer if one is being charged with anything.
-If one is not being charged one should nicely inform officer that one will continue to go his or her
-One has the right to not say anything.
-One has the right to protect him or herself from use of excessive force.
-One also has the right to be left alone”(6).
In a book entitled, Violence And The Police, fifty white officers of all ranks and positions were
questioned about their feelings toward blacks(or Negroes as they refer to them in that time).
Basically what they said was that depending in what area they worked in, it depicted the attitude
they would carry against the suspect, or the community in genera. If they were the good districts
then they would not only listen to what they said but explain the law to them. “You could be nicer
because they are nicer”(7). However, in the South side or North side of the district, the only way to
act is as if you are the boss, and own the place. “They also said that the only response you get from
those in the South or North side would be lies the policeman feels superior to this public and wants
them to recognize this superiority”(8). One policeman justifies police brutality by stating, “If we
were dammed sure that he was the guy who did it, we wouldn’t quibble over the justification for
getting rough with him. You feel the end justifies the means.”(9). On the other hand this survey
conducted does not reflect the opinions of all white policemen, but does add insight to existing
problems between the police and minorities.
In an article entitled, The Black and Blues, many incidents involving police misconduct are
described. One of these incidents involved a 66 year old woman shot first at her hand and then shot
again killing her. Police were called to evict her because she was four months behind in rent.
Another involved an average class black family being awakened at 11:45pm by 500 members of
New York City’s Joint Terrorist Task Force who came to search their house and accused them of
conspiracy to commit jailbreaks and to rob armored trucks. The manner in which this family was
treated was horrifying. The children were forced to come downstairs after being put to sleep
without pants or shoes, or coats and all taken outside at gunpoint. None of them were ever charged
with any crime.
There are many organizations that exist today who offer help and services and hold conferences to
discuss and assist anyone who’s rights have been violated such as the National Association for the
Advancement of colored people(NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality(CORE) and many
others. The NAACP has charged “that police use excessive force in situations which require
deliberate, careful and even handed policing”(10). The result is often severe injury or death. There
are also special task forces, such as Mayor Guiliani’s own Commission to combat Police Corruption
and presently a special task force ordering that every police officer in New York City attend
discussions groups. However, with all of these programs aiding our rights and liberties, in reality civil
lawsuits for personal injuries or false arrests are generally not a viable redress for victims of police
misconduct. Few lawyers will take such cases, because they simply might not want to take a as
against the police or may charge too much money. Witnesses, unless videotaped, may also be hard
to come by. With realistic concerns and situations such as these, our civil rights and liberties may be
Another way to combat this issue of police brutality, which has been historically done to gain our
civil rights is to schedule rallies, street demonstrations and marches. Though many deaths occurred
and much violence took place during the civil rights era, the struggle however won establishing
equality laws. Some activists may take it as to riot certain areas. Citizens become so outraged at
injustice that they may resort to such violence, as in the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles. “A
national poll in 1969 discovered that 40 percent of black Americans believed that riots had helped
the cause of civil rights and only 29 percent said that they had hurt civil rights”(11). While violence
may not seem a proper resolution for establishing rights and liberties, few leaders have advocated it
as a means of securing equality and freedom.
Policemen have developed an attitude toward society in which they carry an “Us” attitude verses
“them” attitude. There is not denying the correlation that exist between minorities and the police
pertaining to misconduct on the officers behalf. Americans have come along way from the civil rights
struggle. For example,” in 1995, thirty years after law enforcement officers beat civil rights marchers
walked peacefully to commemorate Bloody Sunday, and they received the keys to the city from the
mayor-the same mayor as in 1965”(12)). On the other hand in justices of the law continue to take
place throughout the U.S and for that matter in New York City. Our guaranteed rights are under
attack by the very people trained to protect us. No one can take the law into their own hands and
carry out punishments. Conferences should be held yearly or as much as often between our
individual communities to combat the issues. Cases such as the Anthony Baez community civil rights
activists attending a national conference. United States, Attorney Mary Jo White said that Mr. Baez
was deprived of the right to be secure of his person and free from the use of unreasonable force by
one making an arrest under color of law. If America is the Protector of human rights when it comes
to other countries what has happened I America to our rights?
August 9,1997-Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant was beaten and raped by a toilet plunger, then
his teeth were smashed by the plunger after he was arrested by New York City Police officers in the
united states of America.
If one has experienced a negative confrontation with a public officer one should do the following
-Go to supervisor of officer
-Take it to courts.
-Go to newspaper reporters.
-Join citizen advisory committee.
-Become aware of the political ways to aid your situation.
-Participate in community activism.
THE MEDIA:Since the mass media have came about people have become more aware of their
government and society. Media made us more alert of important issues that effects our lives.
However, sometimes media exaggerate issues and reflect it differently to us. One of these issue is
police brutality. Media give the impression that all police are brutal. Every time police use their
authority to use force it becomes police brutality. Media don’t distinguish between brutality and
using force protect our freedom.
Police role involves the maintenance of order, community service and law enforcement for a
democratic society. Police is necessary for democracy. They have great deal of authority to
enforce laws. They have the right to arrest, search and use brute force to maintain order. Brute
force is the rough treatment against a criminal or whoever violates a law that jeopardizes somebody
else’s life, freedom and rights. Police use brute force when they are chasing a criminal They can be
involve in a physical fight with the criminal. In order stop the criminal they have to use brute force.
Police learn how to protect public and themselves from the law violators. They are trained to use
force. Police carry clubs and guns for a reason. Their tools
are not for show they are there to use.
As an illustration one can look at the nationwide Rodney King’s case in Los Angeles, California.
“On March 3,1991 King was speeding on a vehicular. Police asked him to stop but he avoid the
police and flee on the highway”(June 14,1997). He was apprehended. Finally, after he stopped the
vehicular he was severely beat by four police officers. The apprehension was record on tape by a
accidental witness. the tape was on national television repeatedly and the film showed that he was
brutalized. It was not only on nation television it was international. the other countries in the world
view the brutalized King. The emotional and frightening information about the case made the public
up set. Subsequently, the case became a national event. Public sighted the police as beasts who are
in the search for beating people on the streets. People began to see police as brutal. They
associated police with brutality.
However, what the media did not show the other reason for this chain of ugly events. Rodney King
was speeding and he was ask to stop the vehicular but he didn’t pay attention to the warnings. His
high speed made the police suspicious of him. Police had to use brute force to stop him and it
became brutality. If King did stop in the first place the brutality wouldn’t take place.
Unfortunately, media showed brutality when actually it was not as rampant. In Washington Post
there was a article by Frank G. Scafidi. He say that:
For example,”the fact that in one year Los Angeles paid out $8 million in claims to victims of
police brutality was offered as proof that brutality there is rampant. And the Southern California
Civil Liberties Union says that it receives 350 complaints of “police overreaction” weekly. Without
questions $8 million is a greed deal of money... What is not mentioned in any of the references to
this figure is the number of cases that this $8 million represents. Given that civil juries often award
huge sums of money in damages, a suit of this nature could very well bestow $500,000 on the
victim. Using that figure, $8 million would translate to 16 incidents of police brutality in a city where
the population near 4 million...All police over reaction is not police brutality”(March 16,1998)
This article pointed out that there is not many police brutality. However, whenever there is a case
the media exaggerate.
In a sense we give the right to police to use brute force. the government represents us and it gives
right to police to use force under the circumstances. In and case we both need media and police in
our society. However, media should not pass over the line and supply misleading information to the
public. Because people almost believe whatever they see on television, newspapers and magazines,
the exaggeration of the information can cause public to be outraged over issues that is not really
true. People should not see police as a beast they exist because we need their protection. Police
should not abuse their authority to use force to hurt people.
THE COURTS:As Aristotle wrote “Injustice arises when equals are treated unequally and also
when unequal are treated equal”(77). For this reason, police brutality is justify as injustice. Those
cops that uses resentment by abusing; sodomizing; and using racist remarks towards the victim being
brutalized; sometimes win during the court case. I think this is because people don’t want to go
against the men in blue, which these men represents protection of property and preserve life. As
ABA journal said “Historically, police misconduct cases have been hard to win because most jurors
had presumptions In the police’s favor and most local district attorneys were reluctant to go against
police they had to work with on a daily basis”(May 1996). Even the recent police brutality case of
the Haitian Immigrant, Abner Louima, showed that justice was not serve when the four cops didn’t
got the maximum sentence. Thus, we must ensure what sentencing to give to the police officers who
preaches brutality, so they won’t do it again.
Although sometimes good cops goes bad, it is the mayor responsibility job to prevent this kind of
vile behavior from happening again. But what happens to the cops if the crime is done already?
This is the decisions that is made by the courts. In most cases the decisions are usually weak and
have no profound effect on the suspect. For example,”two of the four Montreal police officers
convicted in the beating of a cab driver, who died 24 months later from his injuries that had left him
in a coma, have been fired”(Dec 22,1997).
In this case, justice was not serve at all. Is like committing murder and getting away with it. Why is
it hat when a police officer commits a crime, they loses their badges or get suspension, where as
when others commit crime, they get sentences for life in jail, the electric chair or he poison needle, or
bail? I think that no one should be above the law. No matter who do the crime, they pay the same
time like everyone else.
Sometimes police officers do not commit the crime and don’t do their job. For example,”Isaac and
Yechiel Bitton receive settlement in suit claiming that new York City police did nothing to protect the
men when an angry crowd beat them during the 1991 racial unrest”(Jan 26,1998). Even though the
judge gives a price, such as cash, to the victim, I think that this is inadequate. The mayor should
ensure that police brutality in that maybe the police officer abhor the victim that is getting hit because
of his or her race. If this is the case, than the judge should settle this as it is a police brutality case.
Life is more precious than money and if you are not part of the solution, as the cop didn’t do
anything, than you are part of the problem.
With this in mind I think that all crime cases should be treated as any other crime cases, regardless
who you are. To ensure that cop won’t brutalize again the judge should order them to be
re-educated about egalitarian and give the time that fit the crime. The jurors should not show any
apprehension because they are also protecting themselves and the society. If they show fear than
those police will say to themselves they could get away with police brutality. Anyways, is better to
face your fears than runaway with them. If you want more articles on police brutality click here or
CONCLUSION:The legislature branch of the government should make laws regarding to good
police officers going bad. We cannot have cops wondering in the streets pretending nothing is
happening, when there is a beat down going on. We cannot allowed ones race to prevent the need
of help from a police officer. We cannot have misconduct by any police officer. to allow police
brutality as part of the norm, is like allowing a crook into your house, we must stop for a second and
look at our police culture and identify what they think is good or bad. We must evaluate each and
every cop on not how much they do but what and how will they think. If and do, one cop think s as
a racist, than maybe he or she is a racist and should be eliminated from the force. Any discrimination
or racism against an American is un-American .
The Challenge of Democracy, Janda 5th Edition P.217
Beyond The Rodney King Story, Ogletree Northeastern University Press, 1995
Violence And the Police, William Westley, The mit press, 1970
Ebonye,”How TO STOP POLICE BRUTALITY”:HNS J. MASSAQUOI,V.46 JULY 1991 P.58-60
Essence,”Up Against The Wall Black Men and Cops”:LEs Payne;v.23 Nov.1992 p.72
Essence,”The Black and The Blues”, Jill Nelson; v.29 Sep 1985 p. 91-93
Jet,”NAACP’S Wade Henderson Testifies On Capitol Hill About Police Over reaction”: v.80 May 20,1991 p.32
Washington Post, Bline Harden, June 14 1997
Washington Post,Frank G. Scifidi,March 16,1998
The Anarchical Society, Hedley bull, copyright 1997
Maclean’s, v.28 Dec 22,1997
Maclean’s, v.27 Dec 22 1997
The New York Times, Jan 1998, v147: p A18