Many citizens would like to think the police are the defenders of justice it's easy to see why in recent times with the stories of innocent people being killed that many have come to believe that the police are now no longer the defenders but rather the oppressors. The Black Lives Matters movement is a big proponent in this as African Americans are claimed to be disproportionally killed the most out of any race in encounters with the police indicating racism as a root for the violence. However, there are those that believe that police are simply doing their jobs and that the citizens are at fault for the increasing level of hate and violence being thrown at police officers. With tensions so high it becomes hard to see whether the anti-police hate is a cause or simply whether officers are just not being trained well enough to handle conflict resolution. This leads to the question, is police brutality a problem in the US?
Those who believe that police are increasingly brutal have reasonable evidence to support it as in a study done by the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project in 2010 roughly 23 percent of all police misconduct reports were for excessive force. The report being from 2010 might mean the number is different now but based on the amount of police brutality showcased in the media recently would have one believe that the number is higher now. Police becoming more militarized is another concern highlighted by many as legislators push to further increase the power of our police and especially our SWAT.
Equipped with much more military power the idea that the people you're using it against are now your enemies becomes much easier to believe in as discussed by Radley Balko in his book Rise of the Warrior Cop where he discusses the rise of police militarization. Balko states that local police often have the weaponry to be able to conquer a small country which is what leads to the problem which he describes with the old saying, "when you have a hammer everything begins to look like a nail." Along with all these other factors there is still the data supporting the fact that police are more violent against blacks as found by the Guardian which stated that in 2015 of the blacks that were killed by the police 32% were unarmed compared to the 15% of whites who were unarmed and killed. With this data it's no surprise why 42% of nonwhites do not trust in the police and why Americans as a whole are only at 52% in their trust of the police.
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Nevertheless, in the face of this evidence there are those that believe the police are not to blame due to other underlying causes primarily the proliferation of guns in America. While police killings in the US are higher than most other developed nations so is our violent crime rate as seen in a study done by the Organization for Economic Co-operation which showed that the US has a homicide rate of 6.10 per 1000 people which is ten times Germany's and overall the highest out of the UK, Europe, and Canada. It's been discussed that the reason for so much of our violence is due to the unique gun problem America has along with the strong sense of justice which has been cultivated here. Many pro-police supporters cite these problems as why the police have such high violence rates since in order to protect themselves they have to resort to force.
Police brutality is most certainly a problem in the US as discussed earlier just based off the data pointing to it being a problem. However, the reason for this violence is not the fault of the police but rather legislators and our culture as a whole. The US is a nation built upon a distrust of the government as it was born from a bloody revolution against our rulers the British which is why vigilantism is strong in the US. One could see this simply by looking at the responses to any child molester in the news as many would wish that they get sexually assaulted or even killed in prison. While there should be justice done to the child molester to wish further harm upon him is actually a very American idea as in places like Germany the media is not allowed to show someone's full name even after they are convicted.
The fact that the media encourages this vigilante behavior with its sensationalism and that prisons in the US are often run for profit many criminals, who are sometimes people who just need a little help, often are forced to become violent or become what is basically a second class citizen in America. A culture of violence which pervades our media coupled with the fact that there more guns than there are people (as found in a study done by the Congressional Research Service) is a likely reason for why the police in America are forced to be so violent but also why Americans would also be quicker to violence than others around the world. However, this does not exclude the police from the murder of black people at such a high level compared to other races but this is a reality in a society which is post-slavery but still stuck with the ideas which were propagated during those times.
So police brutality is most definitely a thing but is it the fault of the police or of the legislators who allow the culture of violence and racism to continue? One thing is for certain and that is that America is not going to change unless there is a strong push to stop this culture of violence by passing laws which protect those in trials and laws which restrict guns so that gun related violence drops. Additionally, more Americans need to be aware of this skewed justice system we have and become educated about the racism still alive in America because as long as everyone remains ignorant nothing will change.
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The Black Lives Matter Movements Fight Against Racism and Violence of the Police. (2023, Jan 02). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/the-black-lives-matter-movements-fight-against-racism-and-violence-of-the-police/