"But they didn't have to beat me this bad. I don't know what I did to be beat up." Rodney King, March 3, 1991. Police brutality has been a long lasting problem in the United States since at least 1903 when police Captain Williams of the New York Police Departmen coined the phrase, "There is more law at the end of a policeman's nightstick than in a decision of the Supreme Court." In the 1920's the Wichersham Commission had a number of instances of police brutality. Many of these included the use of the "third degree" (beating to obtain a confession). This is a very effective way to get a confession out of somebody. However, beating the accused could easily elicit a confession from a scared and innocent person. Also, this puts the accused person's life in danger. Police officers must make snap life and death decisions daily. Officers' work in an environment where death (theirs, their partners, and an innocent or guilty person) is one decision away. How does that constant fear effect an officer's perception? Unfortunately, many that are attracted to law enforcement are aggressive and prone towards violence as a solution. Police officers have a lot of power. With this power comes responsibility. Police brutality can be defined as the excessive or unreasonable use of force in dealing with citizens, suspects and offenders. A nationally known example occurred on the morning of March 3, 1991. Rodney King was pulled out of his vehicle and beaten by two Los Angeles police officers. The LAPD had originally given chase to Mr. King's vehicle due to a failure to yield. Officers fired a 50,000-volt Taser electric dart gun at Mr. King. They also hit King with batons. Mr. King, according to police officials, was hit approximately 56 times. Mr. King had 11 broken bones at the base of his skull. Also, the bones holding his eye in the right socket were broken (LA Times March 19, 1991 p. A20). The policemen reported that Mr. King appeared to be on PCP at the time he was pulled over. Subsequent tests indicated Mr. King had no drugs or alcohol in his system (Serrano, 1991 p. A1). The Rodney King incident was however, captured by a private citizen on videotape. This videotape has subsequently been broadcast nationally and the ensuing trial against the police officers involved captivated our nation.(LA Times March 19, 1991 p. A20). Twenty-seven uniformed officers witnessed this incident from various law enforcement agencies. None of the officers (those individuals who are supposed to protect citizens) made any effort to stop this abuse.(LA Times March 19, 1991 p. A20). The level of escalation even went so far as to call in a police helicopter! (Ironically, the lights from the helicopter actually improved the lighting for the videotape.) The King beating brought complaints from the Mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley and national attention from civil rights leaders. Many believed the beating was racially motivated and extended from a pattern of abusive behavior by police towards blacks. (McDonald 1991) This act of violent behavior from police officers has brought many questions to the national table, such as: · Is...
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