Police Brutality on Minorities

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Minority Police Brutality in Major Cities of the United States

Since the first state-sponsored police forces in the U.S. racial discrimination in police forces has been a characteristic of the American landscape. Racial profiling and police brutality have their roots in enforcement of slave codes, black codes, and Jim Crow Segregation laws. We Charge Genocide, a petition submitted to the UN by the Civil Rights Congress in 1951, documented thousands of incidents of police violence against African Americans alone. Police brutality against Native Americans has also been a regular of colonial culture in the U.S. as well. Official studies have consistently found that people and communities of color are disproportionately subjected to human rights violations at the hands of law enforcement officers, ranging from verbal abuse and harassment, racial profiling, routine stops and frisks based solely on race or gender to excessive force, unjustified shootings, and torture. There was increased national and international attention on the issue of police brutality, and its impact on people of color in 1990s following the release of the videotape documentation of the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police. Over the course of the decade, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International documented widespread abuses by law enforcement agents across the country. The UN Special Report on contemporary forms of racism has stated, "The use of excessive force by police against African Americans, Asian Americans, Arabs and Indians is one of the most pressing human rights problems facing the United States.

Since 2001 incidents of police brutality and deaths in custody at the hands of U.S. law enforcement officers have been dramatically increasing. Law enforcement, in the name of the “war on terror” in the wake of September 11, has become exponentially more powerful. Consequently, both public discussion and accountability with respect to the use of excessive force against people of color and racial profiling have eroded significantly. But consistent abuse of people of color by law enforcement officers has not only continued since 2001 but has worsened in both practice and severity. According to a representative of the NAACP, “the degree to which police brutality occurs…is the worst I’ve seen in 50 years.” Members of racial minorities (including African Americans, Latino/as, and Native American) bear the brunt of police brutality and excessive force in many parts of the USA. Evidence of racially discriminatory treatment and bias by police has been widely documented.

From 1972 to 1991 former Police Commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command at Police Headquarters in Chicago, Illinois tortured over 100 African Americans. The torture was intentionally inflicted to extract confessions, and techniques included electrically shocking men’s genitals, ears and lips with cattle prods or an electric shock box, anally raping men with cattle prods, suffocating individuals with plastic bags, mock executions, and beatings with telephone books and rubber hoses, as well as routinely depriving the victims of bathroom facilities, sleep and nourishment. The torture was without a doubt racially motivated. Many of the victims were subjected to racist slurs throughout their interrogations. Numerous victims were repeatedly called “nigger,” while others were threatened or subjected to what detectives referred to as the “nigger box.” – the electric shock box. In one instance a victim was threatened with hanging, “Like they had other niggers” -- an obvious reference to lynching. Often, Burge or other detectives would taunt the victims stating, “Who are people going to believe – a ‘nigger’ like you or a cop like me.” All of the detectives who committed the torture are White; all of the known victims are Black. Although there is no doubt that...