Throughout history, efforts to police society have been flawed by brutality in one way or another. Police Brutality exists in many countries and is only one of several forms of police misconduct. Abuse by law enforcement officers in the United States is one of the most serious human rights violations in the country. Police officers have engaged in unjustified shootings, severe beatings, fatal chokings, and unnecessarily rough treatment. The history of police brutality is cyclical, going through phases of violence, corruption, and reform.
Police brutality is the excessive use of physical force, assault, verbal attacks, and threats by police officers and other law enforcement officers. The targets of the violence are usually the poor, the working class, political dissidents, and ethnic minorities. Police brutality is often associated with racial profiling. Differences in race, religion, politics, and socioeconomic status between police and citizens can contribute to how some police officers view the population as generally deserving punishment. Cases in which police officers, prison guards, and other law enforcement authorities have used excessive force or other tactics to violate victims’ civil rights have increased twenty-five percent from 2001 to 2007. Federal prosecutors are targeting a rising number of law enforcement officers for alleged brutality. Some victims see the police as protecting the upper classes. They think police violence only came under examination when “decent” people became victims.
The causes of police brutality may vary from the individual police officer to the leadership of an entire squad. Stress is an inherent part of police work, especially since lives are literally in their hands. The extreme stress and pressure placed on police officers has caused an increasing number of extreme use of force cases across the United States. Police officers are rarely required to fire their guns and most calls are more along the nature of domestic disputes, but everyday there is the underlying knowledge that they may either have to “kill or be killed.” Police work is an extremely emotional occupation and it is difficult for police officers not to get personally involved in their work. When a citizen undermines a police officer’s authority in the face of all that stress, an encounter can take a life of its own.
Another cause of police brutality can simply be an abuse of power. These are usually more extreme cases. In some cases, police officers believe that they are above the law. In dealing with disorderly elements of society, some people working in law enforcement may gradually develop an attitude or sense of authority over society. An additional cause may be jurisdiction where the officers serve. In some areas, law enforcement officers are the targets of acts of violence on a regular basis. In cases such as these, when officers are attempting to make an arrest or retain a suspect, the officers may act out of fear or anger and necessary force may go too far. Also, police officers do make honest human mistakes, often as a result of allowing personal bias or emotion to influence their actions.
When an officer arrests someone, the accused person is taken into custody. The police can arrest a person who is suspected of having committed a criminal offense. A police officer may also arrest anyone who commits an offense in the officer’s presence, obstructs a police officer from executing his duties, or is wanted by the authorities. When making an arrest, a police officer will come into physical contact with or even attempt to confine a suspect. If the suspect forcibly resists arrest or attempts to escape, the officer may use all necessary means to achieve the arrest. Arrest is the act of taking an adult or juvenile into physical custody by authority of law for the purpose of charging the person with a criminal offense, a delinquent act, or a status offense. When a suspect is being arrested, he should be informed...
Johnson, Kevin. “Police Brutality Cases on the Rise Since 9/11.” USA Today 17 Dec. 2007.
Schmalleger, Frank. Criminal Justice Today: An Introductory Text for the Twenty-First Century. 9th Edition.
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