In recent years, police action, particularly police abuse, has come into view of a wide, public and critical eye. Evidence of police brutality is seen in Joan Didion’s “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” as well as many other sources, such as BBC, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. Is it fair that police can use brute force? Police are supposed to protect and serve the people of our country, however, in many cases, police abuse their power and use excessive force, leading to police brutality.
Unnecessary action and police force can be seen as early as 1969 in Haight-Ashbury. In Joan Didion’s exposé, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”, she mentions a fourteen year old girl who received a pelvic exam from police. “She was just walking through the Park, he says, minding her own, carrying her schoolbooks, when the cops took her in and booked her and gave her a pelvic.” (Didion, 8). Instead of protecting her, as well as her innocence, they contributed to it’s loss. This innocent, young girl had to experience the unnecessary force of police.
“Slouching Towards Bethlehem” shows that police abuse their power on juveniles in ways, such as harassing them while they are doing something as innocently as walking through a park. Not only in modern day America, but in the America of 40 years ago, police brutality effected society. In 1969 there were thousands of teens who rebelled against the forces of authority. In doing so, many turned to drugs. This impacted society in numerous negative ways. The young runaways dropped out of school to join the hippie community. Some died. Others had married young and endured teen pregnancy and unfaithfulness by their partners.
In 2006, Sean Bell was mistaken for having a gun and consequently shot fifty times and killed by police officers. In 1991, truck driver Rodney King was famously brutally beaten by LAPD. This passed summer, Michael Brown, an 18 year old in Missouri was shot and killed by a white police officer after disturbing traffic. Staten Island’s own Eric Garner was also killed by police officers’ excessive force in the summer of 2014 via chokehold. These are only a few of the many examples of police brutality that is corrupting the nation. Multiple instances of each example can be seen various times throughout the decades.
When police use excessive force, it causes society to react negatively. Civilians become fearful of authority, which causes them not to rely on authority figures to protect them. When a crime is committed it is unlikely that someone may call the police right away. “The shooting of the 18-year-old as he walked down a street drew allegations of police brutality among people in the mainly black suburb of Ferguson.” (BBC). Since the shooting, there have been a variety of protests. During these protests, riots erupt, looters rob stores, and more innocent civilians are harassed.
When civilians become more fearful of the authorities, some authority figures gain a false sense of superiority. Their inflated egos allow them to inflict more unnecessary, and often violent, force. After the protests in Ferguson began, a curfew was set. “US police have fired smoke bombs and tear gas to disperse a crowd defying a curfew in St Louis, Missouri, where a shooting has inflamed racial tensions.” (BBC).
“The police used some level of physical force in more than one in five stops across the city last year, according to an analysis by The New York Times”. (Rivera, New York Times). In the West Bronx, the NYPD is accustomed to the city’s stop and frisk policy. People who have been stopped say that if they show the slightest bit of resistance, it is easy to find themselves slammed against walls, forced to the ground and, even with officers’ guns pointed at their heads. It is reported that in 2011, the police made a record 680,000 stops, more than 80 percent of those people were black or Latino. In 2011, stop and frisk in West Bronx was used every 6 out of 10 times....
Cited: Pockets of City See Higher Use of Force During Police Stops. Rivera, Ray. nytimes.com
The New York Times. Published August 15, 2012. November 18, 2014.
Sean Bell. N.A. nytimes.com
The New York Times. Accessed November 18, 2014.
Rand Paul: We Must Demilitarize the Police N.A. time.com.
Time Magazine. Accessed November 18, 2014.
Tear gas fired after Missouri curfew. N.A.
BBC News. Accessed November 18, 2014.
“Slouching Towards Bethlehem”. Joan Didion.
Burning Man Books. Published 1968. Accessed November 19, 2014
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