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Police Brutality

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Each year thousands of incidents occur involving some sort of police brutality. A large part of society sees law enforcement officers as heroic and honorable individuals, whose main purpose is to protect and serve the community. For many officers, this image is true, however for others violence and brutality against innocent citizens is the key to getting the job done. For years, minorities have been fallen victims to police brutality based on racial profiling, stereotypes and other inexcusable reasons that has cost several innocent lives, in which it has become an issue in the American correctional system.

Police brutality is a violent incident involving an officer and a victim, usually including excessive force, unnecessary violence and sometimes resulting in a senseless fatal outcome. Minority groups such as African Americans and Hispanics have often been the victims of this form of abuse by officers, however little justice has been done in order to protect these folks from this form of cruelty by the hands of those with the most power. For many individuals, police brutality is an unreal matter because it does not actually concern them or the community in which they live. However for others, this is an everyday happening and few limitations have been set as to what is unfair and hateful behavior of an officer towards the public, therefore, several officers are rarely prosecuted for this type of behavior. The importance of police brutality is a social problem that usually goes unrecognized or unreported. Racial profiling is an example of police brutality, which is defined by Gross and Livingston (2002) as "the practice of some officers of stopping motorists of certain racial or ethnic groups because the officer believe that these groups are more likely than others to commit certain types of crimes" (p.1413). Therefore, individuals are treated unfairly and differently by law enforcement only based on their race. This type of mistreatment is unjustified and at last a violation of an individual's rights. However, in many instances the courts do not find it a violation of their civil rights based on the fact that racial profiling is difficult to prove. Often, prosecutors are disinclined in bringing forth a case against officers on this particular matter. Officers are permitted to stop and search individuals and their vehicles whenever there is reasonable suspicion, however, there has been studies that prove that some law enforcement officers restrict these rights primarily to minority groups. Bowling and Phillips found that although there was no formal monitoring of use of these powers, it was concluded that it was particularly heavy use of these powers against ethnic minorities, largely of young black people (as cited in Sharp & Atherton, 2007, p. 747). In several cases, officers argue that they reasonably pulled an individual over for other probable grounds such as: traffic violations, suspicious behavior, etc., with race never being an influence. However, the current debate regarding racial profiling has shown that African American motorists are more likely to be searched on a highway by police than any other race (Persico, 2002, p. 1472), therefore the stigma of 'driving while black' is more accurate than not. Although officers are sometimes able to use discretion when executing an arrest, or enforcing the law, the decision should not be solely based on an individual's race or ethnicity. Racial profiling is a common form of police brutality that still exists in the country on day to day bases; even so, few individuals recognize it as a serious issue.

Police brutality against minorities in the media causes contemptuous views about policing and the safety of innocent individuals in communities. There have been several high profile cases in recent years regarding violence between the police and innocent citizens. The New York Police Department (NYPD) was publically scrutinized based on the actions taken by several officers on one evening in November 2006, which ultimately left an unarmed man dead on the night before his wedding. Sean Bell was the victim of this hateful attack, when the car that he and his friends were using was shot at many times by unnamed police officers outside of a nightclub (Simmons, 2008, p. 492). What ultimately left the public in an uproar was the release of the charges of the three unnamed officers who were charged in Bell's case. Police brutality consists of the excessive force of officers, and the wrongdoings that they engage in involving innocent victims. However, in this case, both the police department and the justice system saw nothing wrong with the murder of an innocent man. To the public, Sean Bell's death was caused by the unnecessary force and violence perpetrated by the NYPD, yet the system saw no one at fault. An additional case involving police brutality discussed in Simmons' (2008) article resulted in the death of an elderly African American woman Kathryn Johnston, in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2006, officers burst into Ms. Johnston's home unannounced when executing a "no knock" warrant, and the victim, who kept a gun for her own protection, fired at the officers. Officers fired back several times, eventually shooting and killing the victim. However, when the search of the home turned up nothing, the officers planted evidence of marijuana in the home, and filed a false incident report, attempting to cover up their crime, making the shooting justifiable. Later, one of the officers would admit to their wrongdoings and ultimately they would be charged in the case. (p. 490). However, this type of behavior by the police was not unusual, "many of the practices that led to her death were common occurrences in this unit in the Atlanta Police Department" (p. 491). Police brutality is a frequent occurrence that takes place, but much like this incident, without honest individuals and evidence of wrongdoings, many officers get away with such unreasonable and cruel crimes. These officers are the ones who are there to protect and serve, yet they are becoming the root cause of the violence.

In another act of police brutality which was not only caught on video but it happened in front of many other police officers and a huge crowd of civilians on a Puerto Rican Day Parade. This has to



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