Police brutality is the use of excessive and/or unnecessary force by personnel affiliated with law enforcement duties when dealing with suspects and civilians. The term is also applied to abuses by corrections personnel in municipal, state, and federal penal facilities including military prisons.
Highly publicized incidents of police misconduct have adverse effects not only on the victims of abuse but also on public perceptions of the police departments implicated in the incident. As of 2002, the magnitude and longevity of such effects have rarely been investigated. – source
Thesis: But, because some officers use these extreme measures when it is not
needed, police brutality should be addressed.
I. Police Brutality
A. Racism as a cause
II. Police Brutality is not a problem
A. Quotes from authorities
B. Statistics of Declining Brutality
III. Stopping Police Brutality
A. Police Stopping themselves
B. Public Stopping Police
A. Reword Thesis
Police work is dangerous. Sometimes police put in situations that excessive force is needed. But, because some officers use these extreme measures in situations when it is not, police brutality should be addressed. The use of excessive force may or may not be a large problem, but it should be looked into by both the police and the public.
For those people who feel racism is not a factor in causing the use of excessive force, here is a startling fact. In Tampa Bay, Florida, five men died while in the custody of the Tampa Bay police Department (C.C. 27).
The thing is, the Tampa Bay Police Department is made up of mostly white officers, but of the five men who died, none where white. Four of the five men that died were African Americans and the other man was a Mexican National.
If the incident in Tampa Bay does not show a person’s racism, this event might. In New York City, an average of seven Latin Americans were killed a year between 1986 to 1989, but in 1990, that number increased greatly. In that year, twenty-three Latin Americans were killed by police gunfire.
When asked how he felt about racism being involved in police brutality, Yussuf Naimkly of the University of Regina commented:
“Excessive police force against blacks has always been tolerated, because as a formally enslaved minority African Americans are trapped in a cultural context specifically designed to inhibit their development and thus minimize their threat to white hegemony” (C.C. 72)
Executive Director of Police Misconduct Lawyers Referral Service Karol Heppe commented, Brutality against minorities is a daily occurrence in Los Angeles, she says. The difference this time is someone videotaped it (C.C. 36).
Another shocking incident of police brutality occurred in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. A group of offices named themselves S.N.A.T. squad. This acronym stood for Special Nigger Arrest Team and they made it a point to harass African Americans whenever.
The number of people killed by police has gone down from the middle 1970s to the middle 1980s in major cities, says Patrick V. Murphy, former head of police commissions in Detroit, New York, and Washington, D.C. (C.C. 17).
Also, in Kansas City, Missouri, a police department there has 1,110 officers. Amazingly, the only received approximately 108 complaints from the public about those 1,100 officers.
Adding to the belief that police brutality isn’t a very big problem, most legal authorities and officials agree that the use of excessive force by police officers is going down. In fact, they say that they see brutality declining from twenty years ago (C.C. 57).
Police brutality is defined as involving the unnecessary and unjustified use of force is that either physical or verbal. Gerald Williams, president of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) commented, Let me assure you we are committed to a professional level of policing with an emphasis on fairness, humanity, and integrity (C.C. 168).
Other than the police stopping brutality internally, the use of civilian review boards can be used. These boards must be able to receive all the evidence in a case, including the police audio tapes, in order to make a fair judgment if excessive force was used or not. If excessive force is present in cases, these review boards must be able to punish the police or they are almost useless.
Whether or not a person believes police brutality is a serious problem, it must be stopped. In some cases, where more force is needed than in others, it is still there. Even in areas where police and the use of excessive force is not a huge problem, it must be decreased properly by both the police and the public. Finally, there needs to rulemaking sure it never happens again.
Police brutality is on the rise across the nation, however, it is particularly interesting to me that such violence and viciousness by police officials had managed to go unnoticed within the justice system, or shall I say overlooked for so long within that system. Police officers have too much control and power and abuse their authority. Police abuse continues to be one of the most serious and harsh human rights violations in communities throughout the world.
The excessive use of force used by police officers perseveres, because of impossible barriers of immunity which make it possible for officers who committed such brutal acts, to escape appropriate punishment and often to repeat their offenses. These unethical subgroups that exist within our justice system are the people we look to for our protection.
In my research, I will attempt to show that police brutality is a serious problem and if this barbarity by police officers is allowed to flourish out of control the citizens in these communities will not only need protection from criminals but the police that are recruited to protect and serve our communities.
In my research, I have accounts of brutal attacks by the police, and these cases are just a few of the thousands of police brutality cases that exist within our communities. I am centralizing my report on the New York and Los Angeles police department considering these police organizations have been the center of attention in the news media, which seems to be an ongoing plague in recent months.
In recent months it is accurate to say that in spite of citizens worrying about protecting themselves from criminals, it has currently confirmed that they must also keep an attentive focus on those who are there to protect and serve. Police brutality affects not only the officer involved, the victim of the beating, and those who witness the incident, but civilization as a whole.
It changes the way communities and the individual citizens view police officers and the authority they uphold. Therefore, leaving people unsure of the rights they have against such cruel acts of violence, they are forced to endure all in the name of excessive force and the thin line that police officers cross on a regular basis.
In Policing the Police (8-9) it is stated that officers never feared being reprimanded for such violent acts of brutality due to the blue wall of silence which allows officers not to snitch on other fellow officers. This code of silence should not be used to shield the misconduct that goes on in these organizations. New York and Los Angeles police force are well-known hiding behind this blue wall of silence while their acts of brutality go unnoticed. Whereas, the brutality accounts and cases become more visual by way of patrol car audio cameras (which were installed to view the officer’s interaction with the civilians) and citizens’ complaints against the police and their misconduct.
Yet, in the past when brutality issues are present before a judge and jury (audio accounts of violence) the police officers come out unscathed by such an accurate account of misconduct. For instance, the videotaped beating of Rodney King in Los Angles on March 3, 1991. A bystander videotaped the beating and the videotape showed King hit over fifty times in the head and body with the police batons, zapped twice with a stun gun while handcuffed (Policing the Police 13).
An arrogant attitude was described after the beating. On the radio transmission, from the LAPD dispatcher to the fire department for an ambulance, a police dispatcher said, ….he pissed us off, so I guess he needs an ambulance now…should know better than running, they are going to pay the price when they do that….It s a……battery, he got beat up Policing the Police 14). One of the officers on the scene stated on the car radio, oops, and I haven t beat anyone this bad in a long time (Policing the Police14), yet the officers once again were unscathed by what was visually unethical and once again the officers stepped over the lines of excessive force.
Additional accounts of the LAPD s repeated attacks of brutality once again accounted for, but hopefully will not go unpunished. The LAPD s anti-gang unit know as Crash is being investigated for unethical acts committed against citizens.
Numbers of charges are pending; shooting people without justification, award ceremonies for killing people different colors for the amount of damage done to the person, use people as battering rams, shooting handcuffed victims to death, beating family members of gangs for filing complaints against the police and using people for target practice and so on…… (Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States 1). There are more than 80 officers involved, and their actions were unseen for so long that many cases (over 300) are being reopened, thrown out, and overturned.
These attacks, whether against criminals or law-abiding citizens is a violation of one’s human rights and was unforeseen because police officials are shielded by the code of silence which is misused by many of these organizations. New York and Los Angeles are not alone, the larger cities around the world face similar problems with police stepping of the lines of excessive force to enforce the law by any means necessary.
More recently, in New York Diallo an unarmed immigrant unable to speak English was shot to death because he happens to be in the area where the NYPD was searching for a rape suspect. Diallo was shot over some forty-two times, but some people would not consider this excessive force.
Should police brutality be considered a misrepresentation of police self-defense? Is the mission of police officers clearly defined and understood? Does stress contribute to Police brutality? Is police brutality serious? These were questions asked in my interview with two Toledo police officers. The first officer I interviewed was very irritated by my questions, whereas the second officer was very receptive to answering my question.
Both officers answered each question with the same answer, yet their attitude and response to me and the interview were quite different. Both officers felt police brutality was a form of self-defense and misrepresented, but the agitated officer was very firm in stating that police brutality was overrated.
Their response to police brutality being a serious problem was absolutely not and of course, the first officer was up in arms about this particular question. The agitated officer then went on to explain to me that my questions for the interview were a type of entrapment and that I was forcing the answer I wanted. Well, I must say I disagree because I did not receive the answer I d hope for and the second officer was very careful at the selection of words used to answer the question, but he was very nice about the situation.
Both officers were clear in stating that a police officer’s mission is well defined and understood, both agreed that stress may (neither would give a yes/no answer) contribute police brutality. Bye, the end of the interview I was left with the feeling that in the public eye, whether its student interview or anyone else officers try to uphold the law to the letter, but behind that blue wall of silence there is much to be learned. The fact that the one officer was so irritated, but yet, he still allowed me to do the interview, leaves me with a question mark (?), Or some unforeseen truths.
Not all police officers are brutal, but these subgroups that exist within many police organizations are unacceptable and it s demoralization of the citizens within these communities. Larger cities are unable to account for these police subgroups considering their employment of police officials range in the thousand, therefore, making it almost impossible to keep track of every single officer. This allows cops to act on their own discretion, more so to their own law than to the letter of the law.
This misuse of authority must be monitored so police don t forget who they are serving, the public. This means that even criminals have certain rights to inhumane acts of aggression and brutality against them, whereas, law-abiding citizens have those same rights. Campaigns to control police brutality should be affirmed, so their superiors are able to identify those officers in trouble of crossing that line of brutality. Incidents of inappropriate misuse of physical force should be investigated when brought to the attention of a superior, whether citizen complaint or an officer’s complaint.
There are actually officers that turn informant on other officers, but they’re confronted with anger, threats, and the risk of being an outcast. Which, of course, deters an officer to step forward when they know about accounts of brutality and misuse of police authority by their peers. Police departments themselves cover up such unethical acts through the code of silence and anyone who snitches is reprimanded, however, it should be the police officers who commit such vicious crimes against others that should be reprimanded.
Without these accounts of police misconduct, police brutality will be allowed to flourish, but without the justice system unable to prosecute and control their own police brutality will continue to rise and plague our communities.
There has always been methods of controlling police brutality, but obviously these methods need to be enhanced and recreated to successfully ensure that when police officers step over those lines of excessive force that they held accountable for their actions. There is a difference between excessive force and using too much force, however, when you kill a person and beat them to death while in handcuffs officers and their superiors should know that they’ve stepped over the line of brutality.
Police officers have too much control and power and abuse their authority. Is police brutality a serious problem? The answer is yes, its a serious problem and if we as citizens allow this problem to flourish anymore than it already has over the years, the police will be unable to protect us from the criminals, because we as the people will be to busy trying to protect ourselves from the officials recruited to protect and serve us. Justice needs more structure with the unstructured wall of the justice system or the plague of police brutality will continue to affect us all.
Racism and police brutality goes hand in hand, and causes a major concern in today’s society, in the United States. On March 3, 1991, in California, Rodney King an African American, was pulled over after a high-speed chase, and after stopping was beaten by four white police officers (Worsnop 635). Tracy Brock also an African American was arrested in Manhattan in November of 1986. An officer smashed his head through a plate-glass window, when Brock refused to go into the officers’ lunchroom (Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York City Police Department 14). Ki Tae Kim a Korean grocer was assaulted when he was accused of passing a counterfeit bill.
He was punched in the face, his head was slammed into the counter, and the officer also subjected him to racial slurs (Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York City Police Department 17). Marcos Maldonado a Latino grocer was mistaken for a suspect after an armed robbery to his store. He was handcuffed, thrown to the floor, repeatedly kicked, and beaten with the officer’s nightstick (Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York City Police Department 17). Abner Louima a Haitian immigrant was arrested outside a dance club in Brooklyn and was brutally assaulted when he arrived at the police station. Volpe a long time police officer was accused of shoving a plunger into Louima’s rectum so far that his bladder and intestines were lacerated.
Then he shoved the plunger into Louima’s mouth and broke his teeth (Steinback 8). These are just a few examples of the people who were affected by police brutality, and racism. There are five stages through which force can progress and lead to brutality: Verbal persuasion, unarmed physical force, force using non-lethal weapons, force using impact weapons, and deadly force, which most of the officers mentioned before fell into this stage. The deadly force stage is only to be used only when an officer’s life or another person’s life is in danger.
The deadly force stage should be terminated, if not made illegal in the United States. By having the deadly force stage, by law, you are permitting someone to commit murder and basically saying that it is just. In many of the cases stated before these guidelines were violated, and stronger action was used on the citizen than necessary. The officers who were accused in these cases were charged with only minor offenses, and some were charged with nothing at all. Stronger action should have been enforced on the police officers that committed these crimes.
All of these victims mentioned are from minority groups and were harmed by white New York City police officers. In less than four years fifty -five people have died while in being in police custody, in the New York City Police Department (Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York City Police Department 8). This number compared to earlier statistics seems to below, but still seems extremely high, for the rules and regulations the officers are supposed to be following. Should the Federal Government increase the punishment on law enforcement officials who brutally hurt citizens that are in custody, or under arrest?
Many law enforcement officials appear to have a tough exterior towards crime but are very sensitive to crime on the inside. Police officers build up negative feelings towards certain races, sexes, or religions. Officers tend to get the impression that if one or a few people treat them with disrespect then other people of that same-sex, race, or religion will treat the officer in the same way. It is has proven that less than five percent of all cops are the bad element, but if they other ninety-five percent stand around and do nothing, then that is where the real problem lies (Worsnop 636).
Another cause of police brutality and misconduct is the amount of stress that is put upon the law enforcement official. According to Robert Scully who is the president of the National Association of Police Organizations in Detroit, There obviously has to be some kind of stress factor at work in brutality cases because stress is an inherent part of policing. (Worsnop 636).
A survey done by the Washington Post exposed a comparable local pattern of the sixty-one police misconduct cases heard in 1990 by the District of Columbia Civilian Complaint review board. It has been discovered that excessive force was used only in eighteen out of the sixty-one cases that were reported. It has also been found that judges and juries side with police officers and not with the citizen. (Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York City Police Department 7).
Law enforcement officials who are accused of police brutality are required to attend a civil court hearing with a judge and a jury present. Most times the jury will find the officers not guilty, or guilty of a lesser crime. This is true in the case of the officer who used an illegal chokehold on Anthony Baez; a twenty-eight-year-old Puerto Rican, after Baez’s football hit the patrol car. Baez was killed due to the force of the chokehold, but the officer was found not guilty (Contreras 30). Police officers are also required to go to a class that reteaches them on how to act appropriately in an arrest.
These classes last for between one week and two weeks depending on the state. This class is done on the officer’s own time and they do not receive pay for attending. This is required before the officer is allowed back on the street. The classes are usually held at night and seem pretty boring and useless to the officers. Most feel they did not commit wrongdoing and that they are innocent.
There are many ways to curb police brutality, and by implementing a new law, brutality should decrease. Right now officers know that there are laws dealing with etiquette during an arrest, but many don’t bother to apply what they know and let physical strength and force take over. The federal government needs to enact a law that will make officers think twice before using a nightstick unnecessarily, punching or kicking a person, or using excessive force.
The law should read, Any officer accused by a citizen and two other witnesses of using excessive force will be suspended without pay for thirty days, for a first-time offense. For a repeated offense the officer will be subjected to a court hearing in which a jury will decide his/her fate. The jury could decide on another suspension for the officer, or as heavy as being permanently let go from the force. Another proposal for guarding against police brutality is by rewarding officers with raises and promotions.
Police departments should give thought to honoring exemplary service to the community awards once a year. Private businesses and social groups could provide cash rewards for commendable behavior. Each year there could be a ceremony in the town hall of the local village, and the business that donated the money could present the check and a plaque to the recipient.
The preferred policy that I would like to enact would be allowing law enforcement officials to get rewarded for long-term service and notable behavior. This will teach them that by thinking about each situation though, and by taking each with a grain of salt, they don’t need excessive force to get cooperation. If local businesses were willing to donate at least ten dollars apiece, and only one reward was given a year it could really promote a positive influence over the police department.
This would motivate officers to act accordingly, and this policy could easily be enacted with the help of the police department. In areas where crime rates are high oftentimes so are stress rates. Police departments should offer stress management clinics that are mandatory to attend, once or twice a month. It will allow police officers to share stores about how they managed their stress, and explain situations in which they failed. An intangible result would be in low crime areas should this still be a mandatory practice, and what if local businesses didn’t want to participate? If a stress clinic was actually implemented who would run it? And would they have to pay someone to do it?
The likeness of implementing the recommended preferred policy is pretty likely because it costs very little money, and in some states, it is already being considered. The money comes from donations and you could use some of it too buy a plaque to display in the police department. There are many active players who think very strongly about police brutality. James Fyfe is strongly against police brutality and states that Police practice has changed after a decade of long term turmoil. (Worsnop 635). At the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a community group handles all police brutality cases that are subjected to court hearings in that state (Davidson 49).
President Clinton has announced a forty-seven million-dollar program to strengthen police integrity. Twenty million alone would be used for expanding officers’ integrity and ethics (Davidson 51). Laurie Levenson is standing up for all police brutality victims, not just those of minorities. She said We were naive to think the Rodney King case would solve the problem of police abuse. It’s a much bigger problem than one case… You have to take these issues very seriously. (Goldman A1+). Rita Leitner whose son was a victim of police brutality speaks out and is very active in preventing police brutality.
She stands strong because her son was permanently injured in the hands of those who are supposed to protect. The players that are mentioned here are all against police brutality. It was pretty difficult to find players that thought brutality was not important and was not an issue. The prince analysis done on this issue shows an eighty-three percent chance of being implemented. This is a highly likely rate of implementation.
Police Brutality in the United States and around the world needs to be totally abolished to protect the citizens and police officers.
Police brutality is a problem in our country today. There are many instances where the police have gone too far in dealing with criminals. There are many things that people are doing to stop police brutality. More and more bad cops are being caught in their wrongdoings. There are many cases that go unseen. The police are good at keeping things quiet. They have a code of honor that says that police do not tell on each other.
The Johnny Gammage case was a recent case in the news. One of the only reasons that this case made the news is because Gammage is the cousin of Pittsburgh Steeler Ray Seals. The outcome of this case angered many people. On October twelfth, 1995, Johnny Gammage the 31-year-old black male was pulled over. Gammage committed no crime. After an altercation with the police, he was brutally beaten. Over the course of seven minutes, he was beaten and suffocated by five police officers. An autopsy showed that Gammage was suffocated by pressure applied to his neck and chest when the officers were trying to restrain him.
On November third, 1995 a six-member coroner’s jury recommended that criminal homicide charges be filed against the police officers. District Attorney Bob Colville said that he would only charge three out of the five officers involved in the beating. He charged Lt. Milton Mulholland and Patrolman John Vojtas with 3rd-degree murder, official oppression, and involuntary manslaughter. He charged Patrolman Michael G. Albert with involuntary manslaughter.
Allegheny county judge James R. McGregor ordered the three officers to stand trial for the misdemeanor charge of involuntary manslaughter. This is the lowest form of homicide. He dropped the third-degree murder and official oppression charges against Mulholland and Vojtas.
During the trial, a witness said that he witnessed a fight that leads to Gammage’s death. He contradicted the story told by the police and said that the officers started the fight. The judge ruled a mistrial saying that coroner Dr. Cyril H. Wecht “tainted the jury” when he said to the defense attorney “Its not for me to tell you what your client did. It is for the client to tell me, the ladies and gentlemen of the jury, what he did.” (Fact Sheet on the Murder of Johnny Gammage).
Finally, after the re-trial, the officers were acquitted. Judge Cashman ruled that the death was an accident.
This is proof that police can get away with murder. You can not suffocate somebody to death by accident. When the officer was restraining Gammage, he knew that he was using too strong of a force.
On June 13, 1996, in Brooklyn, two white plains clothes officers killed Aswan Keshawn Watson, a 21-year old black male. They fired 18 bullets into him. Watson was not armed. A jury acquitted the officers though. The jury said that they were justified in believing themselves to be in danger. The officers said that they mistook Watson’s car steering-wheel lock for a gun. The policemen sure did not have to shoot him 18 times. Two or three times would have been sufficient.
Baseball hall of fame Joe Morgan won a $540,000 lawsuit against the Los Angles police department. A city policeman accused him of being a drug courier. Morgan was grabbed by the neck and thrown to the floor and handcuffed.
Actor Blair Underwood was stopped by the Los Angles police for no reason. When Underwood copped an attitude when the officer asked for his license. So the cop pointed a gun to his head. The policeman said, “If you’re a young black male who drives a nice car, you’re automatically a target for the cops because it’s assumed you must be doing drugs,” (Detroit News p. 1B).
Another incident that shows that police think that they can get away with anything is the Abner Louima case. Abner Louima is a 30-year-old Haitian immigrant, who was arrested. At the police station, he was brutally assaulted. The police, our protectors, sodomized Mr. Louima with a toilet plunger. They then shoved the plunger in his mouth, breaking his teeth. Louima was hospitalized and released in critical condition. One of the officers that assaulted him said that if he said anything he would kill his family.
Several officers were arrested in this savage beating. The officers and their supervisors were both transferred and suspended. The arrests were made possible because of one good policeman. Officer Eric Turetzky turned in the names of the people who did this crime.
To many, Turetzky is viewed as a hero. Too many cops, he is viewed as a rat. He violated the “blue wall of silence”. The police are not supposed to tell on each other. Eric has received many death threats from other officers. This man received death threats from other policemen for doing what was right.
Instead of getting rewarded for turning in the other officers, he and his family get protective custody. Hubert Williams of the Police Foundation says, “If he wasn’t in jeopardy if they didn’t believe the perceived threat is real, he wouldn’t be in protective custody.” (Christian Science Monitor p. N.P.).
There are many things a person has to do to become a police officer. They have to go through training and testing to make sure that they will not do anything illegal on the job. All of the training and testing processes still do not weed out all of the bad police. Forty percent of the candidates for a police academy is not let in due to psychological testing and background investigations. (Policing the Police p.23).
The commission’s review board said, “the initial psychological evaluation is an ineffective predictor of an applicant’s tendencies toward violent behavior and that the background investigation pays too little attention to a candidate’s history of violence.” (Policing the Police, p.24-25). Screening potential officers is not enough. Police work changes behavior. An officer may develop some emotional and psychological problems. Some experts say that policemen should be tested every once in a while to make sure that they are well.
Many people believe that community-oriented policing would stop some of the problems between the citizens and the police. This forms a bond between the police and the community. If an officer knows a person, he or she is less likely to harass them. There are many policemen who do not like this. They think that they are the experts and the job should be left up to them. There are many different ways of dealing with complaints against the police department. Some departments refer to an internal affairs division within the department. Others have independent review boards made up of citizens and senior police officers.
A problem in reviewing police behavior is a resistance by the police themselves. They do not want to be investigated by regular citizens who do not understand the demands of police work. The review boards made up of officers don’t work well. The police have a code of silence, which is that they do not testify against each other.
Review boards started up in the 1960s. They were formed because there was a lot of police brutality caught on the news because of the anti-war demonstrations. Many cities around the country set up review boards in the 1960s to provide a forum for citizen complaints. Local police unions almost always opposed these boards. Many of these boards lacked any real authority and soon went out of existence.
In 1991 the New York Civil Liberties Union set up a new review board. This board included former employees of the police department and citizens. The review board has jurisdiction over complaints. It also has a staff of investigators. After investigating a complaint, the board could recommend a punishment to the police commissioner. The commissioner would to make punishments to the officers. The boards make the recommendations, but the punishment is left to the head of the police department. This policy is used in almost all of the cities that have a review board.
Another issue that concerns police brutality is that innocent person forced into confessing to crimes that they did not commit Robert Moore had confessed to killing a New York City taxi cab driver with two other acquaintances. Three weeks later prosecutors had revealed that they had caught the real killers. The real killers possessed the murder weapon and had never heard of Robert Moore. More said that he had falsely confessed to the murder because investigators interrogated him for 22 hours. They had threatened him with the death penalty and brought his cousin in to urge him to confess. Robert Moore was tired, lonely, and scared. He stated that “I just wanted to go home.” (New York Times p. A1& A17).
Once a suspect voluntarily enters an interrogation room, it is legal for prosecutors to use tricks, deceptions, and lies. They can not use threats of violence or promises of lenience though. Thousands of guilty criminals have been caught this way, but in many cases, there have been false confessions from innocent people. “Although the number of false confessions is in dispute, their prevalence is shaking the confidence of both prosecutors and juries in the reliability of confessions, which have long been the crown jewel of criminal prosecutions.”(Jan Hoffman, p.17).
Many police departments are trying to restore the credibility of the confession. In at least 2,400 sheriff’s and police departments there are audio taping and video taping during confessions and interrogations. In New York video taping of interrogations is rare. Prosecutors fear it will make detectives as well as suspects self-conscious and give defense attorneys more targets to attack.
Many others have found video and audio taping useful. T. Brett Swab, a former prosecutor says that “It will shore up our case at trial: if there is any doubt about an investigator’s ethics, we can say ‘Hey let’s look at the video tape’,’” (New York Times p. A17).
Recent trials show that juries are not likely to be persuaded by cases that rely heavily on confessions. In 1997 in Long Island, jurors acquitted a man who confessed to two murders, after he testified that the police physically and psychologically abused him into confessing. In September of 1998, Suffolk County jurors acquitted Gairy Chang of first-degree murder even though he signed a six-page confession. He testified that police interrogated him naked, handcuffed him, and squeezed his testicles.
There is even video surveillance in the patrol cars now. Since the Rodney King beating cameras have been installed into many patrol cars. This way the police will think twice before trying to abuse their power.
I believe that there needs to be more done to stop police brutality. The video cameras in the interrogation rooms and in police cars are a good idea, but many times when a brutality case goes to trial the police are acquitted. This is because they have the courts to back them up.
Example #5 – A Brutalized America
Police brutality remains one of the most serious and divisive human rights violations in the United States. The excessive use of force by police officers persists because of overwhelming barriers to accountability. This fact makes it possible for officers who commit human rights violations to escape due to punishment and often to repeat their offenses. Police or public officials greet each new report of brutality with denials or explain that the act was an aberration, while the administrative and criminal systems should deter these abuses by holding officers accountable instead of virtually guarantee them impunity (Williams 45).
Investigations find that police brutality is persistent in all cities, and the systems set up to deal with these abuses have all had similar failings in each city. It was also established that complainants often face enormous difficulty in seeking administrative punishment or criminal prosecution of officers who have committed human rights violations.
A national survey was taken by the Seattle Times and states that seventy percent of all police crimes against the public go unreported (Database of Abusive Police). Despite claims to the contrary from city officials where abuses have become scandals in the media, efforts to make meaningful reforms have fallen short.
The scenarios are frighteningly similar from city to city. Shortcomings in recruitment, training, and management are common to all. So is the fact that officers who repeatedly commit human rights violations tend to be a small minority, but are still routinely protected by the silence of their fellow officers and by flawed systems of reporting. Another pervasive shortcoming is the scarcity of meaningful information about trends in abuse. Data is also lacking regarding the police departments’ response to those incidents and their plans or actions to prevent brutality.
Where data does exist, there is no evidence that police administrators or, prosecutors utilize available information in a way to deter abuse. Another commonality in recent years is recognition, in most cities, about what needs to be done to fix troubled departments. However, this encouraging development is coupled with an official unwillingness to deal seriously with officers who commit abuses until high profile cases expose long-standing negligence or tolerance of brutality (Burris 26).
One recent, positive development has been the federal “pattern or practice” civil investigations, and subsequent agreements, initiated by the U.S. Justice Department.
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Steubenville, Ohio, the Justice Department’s Civil
Rights Division has examined shortcomings in accountability for misconduct in those cities’ police departments; the cities agreed to implement reforms to end volatile practices rather than risk the Justice Department taking a case to court for injunctive action (ibid 67). The reforms proposed by the Justice Department were similar to those long advocated by community activists and civil rights groups.
This includes better use-of-force training and policies, stronger reporting mechanisms, creation of early warning systems to identify current officers at risk of engaging in abuse, and improved disciplinary procedures. “Problem” officers would receive special monitoring, training, and counseling to counter the heightened risk of brutality. Several other police departments, including those in Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, and Philadelphia, are reportedly under investigation by the Civil Rights Division.
The majority of these human rights violations are against minorities. Racism plays a huge role in this type of behavior. There are cases within the inner cities in which a particular group of kids will be stopped, searched, and harassed for “looking suspicious” or “fitting the description of a suspect” daily by the police with no reports filled out at all.
These incidents are common within minority communities. In New York City between the years of 1997-1998 the Street Crimes Unit stopped and over 45,000 men, mostly African American and Hispanic in order to make slightly more than 9000 arrests (Chua-Eoan 26). In New Jersey, Governor Christine Todd Whitman openly admitted to racial profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike. In the case of Abner Louima while the officers were committing this hanis crime they were quoted for saying that this is Guiliani time.
This type of action implies that these are not a few isolated incidents and that it goes much deeper than just that group of officers. Don Jackson a former police sergeant in Hawthorne California states, “Excessive police force against blacks has always been tolerated. Investigations won’t make a difference the investigators support the police and more importantly the support the racist mentality that is responsible for most of the brutality”. (Burris 72) These types of statements tell a shocking story of how racism permeates police culture so deeply that it will require a monumental national effort to change the status quo.
Allegations of police abuse are rife in cities throughout the country and take many forms. There are a countless number of specific incidents that can be used as illustrations of the obstacles to deterring, investigating, and acting upon perceived abuses. Any alleged abuse has a corrosive effect on public trust of the police force, and it is imperative that the system is reformed to prevent human rights violations such as the case of Amadou Diallo. The officers accused were looking for a suspected rapist when the saw Diallo in front of his Bronx home. Mr. Diaollo was then shot at 41 times, 16 of them killing him.
The officers claimed that they fired so many shots because they mistakenly saw the slide of a black gun when in actuality it was Amadou’s wallet. All four officers were acquitted of all 24 charges. Not one count of murder, manslaughter, homicide, or even reckless endangerment stuck (Chua-Eoan 24-27). Another example of this can be seen in the case of Abner Louima. After exiting a Brooklyn nightclub, Mr. Louima was arrested for allegedly assaulting officer Justin Volpe.
He was then handcuffed and beaten in the back seat of the patrol car. When Louima reached the precinct officer Volpe then proceeded to sodomize him in the bathroom with the end of a plunger. Though Volpe later pleaded guilty, and officer Charles Schwarz was convicted for holding Louima down, officers Thomas Bruder and Thomas Wiese were found not guilty of beating up Louima in a patrol car, while Sgt. Michael Bellomo was acquitted on a charge of covering up the case. Though the case went unreported for over a year no one held responsible for the cover-up (Feuer 6). These are the types of injustices that have been plaguing our nation for centuries.
The abuses described are preventable. Officers with long records of abuse, policies that are overly vague, training that is substandard, and screening that is inadequate all create opportunities for abuse. Perhaps most important, and consistently lacking, is a system of oversight in which supervisors hold their charges accountable for mistreatment and are themselves reviewed and evaluated, in part, by how they deal with subordinate officers who commit human rights violations. Those who claim that each high-profile case of abuse by a “rogue” officer is an aberration are missing the point: problem officers frequently persist because the accountability systems are so seriously flawed.
State and federal officials are responsible for holding police officers accountable for abusive acts. Police officials must ensure that police officer are punished when they violate administrative rules, while state and federal prosecutors must prosecute criminal acts committed by officers, and where appropriate, complicity by their superior officers. Each of these entities applies different standards when reviewing officer responsibility for alleged abuse.
All of these authorities have an obligation to ensure that the conduct of police officers meets international standards that prohibit human rights violations and that; in general, the U.S. complies with the obligations imposed by those treaties to which it is a party. While only the federal government is responsible for reporting internationally on U.S. compliance with the relevant treaties, local and state officials share responsibility for ensuring compliance within their jurisdictions (Cohen).
It is a bit ironic that the reason this country was founded was for the escape of religious and political prisoners. From the slave ships of the early seventeenth century to the inner city streets of America, human rights violations have been a plague on this great nation for centuries. Today with recent examples such as the Abner Louima, and Amadou Diallo cases it has finally surfaced as a major crisis. You would think with such blatant racism and brutality that the offending officers would be prosecuted immediately.
This is not so, in fact, these men are protected by the establishment and some were set free. In fact, many of them had the mayor himself defending them on national television, making a statement that these men were simply “doing their job”. With the millions of unreported cases and the code of silence within the precincts, how will it ever become resolved? The fact is that this remains to be a problem within the minority community an unfortunately that means it will never get the full attention of the mainstream culture and will remain a stain on American society.
Example #6 – Police Brutality Incidents in NYPD
New York state law and police department policy provide that officers may use only the minimum amount of force that is necessary to achieve a legitimate purpose (e.g. affect an arrest or prevent the commission of an offense) when other options are not available or have been exhausted. New York City Police Department guidelines set out the following five stages through which force can progress: (1) verbal persuasion; (2) unarmed physical force; (3) force using non-lethal weapons (e.g. pepper spray or mace); (4) force using impact weapons (e.g. police batons); and (5) deadly force, which may be used only when an officer or another person’s life is in direct danger.
The guidelines also state that flashlights, radios, and handguns are not designed as impact weapons and make clear that they should not be used as such in most circumstances. Police regulations also state that any officer at the scene of a police incident has an obligation to ensure that the law and regulations are complied with and to intervene if the use of force against a subject becomes excessive. The guidelines note that failure to do so constitutes an offense under the law as well as departmental policy (Chevigny 66).
Although reports of police brutality are not new, the number of people bringing claims for police misconduct against the City of New York has increased substantially in recent years, from 977 in 1987 to more than 2,000 in 1994. The amount paid out by the city each year in settlements or judgments awarded to plaintiffs in police abuse cases has also risen, from $13.5 million in 1992 to more than $24m in 1994. However, there remains a problem of police brutality and excessive force in the department (Dudley 17).
There have been many allegations of excessive force which include people being repeatedly struck with fists, batons, or other instruments, often after very minor disputes with officers on the street; deaths in police custody; and shootings in apparent violation of the NYPD’s own very stringent guidelines. The victims include men and women, juveniles, and people from a variety of social, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. However, the evidence suggests that the large majority of the victims of police abuses are racial minorities, particularly African-Americans and people of Latin American or Asian descent.
While there has been an increase in prosecutions for police corruption in recent years, prosecutions for on-duty excessive force remain relatively rare and convictions even rarer. In most of the cases examined police officers were not disciplined or received only minor sanctions. The code of silence in which police officers refuse to testify against their colleagues appears to have contributed to impunity in many cases (Geller and Toch 2-10).
According to the 1990 census, the general population of New York City was 43.2% white; 28.7% Black; 24.4% Latino (Hispanic); and 7.7% other, including Asian. However, the large majority of NYPD officers are white. A study conducted in 1992 found that New York ranked last in a 50-city survey of how well United States police departments reflected the racial makeup of their populations. In 1995 the racial distribution of the NYPD was 72.2% white; 15.2% Latino; 11.5% African-American and 1.1% other including Asian. Most NYPD officers live in the suburbs outside the city, and some critics of the department allege that this has contributed to a sense of alienation and tension between the police and inner-city communities when they work (Collins uspo101.htm).
There is often a racial or ethnic component to police abuse cases in New York City, with many incidents also fueled by language barriers and miscommunication in the diverse city. In the CCRB’s January – June 1997 report, African-Americans and Latinos filed more than 78 percent of complaints against the police, while 67 percent of the subject officers were white.
Statistics published by the Civilian Complaint Review Board in its biannual reports also indicate that minorities are disproportionately the victims of police abuse compared to the overall racial composition of New York City. Three-quarters (75.9%) of the people who lodged complaints with the CCRB from January to June 1995 were African-American (50.3%) and Latino (25.6%), while the remainder were either white (21.2%) or other (2.8%), including Asian (Collins uspo1015.htm).
Although most major inquiries into the NYPD have involved corruption, police brutality has also been a recurrent concern. There were calls for an inquiry into police brutality in the mid-1980s, following a series of highly publicized cases in which black people died or were ill-treated in custody. Of these, including the cases of Michael Stewart, a young African American who died in September 1983. Thirteen days after being taken to hospital hog-tied, bruised and in a coma following his arrest by eleven officers from the New York City Transit Police Department because he was spraying graffiti in a Manhattan subway. Eleanor Bumpers, an elderly, mentally disturbed woman, was shot dead in October 1984 by armed police who had broken into her Bronx apartment to evict her after she had fallen behind with her rent.
In both cases, officers were acquitted of criminal wrongdoing after trials, although some officers’ tactics were later criticized by internal inquiries. In April 1985 officers from the 106th Precinct in Queens were accused of torturing three suspects with an electronic stun gun. They forced them to confess to having sold small quantities of marijuana. Two officers and a sergeant were subsequently convicted of assault and other charges and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 2 to 6 years, and several high ranking police commanders were dismissed.
On December 29, 1987, in Laurelton, Queens, Alfred Sanders, a thirty-nine-year-old black man, was killed in a barrage of bullets fired by white police officers. The grand jury looking into this matter under the direction of Queens District Attorney John Santucci produced no bill of indictment. At the end of the grand jury proceeding, Santucci remarked: The grand jury obviously concluded that the police officers acted reasonably in defense of their own lives.
After these findings, the NAACP immediately started to conduct a corresponding investigation of the Sanders shooting. Mr. Santucci declined to release several reports and other evidence that had been bestowed to the grand jury; however, there was an open and frank discussion about the facts in the Sanders case. On December 29, 1987, Alfred Sanders tried to see his son at the home of Eleanor Watson, the mother of the boy. According to 911 tapes, Watson called the police at approximately 6:47 p.m. claiming that there was a man outside with a gun. She called a few moments later with a similar message, also stating, I have a protective order. At 7:04 p.m., an anti-crime unit picked up the call and responded to the scene in a marked vehicle. At 7:10 p.m., the marked unit called for back up, stating that there was an erratic male on the scene reaching into his pocket.
Witnesses pointed out that Sanders complied with the officers and he withdrew a wallet and a piece of paper and threw it onto the hood of the police car. Police records verify that at approximately 7:13 p.m. the second unit at the scene called and demanded a police sergeant be sent to the scene and called for an Emergency Services Unit. However before these units arrived, Sanders had already been killed. The shooting occurred around 7:18 p.m. after Sanders had moved around and started yelling racial and taunting remarks at the officers.
The officers indicated that he possessed a knife and allegedly pointed it and lunged at the officers. The officers had their guns drawn and a total of eleven bullets were fired by two of the officers. The other two officers declined to shoot. Sanders held ten bullets in the area of his abdomen, chest, left arm, and left leg. His body fell to the middle of the street where he died. Six witnesses testified to the grand jury that they saw a knife; four others say there was no knife. (Dudley 27- 29)
Anthony Baez, a 29-year-old man of Puerto Rican descent, died of injuries sustained during his arrest by officers from the 46th Precinct in the Bronx, on December 22, 1994. He had been visiting his family from Florida and was throwing a football around with his brothers outside the family home when the ball accidentally hit two parked police patrol cars. According to family members who witnessed the incident, one officer, Francis X. Livoti, lost his composure and arrested Anthony Baez’s brother, David, placing him in handcuffs.
When Anthony Baez questioned the officer’s arrest and treatment of his younger brother, the officer reportedly grabbed him, placing him in a chokehold; he and other officers present then supposedly knelt on his back while handcuffing him behind his back as he lay face-down on the ground. Anthony Baez’s father and other family members reportedly warned the officers to be careful as he suffered from chronic asthma. According to the civil action filed by the family in the case, Anthony Baez was left face-down on the ground in a prone position for around 10-15 minutes before being dragged into a police car, with no attempt made to resuscitate him.
He was taken face down in a police car to a hospital where he was pronounced dead about an hour later. The police stated that Baez had died of an asthmatic attack while resisting arrest. However, the Medical Examiner concluded that Baez’s death was caused by asphyxia due to compression of the neck and chest as well as acute asthma, and classified the death as a homicide. A pathologist hired by the family found bruises on the scalp, wrists, hands, and neck, and evidence of internal bleeding around the eyes (another sign of asphyxia). The officer who had allegedly applied the chokehold was subsequently charged with criminally negligent homicide.
According to the Baez family’s attorney, the same officer had 14 prior complaints of brutality filed against him, eight for excessive force and four for using a chokehold, nearly all of which had been ruled unsubstantiated by the former CCRB. The NYPD was nevertheless concerned enough to have placed him on the Force Monitoring Program for special surveillance and psychological counseling.
However, he had been taken out of the Monitoring Program six months before Anthony Baez’s death. One prior complaint against the same officer, which had been pending since 1993, was substantiated by the present CCRB in 1995. This was a complaint of his having slapped and choked a 16-year-old boy in September 1993 (Collins uspo102.htm).
Federico Pereira, a 21-year-old Puerto Rican man died during a struggle with five white police officers in the early hours of February 5, 1991, as they dragged him from a stolen car in which he had been sleeping. The city Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide and concluded from a number of signs, including a bruise to the neck near the hyoid bone, that Pereira had died from traumatic asphyxia associated with compression of the neck.
The autopsy also noted multiple blunt force injuries, including a laceration above the eye, abrasions to his head and knees, and contusions, all of which had occurred shortly before his death. Before the Medical Examiner’s report was released, a police internal inquiry had cleared the officers of blame, stating that Pereira had violently resisted arrest and that lacerations and marks to the face were caused by his banging his head against the pavement. The officers denied using a chokehold against Pereira as he lay face-down, handcuffed on the ground, as told by two civilian witnesses who came forward three days after the death. In March 1991 a Queens grand jury indicted all five police officers on charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter, assault, and criminally negligent homicide.
In announcing the decision, the District Attorney said that although only one officer was accused of having choked the victim, all had played a role in the death. However, a few months later a Supreme Court judge dismissed all charges against four of the officers at the request of a new District Attorney and reduced the charges against the fifth officer to manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Between March 1991 and the officer’s trial in March 1992, several articles appeared in the press citing police experts who challenged both the medical evidence and the credibility of the civilian witnesses.
A police defense lawyer, for example, is quoted as saying that there was little evidence in the autopsy report to back up accounts by the witnesses that the officer kicked and beat the victim. Another police defense lawyer is quoted as saying that there is an insignificant injury to the neck, small abrasion on the side of the neck and that’s it.
The injuries are just not there that are consistent with asphyxiation. At his trial before a non-jury court in March 1992, the officer denied that he or any other officer had beaten Pereira or choked him. The defense maintained that the cocaine found in Pereira’s body at the time of his arrest had caused his death. A medical expert testifying for the defense disagreed with the Medical Examiner’s finding of asphyxia. The officer was acquitted. In 1995 Pereira’s family received $175,000 damages in an out-of-court settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit (Dudley 34).
In the early morning hours of August 9, 1997, police officers arrested Abner Louima, a legal Haitian immigrant, outside a Brooklyn nightclub following altercations between police and people outside the club. During the trip to the station house, officers allegedly stopped twice to beat Louima, who was handcuffed. At the 70th Precinct station house, two officers, Justin Volpe and Charles Schwarz, allegedly shouted racial slurs, and Volpe allegedly shoved a plunger stick into Louima’s rectum and mouth.
Volpe reportedly borrowed gloves from another officer and walked through the station house with the plunger stick, which was covered with blood and excrement; the gloves were recovered, but the wooden stick was not found on the scene. Louima was placed in a holding cell, where other inmates complained that he was bleeding. An ambulance was eventually requested to take him to a hospital, but he was held for three hours in the cell bleeding following the alleged beating and torture.
Once at the hospital, doctors confirmed Louima’s serious internal injuries were consistent with his allegations; internal organs were ruptured, and his front teeth had been broken. For the first three days of his two-month hospitalization, Louima was handcuffed to his bed. It appears that no officer at the station formally reported the alleged attack, and in the months following the incident, only two officers came forward to provide useful information.
One of the officers who provided information was transferred out of the 70th Precinct and was supposedly provided with security in case of revenge by his fellow officers. According to reports, eleven NYPD members of various ranks were facing disciplinary sanctions for failing to provide information, or lying, to investigators.
After the incident, the commanding and executive officers of the 70th Precinct were reassigned, and another fourteen officers reportedly were placed on modified assignment or suspended. According to the NYCLU, the fourteen officers who were either arrested, suspended, transferred or placed on desk duty in the week following the alleged torture of Louima had been accused, among them, of eleven prior unsubstantiated excessive force complaints and of another five misconduct complaints that had been ruled inconclusive or resolved through reparation (Collins uspo102.htm).
Volpe and another officer were charged in state court with aggravated sexual abuse and first-degree assault. Two other officers were charged with beating Louima during the ride to the police precinct, and racial bias charges were subsequently added against all four. In February 1998, federal prosecutors took over the case, indicating the four officers named in the state indictments and a sergeant accused of attempting to coverup the incident.
The sergeant and Volpe were also indicted on charges relating to the alleged beating of another Haitian immigrant who was a bystander near the nightclub on the same night; the sergeant was accused of attempting to cover up the beating (Collins uspo102.htm).
On February 4, 1999, a 22-year-old Haitian immigrant, Amadou Diallo, was shot and killed by four NYPD officers. In all, the four white officers, two of whom stood just 10 feet away from Diallo when the shooting started, fired 41 bullets at him Feb. 4, police investigators said. Two emptied their 16-shot pistols; one fired five times, and the other squeezed off four rounds. In total Diallo got shot 19 times.
A police union lawyer said the officers opened fire because they thought Diallo was reaching for a gun. But the only things found on Diallo’s bullet-riddled body were a beeper, his wallet, and door keys. Still unexplained is why the officers, dressed in jeans and sweatshirts, approached Diallo, a 22-year-old devout Muslim with no criminal record, with their guns drawn. New York’s police force has the look of an army of occupation. In a city whose residents are mostly black and Hispanic, it is 70 percent white.
Shortly after the shooting, someone placed a sign near the spot where Diallo died. Its message to police reads: “You were put here to protect us, but who protects us from you? (Wickham)
The vast majority of New York’s cops are honest and hard working. Nobody needs to be protected from them. Nearly two weeks after that deadly encounter, there was no evidence, not even a whispered suggestion, that he was guilty of anything more than getting caught in the crosshairs of four cops. And now on the heels of this unexplained shooting, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani wants to give his police even deadlier bullets.
He wants police officers to now carry hollow-point bullets, even deadlier than the bullets that the NYPD uses now. So with all the pressure, the NYPD has been under with race relations and lack of Hispanic and African-American officers, they have begun to heavily recruit these kinds of officers and hope that that will end or reduce the use of excessive and deadly force.
Police Brutality is abuse by law enforcement, where police feel because he/ she has a badge and gun therefore it puts them above the law and can use unnecessary force against another individual. Police Brutality is not a new issue it has recently become popular due to the current cases that have occurred with in the past year. Cases such as the Amadou Diallo in New York on June 13, 2000, were four New York police officers shot a man forty-one times simply because his wallet was mistaken for a gun. The case was tried and the police officers involved were dismissed of all charges.
In a case similar to that one in Chicago a female was shot and killed by a police officer because her cellular phone was mistaken for a gun. On October 12, 1995, Johnny Gammage was beaten to death by five police officers. The son of Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley has recently filed a suit against the New Orleans police department accusing them of breaking his leg in two places.
In Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Police Department was involved in one of the largest police scandals in United State history. Police brutality also occurs in prisons where the prisoners are mistreated. Why is it that people just like me and you get punished for certain crimes but police don’t? It is a simple case of authority. We are all human have the freedom to express our rights and police brutality breaks our human rights. Police can pull you aside if they suspect you of having an illegal substance on you.
There has been some racial profiling that goes on where a police officer sees an African-American male or female usually male and pulls him /her aside simply because the color of their skin has been classified as (D.W.B) Driving While Black. The main targets of police brutality are two third African American or Latino and the majority of the time the officer is Caucasian.
In a statement, the mother of a young boy said, My 13-year-old son, Nicholas Heyward, Jr., was killed by a New York City Housing Authority cop who has never been indicted. The mayor came to my son’s funeral and said a lot of the same lies to my family that he’s saying today to the Diallo family. He can’t offer sympathy and support to the victims’ families and justify the police murder of our loved ones at the same time. Is there one police shooting the mayor hasn’t upheld?
Kids shot, choked, killed for having toy guns, candy bars, key chains, footballs, most unarmed, many shot in the back. Most of these cases never even make it to trial. Fourteen people were arrested in the Bronx protesting the verdict. We got to come together, stronger than ever, protest this verdict and put a stop to this police brutality.