People cannot operate without police officers both public and private security officers because they help in enforcing law and order. Therefore, when police are present in any community, people get a certain sense of security by knowing that their lives and property are secured. As a result, every government invests heavily in the police department while some private firms have found it worthwhile to come up with private security services. It is the aim of every state to have as many police officers as possible such that each police officer could be serving a manageable number of people. Unfortunately, contrary to the expectation that police officers are a source of security some have proved to be a source of insecurity because of their actions. Police officers have in many instances used excessive force when dealing with unarmed citizens causing more harm than good. Police brutality is an issue that almost every state has to deal with and it has dire consequences to the community.
Contributors of Police Brutality
It will be worthless to discuss the effects of police brutality without first examining the causes of police brutality. To begin with, most police officers have been found to be selective when it comes to people of different races. The belief that people who belong to a certain race are hardheaded makes police officers use excessive force in case a person from the other race is arrested (Leinen 2012). On the same note, racism encourages unfair treatment of people from the other race which is despised and this has caused police brutality where police beat up suspects who do not come from their race.
Additionally, it has been found that police officers always tend to overreact when their authority is challenged either by armed or unarmed citizens. This is due to the passing of wrong information during training that police officers are always right in implementing law and order or the notion that they cannot be reported (Palmiotto & Unnithan 2010). It is important to note that police officers take it as an utmost trespass if one challenges their authority and most of them take it personally which makes their reaction more emotional than professional. On the same note, research has shown that police officers are mostly unable to differentiate their professional life from their personal life and this highly affects the way they react to situations.
Another cause of police brutality is assertive policing which allows a police officer to use individual judgment in determining whether somebody has committed a crime. In this regard, police officers are free to take any step against somebody whom they think is on the wrong side of the law. Therefore, the police officers can easily harm a civilian and still get out of it by explaining that they did what was best in the given situation. On top of that, police culture also has been found to fuel police brutality in cases where the culture emphasizes issues that may compel the officers to act in a manner that is unethical (Rainwater 2011). Research has shown that in many instances, the culture of the police force emphasizes arrests and fighting crime instead of preventing crime. Police officers who make many arrests are mostly the ones who are rewarded and promoted while those officers who observe human rights end up being not recognized. This has made many officers lose hope in observing human rights and instead fuelled police brutality when officers seek to impress their seniors and thus earn themselves a promotion.
Attitudes play a great role in determining the behavior of a person and the way one will handle any situation besides also affecting the reaction of a person in case of provocation. In this regard, the attitude of police officers, as well as private security officers, highly influences police brutality. If police officers have a negative attitude towards a given group of people or people from a given class of the society, the probability that they will handle these people in a harsh way is high (Holmes & Smith 2008). This also includes the issue of stereotyping among the police officers because it is highly unlikely that a police officer can be fair to a person whom the officer has a negative stereotype about.
Effects of Police Brutality
Perhaps the most drastic effect of police brutality is that it causes the death of its victims. In many instances, police officers have been known to shoot and kill innocent citizens by suspecting them to be criminals. In 1999, a youth aged 23 known as Amadou Diallo was shot and instantly killed by police officers who claimed they thought he was withdrawing a firearm when he was reaching for his wallet. This was one of the reported cases but many go unreported in various parts of the country and the world in general (Holmes & Smith 2008). Beatings that victims receive in the hands of police officers either in police custody or in the streets sometimes leave the victims with injuries that lead to death, if they do not die on the sport.
On top of that, research has shown that the likelihood of police brutality victims suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder is high. This is due to the trauma that is inflicted on the victims when they are tortured by police officers. On the same note, victims of police brutality have been found to also suffer from other psychological disorders including depression as well as substance abuse. Additionally, it has been proved that the effects of police brutality sometimes psychologically affect the victims leading to some of them committing suicide. Police brutality also leads to long-term emotional distress and chronic anxiety attacks on victims who on top of that, have been known to suffer from Borderline Agoraphobia while some even lose their sense of self-worthiness (Leinen 2012).
On top of that, police brutality against one person from a certain race may spark tension when the whole race ends up feeling victimized. This has been known to fuel riots where people from the race that feels segregated decide to seek attention. Though the initial intentions of the riots might have been peaceful demonstrations in many instances this ends up being violent leading to the death and injuries of many people. Additionally, citizens are meant to feel safe when they know that police officers are around and can be easily reached in case of any emergence.
On the contrary, when cases of police brutality are rampant, citizens feel scared by the sight of police officers in their vicinity. Therefore, citizens stop fearing criminals and start fearing police officers and, in that way, instead of police officers being a source of security to the citizens, citizens feel that their security is threatened when police officers are around (Rain water 2011). This has led to many crimes going unreported because people fear police officers and they, therefore, choose to bear the suffering caused by criminals instead of going to the police.
On top of that, as cases of police brutality increase, people start changing their attitudes towards the police force. It is common to hear people talking in the streets or in various gatherings about how the police cannot help in solving the problem of increasing criminal activities. Many people tend to think that police become brutal to some victims just to cover up their inadequacies as far as their job is concerned. On the same note, police brutality depicts the cruelty of police officers and taints the name of the police force (Palmiotto & Unnithan 2010) making people have a bad idea about the role of the police force in society. All these factors lead to the loss of the respect that the public is supposed to the police force thereby hindering the corporation that police would have received from the public.
For the work of the police officers to be successful, they need to get public trust so that they can be able to get information about activities that take place in the community. But when police officers are known to be brutal to people sometimes this is taken to depict a lack of professionalism in the execution of their duties. This will also be taken to imply that police do not have a genuine way of carrying out their investigations concerning the crimes that take place in society, and therefore they resort to cruelty and uncouth means. With this in mind, the trust that people had in the police force fades away and they even become unwilling to provide information that might sometimes be important in assisting police in their efforts to curb crime.
Furthermore, it has been depicted that police brutality is more pronounced in a society that is not integrated and people are discriminated against either because of race or because of social class (Holmes & Smith 2008). In this regard, people from the despised race or people from the lower social class are always on the receiving end as far as police brutality is concerned. Consequently, it has been well documented that in a society where segregation is the order of the day police is brutality is common as compared to a unified community. On top of that, it is mostly people from the lower classes of the society that are treated brutally by the police while their counterparts from higher classes receive dignified treatment from the police force be it public or private. Therefore, police brutality acts as an indicator of how society is differentiated and depicts the level of racism in society.
It is important also to note that, the victims of police brutality have also been proofed to be mostly the poor in society. One of the weaknesses of capitalism that its opponents have documented is that capitalism favors those who have wealth and disregards the interests of those who do not have in the society (Leinen 2012). On top of that, police brutality is also more prevalent in capitalistic societies as compared to socialistic societies. In this light, therefore, police brutality has been known to enhance the injustices that are associated with capitalism.
The use of excessive force by police when they are dealing with citizens and the unmerited and aggressive abuse that common citizens suffer at the hands of the same people who are supposed to offer security has been the order of the day in which every society requires an urgent address. If nothing is done, then more and more innocent people will continue to suffer the tyranny of sometimes despotic and diabolic police officers who always get acquitted of their crimes and go back to commit more brutalities. To begin with, police should be trained about the code of ethics as it concerns their area of professionalism so that they will be able to apply due diligence when they are dealing with citizens (Rainwater 2011).
It is also important if police officers could attend counseling sessions to help change their attitude so that they may not be having negative attitudes towards people from a given group. On top of that, it is important to fight against racism as it has been noted to contribute towards police brutality. If the society is integrated and people are taught how to tolerate others then cases of police brutality can reduce (Leinen 2012). It is also important to teach the public about their rights in case they have been confronted by police officers this will enable people to handle police officers in a respectable way thus reducing the chances of the police being brutal.
Every event of police brutality should be explained in detail either to the judge or to the attorney and people should not fear doing the same. If more and more cases of police brutality are reported and clear evidence provided action will be taken and this will deter other officers from being brutal. In respect of this, the victims of police brutality are encouraged to ensure that they get names and badge numbers of police officers who subject them to unfair treatment and if possible, they should also get witnesses. Additionally, though a person may have a good reason why he or she should not be detained by police officers, going against the instructions of an arresting officer will only serve to aggravate the situation and agitate the officer (Palmiotto & Unnithan 2010). Consequently, people are advised to follow the instructions of any arresting officer and try to remain calm in order to avoid cruelty from the police officers.
Organizations should also be formed to sensitize the public on how to deal with issues of police brutality thus ensuring that at least every person knows how to deal with the situation in case they are faced with it. This has been done in the states of California and has proved to be very effective. In addition to that, reforms are necessary for the police department to ensure that actions are taken against any police officer who is proven to have been brutal in the course of duty (Holmes & Smith 2008). Senior police officers should send information to their juniors that they do not tolerate any form of brutality and in this way, the juniors will fear hence cases of police brutality will reduce.
Police brutality is a reality in life and it occurs in our very society besides causing far-reaching effects to members of the society. However, it should be noted that the acts of brutality against civilians are not only unethical but also illegal and barbaric. They, therefore, need to be condemned and abolished from society using all legal mechanisms possible.
Holmes, M. D. & Smith, B. W. (2008) Race and Police Brutality: Roots of an Urban Dilemma. New York: SUNY Press.
Leinen, S. (2012). Black Police, White Society. New York: NYU Press.
Palmiotto, M. J. & Unnithan, N. P. (2010). Policing and Society: A Global Approach. Hoboken: Cengage Learning.
Rainwater, L. (2011). Deviance and Liberty: Social Problems and Public Policy. Piscataway: Aldine Transaction.