Police is supposed to be there to protect the safety of citizens and to be just and righteous. People used to trust their local police department because they earned that trust and they worked in favor of justice and human rights. But what happens when the members of the local police start behaving inappropriately?
The obvious consequence is people losing their trust in the ones who should be the symbol of their protection. According to GALLUP’s report from December 2014, around 78% of the total number of U.S. citizens have confidence in their local police. The report also states that in the poorest countries people have the least trust in their local police (in Mexico, where crime and violence are at very high levels only 45% of the population has confidence in their justice department), while the economically prosperous countries tend to have more effective policing systems which leads to higher levels of trust. This is the case because wealthier countries invest more funds in safety and police enforcement.
A good financial and economical system is certainly a good basis for a good policing system. But sometimes, even in parts where enough funds are provided and policemen have good salaries and equipment, things get out of control and they start behaving not-so-much as their occupation requires them to.
There are many examples of police brutality in the United States, cases that bring to the lack of trust that people have in their local police officers. A recent case of police brutality happened in April, 2014 when a former policeman S. Alvarez kidnapped and sexually assaulted multiple women while on duty. He was caught and sentenced to 205 years in prison. A silver lining in this story is that the police imprisoned him and he no longer is able to harm people protected by his badge.
In 2010, policemen from Denver used so much force on a man that they killed him. Years after the tragic event his family received $4.65 million, but that won’t bring poor Marvin Booker back.
In Baltimore, there were a series of wrongful assaults and injuring of innocent people by the police throughout the last decade.
In 2015 the U.S. Justice Department published information about Missouri’s police department being too violent and using unnecessary and excessive force and violated the rights of black people.
Police brutality happens often in prisons and custody’s. This very month In Baltimore, Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man died in police custody, and the police officers are suspected to have committed the crime. But this is not the first or the last of such cases. In Baltimore, police can often be very abusive and violent, which has even been reported by the U.S. Department of Justice. Old people are beaten so much that their bones are broken. Pregnant women handled violently. Then the victims are paid large amounts of money and the incidents get covered up, or at least quickly stop being mentioned.
Again in April, 2015 a sheriff’s deputy was charged with murder. Robert Bates, the deputy, pleaded not guilty and said that he mistakenly took his handgun instead of his stun gun and accidentally killed Eric Harris, suspected of illegal gun sale. He has so little remorse that he was planning to go to the Bahamas to a vacation he had paid for before the incident happened.
This month continues in the same manner – police officers practicing violence and citizens protesting. On 14th of April, 2015, protesters in many U.S. cities walked over the streets and entered police stations, rebelling against the killings of people by the police. Brooklyn Bridge was the place where more than 250 activists held signs such as “Stop murder by police” and “Stop killer cops”, as Reuters reports. These demonstrations were mostly based on the recent cases of police violence against black men who didn’t carry any weapons. The most recent and prominent case to hold on to was the killing of Walter Scott on April 4th in South Carolina, when a black unarmed man was killed by a white policeman. This killing was even recorded on video which served as evidence and the policeman is facing murder charges.
The cause of the march was, as the protesters claimed, to prove a point and stop the use of excessive force by the police that leads to death of (mostly) Hispanic and black people, usually men and boys, as Reuters reports. But is this protest really enough to change things? – Maybe, maybe not.
ABC News published an article about excessive force in which it was explained why police officers may be behaving violently and in an abusive manner. Allison Collins, the writer of a report on police brutality in the U.S. said that they lose their minds and get very angry so that they cannot control themselves because they get stressed and full of adrenaline while chasing a suspect. There are many reports of post-chase adrenaline and anger which many police officers experience. “Your heart gets racing, you get scared, it’s very intense, and that’s when a lot of abuse happens”, says Collins.
Taking all of these cases of police brutality into consideration, it is strange that the percentage of people in the U.S. who have confidence in the local police is as high as it is (73% in low-income areas, 86% in high-income areas), but it also has a lot to do with the crime rates of particular areas. The lower the income, the more likely that area is to commit to crime, then more police interventions are needed and if the situation gets heated – more instances of police conducted violence happen.
So, for the police brutality to decrease, probably the crime rates would have to decrease as well, and then maybe the confidence in the police system will increase.