Police Brutality in the United States

Table of Content


I. Introduction:

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Thesis: Police brutality in the United States is a result of racial prejudice.

II. Body Paragraph 1:

Detail 1: Analysis of the historical causes of police brutality.

Detail 2: The role of race in triggering police brutality.

Detail 3: Persistence of police brutality in present times.


Detail 1: Current observations on matters pertaining to police brutality.
Detail 2: The issue of race.
Detail 3: Analysis of other factors that may trigger police brutality.

Detail 1: Case studies of police brutality
Detail 2: The case of Rodney King
Detail 3: The case of Malik Jones

Detail 1: The reaction of the public towards cases of police brutality.

Detail 2: Public support of police brutality.

Detail 3: Public outcry against police brutality.


Detail 1: In defense of police brutality.

Detail 2: Police brutality as a way of protecting the citizens.

Detail 3: Viability of this argument.


Detail 1: What can be done to curb police brutality?

Detail 2: Measures suggested by the Human Rights Watch.

Detail 3: Recommendations of Amnesty International.


Reconfirmed thesis: While other underlying factors have contributed to the rise of police brutality, racial prejudice is the most prevalent factor.

Annotated Bibliography

Canaday and Marquis explore the historical causes behind police brutality in America in their article on Associated Content (08).

March 2008. 16 Feb 2009.

Historical Causes Behind Police Brutality

In this article, the writer analyzes the historical causes that may have laid the groundwork for the prevalence of police brutality in America. Past race relations are seen as a major contributing factor to this phenomenon. After Reconstruction, law enforcement officers were mostly white and did not relate well to some ethnic groups, notably Blacks. Some officers were even active members of the Ku Klux Klan and would use excessive force on Blacks, as opposed to Whites. Other races, such as Hispanics and Asians, were treated with relative fairness. As a result, there was a growth of enmity between the police and Blacks, particularly in the civil rights era. As crime rates soared in the 70s, so did attacks by the police force, mostly directed at Blacks who were perceived to be criminals. Remnants of this misuse of authority can still be observed in some places.

Lawrence, Regina G., The Politics of Force: Media and the Construction of Police Brutality.

Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001.

The author of this book attempts to make society understand how the media, through their dramatic reports, leads us to pay attention to a particular issue, such as that of police brutality. Since most cases of police brutality are made public through the media, journalists are therefore seen as mediators in the struggle. The role of the media is very important in the fight against excessive use of force by the police. The author analyzes the social construction of this problem, as well as the competing claims on police brutality that have been made. He goes on to analyze the Rodney King case and the role of the Los Angeles Times in making it public, as well as police brutality in the arena of national media.

Lee, Dwight. “In Defense of Excessive Government.” Southern Economic Journal, vol. 65, no. 4, 1999, pp. 674.

The author of this article, Lee Dwight, assumes the role of the devil’s advocate and tries to explain why, at times, the use of excessive force by the police may be justified. He asserts that to reduce police brutality, the discretionary authority that the police enjoy would have to be reduced to such an extent that their role as protectors of the public will be grossly undermined, if not completely eliminated. He asserts that extreme brutality by the police also means greater protection of the public and states that if we are to provide greater protection of the public, then there is no choice but to allow the police excesses, even if they engage in brutality. This is a useful source as it brings a different perspective to the issue and sets the groundwork for a useful debate.

Massaquoi, Hans J. How to Stop Police Brutality.” Ebony, 46.9:58+ July 1991.

The author of this article takes a break from the usual criticism and documents some practical approaches towards dealing with the issue of police brutality. Blacks are cited as the most vulnerable to abuse by the police, and the article documents several calls from various departments to improve the activities of the police force. Various stakeholders gave their views on the issue of police brutality and how it can be dealt with. Some of them warned against generalizing the entire police force, as this could make the public lose confidence in the officers. The biggest trigger of this debate is the videotape of Rodney King, a motorist who was not resisting arrest and had no defense, being beaten up by white policemen as others watched. This caused a public outcry and showed the need for reforms.

Police brutality must end.” The Progressive 64.4 (April 2000): 8.

In this magazine article, there is a clarion call to end the incidences of police brutality. It observes how police brutality and abuse of authority have become so commonplace in the United States to such an extent that they are considered the norm rather than the exception. The article analyzes examples in which the police have used excessive force and gotten away with it simply because they are the police. It also analyzes the confessions of an officer who claims that his colleagues had framed suspects several times and that they also covered up for each other in case of wrongdoings. Several other pieces of evidence of police brutality are documented, and the article concludes by recounting the recommendations given by the Human Rights Watch to curb this vice.

Johnston, Kevin. Police Brutality Cases on the Rise Since 9/11.” USA Today, 18 Dec. 2007, www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-12-17-police-misconduct_N.htm. Accessed 19 Feb. 2009.


The author of this article, Johnston Kevin, addresses mainly the issue of the prosecution of police accused of brutality. He notes that federal prosecutors are handling more and more cases related to the use of excessive force by the police, and that these statistics have risen significantly since the year 2000. He links the apparent rot in the police force to poor screening and training of police officers and asserts that most of the cases which have to do with police brutality are rarely prosecuted. He quotes some people who are concerned about the recruitment process of the police and raises doubts about its quality. He attributes the lack of prosecution of police brutality cases to the jury, who are more inclined to believe the police officers as opposed to the civilians, as well as fellow officers who are involved in cover-ups and judges who acquit the accused without proper trial.

Shapiro, Bruce. When Justice Kills: After Years of Decline, Police Brutality Is on the Rise.”

Sparking a Reform Movement.” The Nation 264.22:21+, 9 June 1997.

The author of this article, Bruce Shapiro, documents the rise of police brutality as the years advance. It analyzes the case of two young men who were involved in a car chase with the police and were shot at despite being unarmed and having committed no apparent criminal offense. One of them dies, and controversy ensues as the police refuse to take responsibility for wrongful killing. Race is perceived to be an underlying contributing factor to the killings. The article goes on to document some of the efforts that are being taken to reduce the violence. It also analyzes the difficulties encountered by the reform movements in their quest for justice and reforms. The writer points out that society has contributed a lot to the policing culture since some people seem to support police brutality against criminals.

Shapiro, Bruce, Policing Brutality.” The Nation, 265.8:4+, 22 September 1997.

The author of this article, Bruce Shapiro, observes a certain amount of tolerance in society towards excessive and violent behavior by the police. There seems to be a silence that no one wants to break. Most of the nurses who often treat the victims of police brutality are reluctant to report the matters to the relevant authorities. Likewise, the relevant authorities seem unwilling to accord this issue the seriousness that it deserves and only make half-hearted attempts. The writer likens this attitude to a tolerance towards racism and segregation during the civil rights era and insists that such tolerance towards cruelty must be done away with if the issue is to be adequately addressed. The writer concludes by challenging the key figures in authority to take more decisive action to end this injustice once and for all.

Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States” – Human Rights

Watch Report, June 1998 – February 19, 2009.


This source is a report published by the Human Rights Watch on research conducted from 1995 to 1998. It examines the incidence of police brutality in fourteen large American cities: Atlanta, Indianapolis, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans, Providence, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Portland. These cities are assumed to be representative of America. The cases of police brutality are examined in each city and found to be widespread, with several barriers to achieving justice facing victims of police brutality. The report analyzes several factors that hinder accountability in the police force, as well as the achievement of justice, and these are found to be the same in almost all the cities. The report concludes by giving recommendations on what can be done to reduce the prevalence of such incidents.

United States of America: Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York City Police.”

Department,” Amnesty International report (AMR 51/36/96), 26 June 1996.

This report by Amnesty International documents the findings of research conducted by the organization for a period of 18 months on police brutality in the New York Police Department (NYPD). While Amnesty International cannot confirm the allegations, it acknowledges that there is a problem and notes a pattern of abuses dating back to the 80s. The report analyzes deaths while in custody, police shootings, and other alleged forms of police brutality. It also analyzes the guidelines for the police force regarding the use of force and the disciplinary actions that are taken in the event that one violates these guidelines. A lot of secrecy is observed on complaints that have been made against the police. Race is found to be a significant contributing factor to the use of excessive force by the police. The report concludes by offering recommendations for curbing the vice.

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Police Brutality in the United States. (2016, Jun 28). Retrieved from


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