The Brutality and Racism of Police Officers in the United States of America

The police force fulfills a fundamental component in society as serving as its protectors and defenders. Policemen are on guard for society’s citizens and they try to guarantee the citizens’ well-being and contentment whenever and however they can. However, the police force who had once been acknowledged as peacemakers and diplomats, are now more referred to as law enforcers.

Unfortunately, instead of human rights and true justice, police arrests have been more focused on violence and brutality. Over the decades the society, as well as academic intellectuals have inquired about the utilization of brutality, prejudice, and corruption as well as other types of wrongdoings by the “peacekeepers” of the law. (Prusinski) With rising violence and crime in societies, policemen have degraded to using aggressive methods for their arrests.

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The laws in United States pertaining are lacking in reality when compared with the international laws that center on the matter of human rights. According to Amnesty International, “States are required to respect and to protect the right to life… The police in any society will at some point be confronted with a situation where they have to decide whether to use force and, if so, how much.

Enacting an adequate domestic legal framework for such use of force by police officials is thus a State obligation, and States that do not do this are in violation of their international obligations” (“Deadly Force: Police Use Of Lethal Force In The United States”). Unfortunately, when looked over and examined by Amnesty International, the laws in U.S. pertaining to deadly force by police officials are not in agreement with the international laws.

Although excessive deadly force has been abused for many years in the United States, all the way back to Rodney King to Michael Brown and plenty other unfortunate victims, it doesn’t get reported as it should. As it can be seen in an article by Nancy Krieger and colleagues, “although deaths of police officers are well documented, no reliable-official US data exist on the number of persons killed by the police, in part because of long-standing and well-documented resistance of police departments to making these data public” (Krieger & colleagues).

If one searches an online database or requests public files of brutality against police, they will come across much information, however, when the tables are turned and public information in sought from the government on the brutality done by the police, most likely one will turn empty handed. Although there aren’t many reliable resources that display the statistics of the brutality done by police, there are some reliable websites created by organizations to expose the brutality done by policemen as well as their excessive use of force.

In a specific website named Mapping Police Violence, there are elaborative and extensive reports on police brutality throughout the nation. Not only is this source reliable to search up information, but it provides the reader with specific people who have been victims under the crimes of policemen. The website states “police killed at least 1,152 people in the United States from January 1 – December 15, 2015” (Mapping Police Violence).

Although websites like these are useful sources to expose police brutality and prevent it from happening so frequently, it is evident from these statistics it isn’t helpful enough and there needs to be more things done to prevent such inhumane things from happenings.

So the real question that needs to be asked, when is deadly force considered acceptable? In an explanatory article by Ken Wallentine, a prosecutor of over three decades, states how the utilization of force during lawful objections are measured by standards established in a court Graham vs. Connor.

Due to these standards, they ask three questions to the police officer, which consists of how severe crime the police officer suspected the victim of committing, if the suspect posed an immediate threat and if they were resisting arrest. By answering these questions, a police officer’s force is measured (Wallentine). But from the amount of police brutality that is going on throughout the nation, it can be seen the law’s measurement of utilization of force by police officers isn’t sufficient nor effective.

Law enforcers have a number of procedures they can do to prevent the use of deadly force such as verbal warnings, negotiation, and they even carry non-lethal weapons to prevent the use of their deadly weapons. Deadly force should be the last decision made before it is applied. Sometimes the person the officer is trying to communicate with might have a bad day or a person who is just determined to kill, both might act similar but procedures that apply on the person with a bad day might not for the determined killer meaning deadly force can be a victims or even the officers last hope.

Deadly force should be used after it has become obvious that there is no other choice such as a criminal in a hostage situation or a serial killer on the loose that is only going to hurt people and officers if they aren’t stopped by arrest or force if necessary. There is real thin line between wrong and right when it comes to deadly force. The officer can be seen as a hero or can be seen as another officer abusing his badge as get me out of jail card.

There are also various court cases that took place in the American history how excessive force and reasonable force is perceived by the law. Taryn Prusinski, by using the court case of People v. Atkinson in her article “When Does Force Become Excessive?” to display these views of reasonable force and excessive force by the law. In this case of People v. Atkinson, to measure the degree of force carried out by Officer Atkinson there was a “four-part substantive due process test, derived from the United States Court of Appeals decision in Johnson v. Glick” (Prusinski).

These four-point test observes the following factors:

  1. The need for the application of force
  2. The relationship between that need and the amount of force that was used
  3. The extent of the injury inflicted
  4. Whether the force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain and restore discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm (Prusinski).

This is an ineffective test, for a multiple number of reasons. One of these reasons are pertaining to the fourth factor, whether force was applied because it was necessary or because of evil thoughts, can only be told by the police officer, and there’s a low possibility of one admitting they had evil thoughts even if she or he did. In a case, where a police officer lies about the situation, and says they used deadly force because they needed to, and not admit they went overboard, the policemen’s word is going to be listened over the possible criminal’s word. This is, in all actuality, all based on what the policemen says, an evaluation of what they were thinking at the time. It doesn’t even observe the victim’s side.

There are plenty officers that use there force reasonably for each situation but there are also plenty of officers that do not act reasonably in a situation. There have been incidents where police threw around children for minor issues (Sanders), from my observation I’ve come to believe it was because of his skin color which was completely unreasonable. If a person becomes obnoxious and not compliable I believe the officer has his right to detain his arrestee by taking him to the ground or even use his Taser if he’s not capable of detaining this person but should not just jump straight to the Taser unless he’s sure.

Nowadays it seems police have been a lot quicker to use their gun, which I believe comes from jumping to conclusions and I think it might be because he was not prepared correctly for such a situation .But don’t misunderstand, it can be reasonable to use a gun or Taser a person without other procedures. If an officer is in a shootout that he didn’t provoke than it’s more than reasonable to use his lethal weapons.

If a person has strong suspicions for having a bomb or some mass destruction device than it would be more than reasonable to Taser them as soon as he was seen and taken away from population for questioning. Police officers should already know how to use reasonable force because it’s almost like common sense for some situations. It should be common sense that it wasn’t reasonable to choke an overweight man for selling loose cigarettes or breaking a man spine’s for carrying a weapon in his car that they sell in stores to anyone.

This leads one to wonder why police brutality is taking place so frequently when there is some form of punishment to all of the citizens who don’t abide by the law, and again, this leads one to wonder if police officers are even getting punished appropriately for the brutality cases that have been publicly reported and especially exposed by the media. One hypothesis of the situation would be that these police officers are in fact, not getting punished properly, which is negatively reinforcing their unacceptable acts. By the government not penalizing these wrongdoings, police officers get encouraged to do some more. It seems like more and more police officers are getting away with crimes as if they had legal immunities.

Officers are getting away with short suspensions or at worst for some officers losing their badge for crimes that are worse and more horrifying than the victims’ crime that they were getting arrested for. The victims punishment would’ve definitely have been harsher than their killers’ punishment. I believe we all follow the same laws and should be punished equally but it doesn’t seem to be that way.

I believe if an officer commits a murder that was justifiable and he is found guilty by the court then he should at least serve the minimum but officers are going home right after they commit crimes that were unethical and unreasonable. It is becoming more gruesome and more often that this happens because police officers are treated similarly to a classic conditioning as if they aren’t being punished, so it is enforced instead. I believe a big part in police brutality comes from lack of training and throwing new officers into difficult situations.

Putting a guy who hasn’t even been on the job is bound to make a mistake from a little one to a huge mistake depending how much you expect this new officer to do. I believe another huge reason cops act unethical is because of being prejudice. But to be clear, a mistake and unreasonably killing an arrestee should both be punished the same way any man or woman in our country would be punished.

Perhaps the important point is being missed here, for had these police officers been trained correctly in the first place, there wouldn’t be need to seek for appropriate ways of punishment. It has come to my attention from the research that has been done for this paper that police officers go through very inadequate training to be released as fully trained officers with handguns and other lethal weapons.

According to Latitude in Deadly Force Training: Progress or Problem, during their era of training, policemen are meant to abide by the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training’s (IADLEST) guidelines; these guidelines are “neither extensive nor highly detailed”, although they do state that police officers should be “proficient in the use of weapons, the ethical and effective use of deadly and non-deadly force and respectful of constitutional limitations on their authority” (Morrison and Garner).

As can be seen, these generic and obvious guidelines aren’t sufficient enough training instructions for newly trained policemen with full authority in their full grasp. Policemen should go through extended training, as do soldiers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, etc. If any other public figure trained as insufficiently and shortly as police did, our society would be in more of a turmoil than it already is. Imagine a doctor with a year of training doing a brain surgery, he might as well have no training at all.

Point is, much of police brutality can be prevented if there was more awareness raised on the topic. This awareness shouldn’t only be raised by victims of the situation and their friends and family, but by the authority and government themselves, to emphasize the gravity of the situation. What’s the point of the whole society’s outcry if the government chooses to ignore this, and possibly even shut those outcries with even more brutality? Therefore, first and foremost, policemen and officials in charge of policemen must seek to improve themselves before seeking to end crime.

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The Brutality and Racism of Police Officers in the United States of America. (2023, Apr 11). Retrieved from