Police Brutality and Change in Law Enforcement

Abstract

The current programs used in the police force have managed to deliver a number of benefits such as security and maintenance of law and order. Many police officers have been observed to follow strict rules and guidelines whenever handling different encounters. Some officers use unnecessary force whenever dealing with suspects. This kind of brutality has presented serious problems that cannot be ignored by members of the community. This paper gives powerful strategies and changes within the law enforcement practices than can maximize the trust and safety between civilians and officers.

Introduction

Members of each community expect police officers to respect their rights and provide adequate security (Legewie, 2016). The officers’ roles and positions in the society explain why they command the respect of many citizens. They are guided by different codes and rules in order to act ethically. Unfortunately, the use of brutality by the police remains one of the contentious issues in many societies across the globe. Police abuse and brutality has remained a serious civil rights problem in America (Richardson, 2015). It is agreeable that the police can use force in various circumstances such as arresting a criminal. However, sometimes the practice can result in barbaric or unnecessary behavior. The use of excessive force is something that cannot be underestimated by members of the public. The current practices in law enforcement are believed to have led to misjudgment in the police department. One of the major forms of violence in the police force arises from the misjudgment of police officers. The common outcomes associated with the malpractice include the use of excessive force, racial profiling, and murder without justice (Legewie, 2016).

Since crime rates are high in low-income communities, many officers tend to believe that such atrocities are committed by minorities in such regions (Richardson, 2015). This malpractice is what has led to increased cases of racial profiling. Individuals from such minority societies are murdered without consequences. New programs and recruitment procedures are therefore needed in order to bring sanity in the American police departments.

Thesis statement: Every police department in the United States should come up with workable changes within the law enforcement practices, recruitment requirements, education and training, and policies to maximize the trust and safety between civilians and officers.

The Police Force and Policies: Recruitment and Problems

The dynamics experienced in different societies across the United States have transformed the nature of its police departments. Within the past two decade, police departments have widened their missions and responsibilities. Some of the traditional roles of the police such as security provision and crime investigation have changed significantly. The police force is presently executing new roles such as crime prevention and reduction of violence (Wolfe & Nix, 2016). Modern programs and policies are focusing on the best strategies to become more proactive and address the problem of crime. Policing is a philosophy that continues to change due a wide range of factors (Richardson, 2015).

For instance, modern technologies and acquisition of new ideas are powerful developments that have reshaped the manner in which the police address various security concerns. A wide range of policies have been implemented to guide and dictate the policing approaches undertaken by officers. The officers are expected to act diligently and ethically. They should act in an intelligent manner and use their competencies to deal with various situations. The existing policies guide them to adopt intelligence-led and predictive policing (Richardson, 2015). Vargas (2014) argues that “predictive policing relies on data from different sources in an attempt to come up with better initiatives to respond to crime in a professional manner” (p. 152). On the other hand, officers embracing the use of intelligence-led policing focuses on a powerful decision-making approach guided by data to disrupt, reduce, or prevent crime (Wolfe & Nix, 2016).

The policies applied in the police force dictate the manner in which potential candidates are recruited. Law enforcers in the United States are recruited using a rigorous approach. The targeted candidates should satisfy a number of requirements such as age, education, and citizenship. The targeted candidates should be physically fit and possess a valid driver’s license (Weitzer, 2015). Individuals who have committed any form of crime or misconduct are usually disqualified. The use of polygraphs is embraced to detect lies throughout the recruitment process.

Although these basic requirements and processes offer an opportunity to get suitable candidates, the agreeable fact is that they are inadequate and ineffective. After recruitment, the successful individuals are trained in order to become competent officers. Unfortunately, the system lacks a standard curriculum that can be used to train officers across the country. The recruitment and training of officers is managed by each state’s Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST).

Some of the major subjects included in the training programs include self-improvement, legal education, defense tactics, and operations (Legewie, 2016). Field training is also taken seriously during the training process. This means that the current policies and training procedures used in the country fail to consider the needs of the targeted citizens. The policies applied in the police force do not focus on the dynamics experienced in different communities. The training programs are not informed by evidence-based data (Richardson, 2015). This missing link has made it impossible for the candidates to act diligently after joining the police force. The current policies in place fail to consider the needs of the citizens (Vargas, 2014). These problems must be addressed in order to reclaim the glory of every law enforcement department.

Injustices of Racial Profiling, Excessive Force, and Murders

Injustices arising from racial profiling have continued to dictate the fate of many people in the United States. The problem of racial profiling has remained visible in the United States for many decades. Bias-based practices and policing behaviors have been recorded in the nation for several years (Weitzer, 2015). This kind of biasness and profiling affects minority groups such as African Americans. Between January and July 2016, 137 African American citizens were murdered by police officers (Malmin, 2015).

This fact shows conclusively that police racism is a major challenge that continues to affect the welfare of many communities. Stereotypes about the behavior and criminality of minority groups in the United States dictate the demeanor of many officers. The injustices springing from racial profiling make it impossible for many citizens to get fair trial. More people from minority communities have increased chances of being incarcerated or imprisoned without fair trial. The American police force has failed to implement powerful policies that can address the injustices associated with racism.

In 2016 alone, around 788 people were murdered by police officers (Malmin, 2015). This is a clear indication that the use of excessive force has become a major problem in the United States. Police officers have been killing many people than ever before. This means that police violence has become a serious issue that should be addressed immediately. Experts and policymakers have been outlining various policies that can be implemented in an attempt to deal with this problem.

However, many police departments have been against most of the proposed policies. Malmin (2015) indicated that new policy changes aimed at reducing violence and brutality can prevent the current proportion of police killings. The other disappointing fact is that majority of the police officers who kill innocent civilians are never brought to justice (Richardson, 2015). This has been the case because the investigations and procedures used by many departments follow a specific pattern that does not safeguard the rights of the citizens. In the recent past, over 400 enforcement and police officers have been charged for violating the constitutional rights of different citizens. Unfortunately, the inquiries in such offenses do not result in justice.

This is the case because majority of the culprits are never indicted. Several case studies can be used to explain how and why police brutality remains a major issue in the country. The first case arises from the death of Freddie Gray in 2015 (Swaine, Lewis, & Roberts, 2014). One of the officers who arrested Gray was Edward Nero. The 30 year old police officer was accused of assaulting Gray. The officer was “also charged with misconduct and placing the suspect in a van without buckling his seatbelt” (Craven, 2016, para. 2).

The most painful fact is that “Gray died while in police custody” (Craven, 2016, para. 1). The judge argued that Nero was not guilty and did not have anything to do with Gray’s death. The murder of Michael Brown in 2014 was another indication of police brutality and ineffectiveness of the law in the United States. The police officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson, did not face any criminal charge. The decision by the judge led to weeks of vandalism and unrest in the county. This murder revived the question of race and law enforcement in the United States.

Initiatives to Change the Program and the System

Current evidence shows conclusively that several initiatives can play a positive role towards dealing with the challenges facing the police force (Swaine et al., 2014). One of the best approaches towards implementing a lasting solution is identifying the most appropriate recruitment procedures. It is agreeable that the current hiring process focuses on the skills, competencies, and qualifications of the shortlisted candidates (Weitzer, 2015). A new idea aimed at recruiting more women can play a positive role towards recording desirable outcomes.

This is the case because less than 5 percent of female officers account for complaints from citizens. Additionally, the recruited officers should be trained in order to become competent problem solvers and critical thinkers. A report released by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) indicated that it was “paying a lot of money for lawsuits against male police officers” (Richardson, 2015, p. 2972). When more women join the police force, it will be easier to tackle the problems affecting the country. The recruitment process should also consider the issue of equality. This means that more citizens from minority races will have increased chances of joining the police force.

Racial bias is a documented problem in every police department (Richardson, 2015). The existence of stereotypes in the force affects officers’ decisions to apprehend or shoot suspects (Legewie, 2016). That being the case, a new training program addressing the issue of racial bias will deal with officers’ misconceptions and stereotypes. The strategy will minimize the brutality recorded in the country. The other critical issue to consider is that of diversity in the United States. A study released by the New York Times indicated that many American departments were observed to have white police officers (Legewie, 2016).

An attempt to improve the diversity in the department has the potential to reduce the number of brutal incidents (Wolfe & Nix, 2016). The government can identify new peaceful strategies and practices that can improve the living conditions of many people in poor societies. Community policing is another initiative that has the potential to deliver positive results. This approach can make it easier for members of the society to liaise with different officers and tackle challenges diligently. New guidelines should be used to ensure officers deescalate scenarios and offer verbal instructions. The officers should also be empowered to exhaust every option before applying excessive force.

Conclusion

A person’s ethnicity should never be used to determine his or her guilt or innocence whenever investigating an offense (Wolfe & Nix, 2016). This malpractice has made racial profiling the biggest issue in the American police force. Recruited officers are never trained or guided to handle the problem of race professionally. There is need for adequate training programs and policies to equip police officers with the best competencies. By so doing, they will act diligently and deescalate situations before the use of brutal force. This kind of awareness should be propagated across the nation’s police force to ensure the true spirit of community policing becomes a reality.

References

Craven, J. (2016). Judge finds Baltimore police officer not guilty in death of Freddie Gray. The Huffington Post. Web.

Legewie, J. (2016). Racial profiling and use of force in police stops: How local events trigger periods of increased discrimination. American Journal of Sociology, 122(2), 379-424.

Malmin, M. (2015). Police misconduct, racism, and excessive use of force-failure analysis, commentary, and recommendations. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 3(1), 1-19.

Richardson, L. (2015). Police racial violence: Lessons from social psychology. Fordham Law Review, 83(6), 2961-2976.

Swaine, J., Lewis, P., & Roberts, D. (2014). Grand jury decline to charge Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown. The Guardian. Web.

Vargas, R. (2014). Criminal group embeddedness and the adverse effects of arresting a gang’s leader: A comparative case study. Criminology, 52(1), 143-168.

Weitzer, R. (2015). Is American policing at a crossroads? The Criminologist, 4(1), 1-5.

Wolfe, S., & Nix, J. (2016). The alleged “Ferguson Effect” and police willingness to engage in community partnership. Law and Human Behavior, 40(1), 1-10.