Police Brutality

One can undoubtedly concede that without law enforcement our cities and towns would be riddled with criminality and we would be subject to anarchy and jungle justice (people taking the law into their own hands) in order to protect themselves and their property. This would be a retrograde step back into the days of the “wild west.” The police serve a vital purpose, which is to protect the citizens of a country from internal conflicts such as domestic violence, gang violence, rape, theft and other acts that have been criminalized by the legislators in order to protect the interest of the citizens of the state and the country.

The unfortunate thing is that some of our police, who are also citizens as well, engage in the same criminal acts they were recruited and trained to deter. Some of them engage in violence themselves through the use of excessive force which is clearly defined to be police brutality, as well as committing illegal acts (such as fraud, theft etc) defined as corruption.

According to the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP) which commenced in March 2009, from April of the same year of commencement (2009) to June 2010, there were 5986 reports of misconduct recorded and 382 of those reports were tragically fatalities. A report by Stephen Lendman of the Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel states that despite congress taking steps to deal with the issue by passing the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, they have failed time and time again to fund it and the legislation does not even require local police to keep records. The law fails horribly in criminalizing police violence and excessive force as a violation of one’s human rights.

The report further cites information from the Department of Justice/Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) methodology. Nearly $200 million has been spent in police brutality and excessive force cases related to civil litigation expenses but this excludes legal fees and court costs. Police misconduct on a whole by category includes 18.1 percent for non-firearm related excessive force, 11.9 percent for sexual misconduct and 8.9 percent for fraud or theft. One can see that excessive force and sexual assault by the police are of significant concern and that there needs to be an alteration in behavior by the police towards the citizens of the state and by extension the country.

There is no doubt that it is in the interest of the police, the states and the federal government to alter this negative practice by the police with a view to continuing to build a positive perception of the police in order to maintain the trust, love and respect (including admiration) by the citizens of their police force and in turn to reduce the high expenses paid out in civil litigation for the acts of brutality committed. This $200 million dollars which is spread throughout various states involved in these negative acts (police brutality, excessive force and other corrupt acts) could be used to aid in repairing the degraded road infrastructure and bridges (physical infrastructure), as well as aiding the disabled and providing struggling families who are out of jobs because of the depressed economy with options.

Kevin Johnson of USA Today writes in his article that police brutality has been on the rise since 9/11 and it has increased by 25 percent from 224 to 281 from fiscal years 2001 to 2007. Something must be done to arrest this trend with a view to seeing the figure drastically reduced.

Police corruption is another major issue that needs to be tackled and can be seen to be statistically higher than brutality. Corruption includes sexual assault, theft, fraud, bribery and even acts of torture as well as covering up crimes. Research on the Chicago Police Department (CPD) cites torture of at least 195 persons by police commander Jon Burge. These were mainly black men held in confinement by the CPD. Burge was fired for this corrupt practice in 1993 but the system of torture still permeates even today. This corrupt treatment meted out to African American men in confinement by the CPD is illegal and should not happen. The law expressly prohibits torture of its citizens and coercion is not even allowed to stand in the court system especially when it is torture. Alliance for Justice states that ‘the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution prohibit cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of its prisoners’.

Sexual misconduct by the police according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting methodology, stands at 11.9 percent and is another form of corruption by our police force that cannot be tolerated and it is also a criminal act which is punishable by time in prison. Analysis of the report done by the Department of Justice/FBI Uniform Crime Reporting methodology, shows that 33 percent of police officers were charged and convicted of corruption (not necessarily justly) for offences committed (not necessarily relating to sexual misconduct), and 64 percent of officers were convicted and imprisoned.

These acts of police brutality and corrupt treatments by ones police force must be avoided at all costs and deterred by the disciplinary arm of the police as it is costing the states a lot of money in civil litigation and more importantly alienating the citizens of the various states from feeling a sense of trust and respect for their police force. Congress must also act to fund the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act as well as criminalizing police violence and excessive force as a human rights violation. After all the U.S. constitution was built on ensuring the rights of all Americans and the law needs teeth to act on those in law enforcement who continue to use police violence and excessive force when unwarranted.