Understanding Opposing Viewpoints on Police Brutality

The issues regarding the methods used by our police force to subdue unruly behavior and maintain a safe and livable society often finds itself in media prominence. We’ve all seen the beatings of seemingly submissive criminals as their face is forced to the ground with 3 – 5 policeman on top of them. But before we jump to the wrong conclusions it is important that we have all the information, and not just a few seconds of a video clip. I aim to briefly explore the ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments on so-called police brutality.

Policeman have a difficult but very important role within our society – to ‘serve and protect’. The very nature of their position at the front-line means they often find themselves in the most violent of situations. Such dangerous situations rely on instinct and even self-defense to keep situations from getting out of hand. Although police would ideally use the minimum amount of force to subdue a criminal or a crowd without excessively endangering themselves or bystanders, it can be very difficult to judge the risks posed by an assailant in a split-second. Whether it be the use of hand-to-hand combat, capsicum spray, tazers, a baton or even the last resort, the handgun, police need to send out a message that crime and unruly behavior is criminal and will not be tolerated. It is often a fine balance between the two, making it all to easy to cross the thin blue line and lay all the blame onto the officers.

Some would argue that the methods used by police to maintain such a hard-line are excessive. Tazers, bashings with batons and capsicum spray are all uncalled for and unjustified. Protests are a good example. In a land of free speech protesters often feel like they are not given enough voice due to the excessive barriers put up by police. Although their intentions are for a safe and solely vocal representation of the silent majority, it is often the police who begin with the brutality. They push away eager protesters or even resort to high-pressure hoses and tear gas to keep protesters at bay. Other examples are the beatings of criminals we see on the news. They are already on the ground and often handcuffed, but there are three officers still pounding away with their batons. Surely this is unacceptable, and it is, but such images would only represent a small fraction of police behavior.

There are good arguments on both sides and police brutality remains a contentious issue. On the one hand force is necessary, unfortunately, to subdue violent criminals who pose a great risk to society and to send a strong message, whereas on the other hand police often seem to go too far (misinterpretation?) for the greater good. Probably, this is the best case scenario. If police become too lenient then there is less deterrence for would-be criminals, and if police became too harsh then a ‘slippery slope’ would occur with police being excessively violent to the smallest of law-breakers. Either way, we should be proud of our police forces as they put themselves at the front-line so we can live our lives safely and happily.