Just days after George Floyd was murdered by Officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis this May, protesters all over the country (and all over the world) took to the streets to protest police misconduct, police brutality, and excessive force.
The New York Times reported that these protests may be the largest movement in U.S. history, with over 550 places across the U.S. reporting protests this summer involving up to half a million people.
As a Black female civil rights lawyer who has worked on many police brutality cases and studied countless others, I have a unique perspective on these issues and what to do about them.
I believe some police officers may be doing a good job of arresting offenders and protecting civilians, but others have taken brutal measures when handling civilians — guilty or innocent.
In this blog, I outline some police brutality statistics in the U.S., as well as some potential solutions we can implement as a country to prevent these horrific injustices from continuing to be perpetuated against our people.
Police Brutality in the U.S.
Police brutality has become one of the major causes of death in the US.
Police have killed 874 people just in 2020.
And studies have shown that these shootings have not stopped or slowed down during the pandemic.
In addition to police shootings, other examples of the types of police brutality include:
- Bullying/ intimidation
- Physical or psychological harm (rape, beating, torture, etc.)
- Shooting indiscriminately
- Damaging of property
- Verbal assault
- Meting out more punishment than necessary
- Forceful taking of property
- Racial discrimination
- Wrongful arrests (arrested for no just cause and without a warrant)
Causes of Police Brutality
So why would a law enforcement official inflict harm on the same people they are supposed to protect?
It’s difficult to know exactly what causes an officer to act in a way contrary to their duty, but experts have done their best to come up with some theoretical causes:
- Lack of proper training
- A false sense of superiority
- A false sense of duty and pressure to uphold justice
- Racial biases
- Paranoia/mental disorder
- Personality crisis
- Traumatic past experiences
- Emotional imbalances
Officers who victimize civilians in this way are then protected by existing statutes and laws that keep police officers immune from punishment.
But police brutality is a violation of the civil rights of citizens, which leads to serious and far-reaching consequences for the U.S. on a large scale. For example:
- Loss of hope/trust in police officers
- Increased mortality rate, especially for young black and brown people
- Unruly protests infiltrating civil and peaceful protests
- Civil unrest and tensions
What can be done about these issues to improve police-citizen relations, restore Americans’ faith in the system, and — most importantly — keep our people safe?
In the wake of Floyd’s death, protesters have called for all kinds of changes and implementations, and some communities have even begun to enact these improvements in the hopes of making the system better.
Here are some examples of potential solutions that have been recommended and, in very few cases, implemented:
- Reduction of police funds: Particularly in recent years, there have been calls for the funds allocated to the law enforcement agencies to be reduced and channeled into the welfare of civilians.
- Reallocating these funds to other programs: Some law-enforcement agencies’ current responsibilities realistically fall outside their expertise and DO NOT require an armed response. Using funds currently allocated to the police to instead provide assistance for people suffering from these issues (i.e., homelessness, drug abuse, and mental illness) could provide much better and safer solutions.
- Improved training for police officers: Adequate training should be given to police officers to check the problem of brutality and enlighten them on how to respond to critical situations. This should include diversity training. At this training, officers still battling with trauma from bad experiences or paranoia should be helped, and focus should be placed on racial bias training and mental health crises relief. Psychological profile checks and testing should also be done on individuals prior to instating them as officers of the law.
- Review of statutes governing law enforcement agencies: The immunity given to police officers should be abolished. Sometimes, officers feel they are above the law and abuse the immunity they have. Laws that give officers the freedom to act in any way should be changed, and officers should be held accountable for their actions.
- The use of portable body cameras: Police officers should be required to wear cameras to monitor their activities. In theory, police officers would be less likely to carry out brutal harm on a citizen knowing that their every action is being recorded. Systems in place to check that these cameras are in working order must also be put into place, and officers should be penalized for turning these cameras off or making false claims that they are not working.
Other efforts include civilian boards and other agencies set up to protect civilians from the violation of their civil rights and redress victims of police brutality.
Contact The Law Office of Carol D. Powell Lexing & Associates
Are you seeking justice for your friends or family who have been unnecessarily brutalized by the police? Contact our team at the Law Office of Carol D. Powell Lexing & Associates.
I have 29 years of experience fighting for civil rights that has prepared me for any fight. Call today to get started on your case.