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Police Brutality Essay

1517 words - 7 pages

Police brutality is a fact of American life. In most major cities across the country, officers abuse their authority in the most flagrant ways. New York City and Los Angeles are the most notorious for police brutality cases. In New York, when mayor Rudolph Giuliani took office in 1994, he instituted a "zero tolerance" policy, the theory that allowing small crimes to pass unpunished will encourage disrespect for the law in larger matters. This led to a huge increase in arrests for small crimes like playing music too loudly, biking on the sidewalk, and public drinking (Progressive). New York city has managed to bring down the murder rate from 2,200 in 1992 to 600 in 1998 (Economist), but some ...view middle of the document...

Most of us have seen the videotape of police officers savagely beating Rodney King. How typical is this behavior? The Rodney King incident is not representative of most police officers around the country. Television shows, newscasts, and written media exacerbate the problem when they do not focus on the criminal as the root of the problem. "Current images of the police are drawn largely from television programs bearing little resemblance to reality" (Delattre 29). Police brutality is a matter of serious concern, but it is not as prevalent as the media would have us believe. Police brutality is not a national crisis.Rodney King has become synonymous with police brutality. But what is police brutality? Bornstein states that "police brutality is the use of excessive force by police officers" (39). Most police are trained to use only the minimum amount of force necessary to control a given situation. The decision to use force is often made on a split second basis usually under difficult circumstances. The boundaries between justified and excessive force can sometimes be blurred under these circumstances. Under one set of circumstances, a particular action might be considered justified, but under differing circumstances, the same action might be considered brutality.Most cops do not like to hurt people; "...cops sometimes use unnecessary force. They also use extraordinary restraint" (Sulc 80). Many police officers feel anguish after using fully justified force; few take pleasure in it. There are great strains on individual police officers: competing responsibilities, values, temptations, fears, and expectations. Police officers are called on to be patient mediators, skilled therapists, effective admonishers, daring crime fighters, obedient members of paramilitary agencies, etc.In the midst of these requirements is the violence inherent in police work. Police officers often witness women battered by husbands and boyfriends, children burned and broken by parents, pedestrians maimed by drunk drivers, teachers raped by students, and innocent strangers savaged by predators in our streets. Even so, most police do not have a bunker mentality. They go on the force knowing what they will have to encounter. They like their jobs and are ready and able to stand the pressure--usually. Some police adjust poorly to the pressures of police work. They become cynical from the danger, the perceived failure of the system, and the repetitiveness of their work. Some police officers despair over the violence, suffering, hopelessness, and ignorance they encounter every day. Even so, the majority of police officers continue the performance of their duties without resorting to brutality. In spite of the seriousness of the publicized incidents, far more serious than police brutality is the frequency of assault and murder perpetrated against the police.According to the U.S. Department of Justice's Police Use of Force, 44.6 million people, or 21% of the population had face to...

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