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Police brutality refers to any form of police misconduct that involves the use of excessive force. This may be expressed physically or orally whereby a police officer may intimidate a person (Friedman 1993). The use of excessive force in this context refers to a situation that is handled with extra energy than it would ordinarily require. The work of police officers often requires the use of force in handling some situations. However, this application of force by police officers in their work is a criminal act and it violated human rights. Therefore, it is a concern in the police force and people especially in such situations where excessive force is applied without emotions from the police officer. Cases of police brutality have been on the rise and this has violated suspects or victims rights. Investigation systems of such cases have been inefficient and police officers are usually not held accountable but they are deemed to have acted appropriately.
Police officers usually engage in dangerous, strenuous, and stressful occupation, which at times entails violent and hazardous situations that must be controlled in order to create order and enforce the law. Most often there may arise confrontations with the citizens that may require the police to use force in controlling the situation. The action may involve combative action especially during arrest when suspects try to resist and defend themselves. Tools used by police officers such as tasers, baton, and guns may be used in the event of danger from suspects. This situation is challenging and making a decision on the amount of force to exert in unbiased manner is always tricky and may lead to police brutality.
This violates the victim rights despite creating order or controlling a situation. Citizens express complaints regarding police brutality globally and violation of their rights. Therefore, an understanding of the causes of police brutality is important in order to prevent it and ensure justice on citizens who are victims of police misconduct. In addition, the police force is a respectable institution viewed to have high levels integrity in reinforcing the law and creating order and control in society and this is what it should maintain and uphold. Engaging in brutality is offensive and leads to erosion of trust by the citizens.
Police brutality cases have existed since police forces came to be (Friedman 1993). The extent to which such cases exist, excessive use of force has spread in certain periods in history. For instance, in the United States, excessive use of force by police officers increased during the industrial revolution. Aggressive police officers used force to threaten the workers who joined strike and labour activists who were protesting (Friedman 1993). Currently, police officers still use force to restore peace and control in the society when the situation demands. This is evident in different settings such as in demonstration and protests by citizens over issues affecting them if the right channel to air their grievances fails to be heard by the relevant authorities.
This is evident in workers unions, universities and other institutions of higher learning. For example during strikes whereby the policy forces intervene, to avoid undesirable incidences that may interrupt the normal functioning of the society. The policy forces main role is to offer security, safety, and ensure a country’s citizenry enjoy life with minimum distractions from other people or situations that do not contribute to the wellbeing. However, this responsibility of the police forces sees to take a new direction in cases of police brutality who instead of reinforcing the law and respect it violate the same law. This act makes citizens develop fear rather that trust on them.
Garland (2001) says that, police officers possess the authority to use force when a situation demands; consequently, it is difficult to clearly establish what is ordinary and what may be termed as excessive when cases of police brutality arise. This is the major cause of police brutality. Indeed, the use of force by police officers has been proved to create order. The police may therefore misuse their authority since they perceive themselves above the law. This authority given to police officers also makes feel superior to the society they serve increasing the likelihood of brutal acts. Another cause of police brutality is the pressure that emanates for the police setup and the need to conform and comply with their policies. The institutionalized systems in the police forces and their training cultivates a culture that fails to pursue police brutality appropriately. This not only encourages misconduct but also promotes violent behaviour which is a vice that ought to be discouraged at all levels to ensure professionalism in the police force.
Most police forces are controlled and coordinated through hierarchical systems and commands (Garland, 2001). This creates deficits in the decision-making process whereby the seniors only exercise command making the communication structures very rigid and creating loopholes that can be attributed to the application of excessive force in attempt to conform. In addition, cases of police misconduct are in most cases dealt with internally and the probability of irregularities is very high. The police officer in question can therefore easily get away without being held accountable. These inadequacies in the police force internal systems of dealing with unethical behaviours are a cause of the increased use of excessive force by the police force. This is because the system tolerates cases of brutality without disciplining the offenders appropriately cultivating vices that are against the societal expectations. A violation of human rights affects the quality of life as whole for the citizens to enjoy. This not only increases the sense of intimidation but also attracts other vices such as corruption in order to avoid and bend the law.
Websdale (2001) argues that cases of police brutality have been observed to be prevalent in minority groups who often view police officers as oppressors in the society. For example in countries where there are no laws governing the conduct of police officers, there has been several cases of the use of excessive force on minority groups in the society in an attempt to control them. Other circumstances where excessive force has been exercised by police officers is during strikes and protests where masses join to demand for their rights. In developing countries, police brutality has been manifested in elections especially when there is political instability and rivalry among leaders. For example in Kenya during the 2007 post election violence, police officers used excessive power to create order in areas that were chaotic. Live bullets were used on citizens, killing and leaving others with bullet wounds. On the same account, there were many rape cases to women and children by police officers. Discrimination on certain tribes was also prevalent in different parts of the country.
Police brutality may come in different ways in a manner to physically intimidate or even hurt citizens. In most instances, there is discrimination by the police officers in most societies whereby minority groups become police targets and other members from majority groups in religion, class, or race are respected and specially treated by the police officers. In such cases, there is abuse of power and other acts of misconduct such as corruption emerge. For instance the rich may get away with crimes such accidents because they can bribe police officers and go unpunished. On the other hand, the poor may suffer at the hands of police officers since they cannot bribe them. Such behaviour is unethical and degrades citizens while at the same lowers the dignity of the police forces in general (Websdale 2001). In addition, brutality manifests itself in the different forms making citizens lack confidence in the police force.
In other circumstances, rogue police officers have manifested police brutality in different occasions (Garland 2001). Such police officers have had extreme cases of brutality such as killing their seniors or colleagues in work environment through shooting. Threatening work mates is also a prevalent form of police brutality; however, such behaviour has been extended to family level whereby a police officer may attack the wife or even the children. This can be attributed to aggression, which is a common characteristic in the police forces. Aggression and violent behaviour may become part of the officer’s personality and may be transferred to other environments becoming dangerous to other people. Indeed, cases of assault of friends and family members by officers have be experienced over the years.
Police brutality has been termed as a criminal act that affects the trust of citizens to the police officers negatively (Websdale 2001). By engaging in excessive force, police officers lower their integrity violating human rights. The respect accorded to the police force and their service to people also decreases when basic human rights are violated through acts that intimidate and degrade citizens inflicting physical as well as emotional stress to them. In some instances, people have lost their lives under police custody. This raises many questions regarding the conduct of police officers. Under such circumstances, this is viewed as a great abuse of power and a just and effective system of punishing the offender is necessary to restore the confidence of citizens in the police force and ensure a healthy relationship between the two.
Different countries have established laws that address the issue of excessive use of force by police officers globally. These laws are useful in handling of complaints and victims of police brutality. In most occasions, a district attorney investigates such cases, however, it is evident that, most cases involving police brutality are not handled appropriately or investigated accordingly. On the other hand, if investigation is done, the officer’s acts are justified and thus there are no disciplinary measures taken against the police officer (Merle, 2001). This mechanism of handling misconduct in the police is inadequate and gives room for continued brutal acts by police officers.
In conclusion, the abuse of power by police officers through use of excessive force on citizens is unethical and it degrades human dignity. However, use of force maybe necessary in some situation but not to the extent of loss of life or humiliating the individual. The conduct of police officers can be strengthened within its internal mechanisms and training to ensure ethical behaviour is upheld by the police force to curb cases of brutality to the citizens by the police forces. In addition, police training institutions should emphasize on ethical code of conduct that protects and safeguards the welfare of citizens without oppressing them. The view of the police officers needs to undergo social changes in order to create a positive image and be respected by all citizens regardless of their class, religion, or race.