Controlling Police Brutality In America

                                    Controlling Police Brutality in America

Police brutality is a rampant issue in the country. It represents an unfortunate case where citizens lose lives in the hands of people mandated to protect them. A case in the recent past that has evoked activism in the national and international spaces was the killing of George Floyd. The entire encounter was filmed and circulated through media across the globe. A few days later, people in the US and beyond began campaigns to condemn institutionalized racism and the brutality by the police. The case of George Floyd underscores the violence meted by the members of the African American community by the police. In the wake of this incidence, the government in all levels of administration undertook new or revamped existing measures to control police cruelty. While there has been bottlenecks in the implementation of theses measure, social groups, especially from the African American community, have been vocal in calling for changes in the police sector and promoting civilian’s interaction with the police.

In making recommendations for what the government should do in controlling police brutality, it is imperative to investigate the cause of the rising cases of this vice. Brad W. Smith hypothesizes that three factors are attributable to the violence that police metes against the public. The first hypothesis is that the African American community is a threat to the police force, and that the latter acts in self-defense. The ongoing activism to “unhandcuff” the police serves as a catalyst for police brutality (p. 540). Secondly, the African American community is deemed a violent social outfit that consistently provokes police anger. Police officers deployed in such communities, therefore, encounter violence on a continuous basis, thus prompting their use of brutal force (Smith 504). Lastly, the organizational hypothesis states that police lack professional ethics that usually stems from their low education level at recruitment. Moreover, the bureaucratic control over the police is either loose or indifferent, leading to unchecked extrajudicial conduct by the police officers (Smith 541). 

Working at the community level is thus a plausible method to enhance police-public relationships. Social workers have a role to play in creating awareness about good policing and community relationships with the police. According to Betty L. Wilson and Terry A. Wolfer, social workers operating as consultants, resource managers, and educationists can utilize the congregations available at the community level to inform the public about relating with the police (pp. 72-77). The church is one of those congregations where people can learn violence avoidance strategies and better relations with the police. The role of government in this approach is to organize police spokespeople for addresses to the public. In such forums, the police can hold open discussions and iron out issues that usually contribute the ill-feeling among the two parties. This method will most likely promote coherence between the police and members of the African America since the church has long served as a pillar of unity and belonging for this society (Wilson and Wolfer 69).

Concerning the organizational reforms, the federal government can take several measures to prevent police from gross misconduct. The Brennan Center for Justice suggests possible defunding of the police force to deter the purchase of equipment and gear that perpetuate fear among the public (Eisen). Additionally, there has been proposals to abolish the police unit and establish an alternative outfit that is more suited in maintaining law and order (Eisen). In the past, the public has not been involved in judicial proceedings involving the police. Therefore, it has not been possible to access records on displinary actions taken against brutal officers for scrutiny. Lauren-Brooke Eisen suggests that laws that hinder the public scrutiny of displinary outcomes or the due prosecution of rogue police officers should undergo reviews. The protection of personnel who have committed crime against humanity is usually at the local level. The state and local police departments should be subject to federal oversight to eliminate impunity exercised at these levels.

Besides the recommended changes by independent bodies and civil activism groups, the government has instituted measures to curb police brutality in different government levels. The 1995 enactment of Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act is one of the landmark initiatives aimed at protecting the public from police brutality. Since this legislation was passed, the department of Justice has opened 70 cases against police personnel accused of extrajudicial conduct. Recently, Obama’s and Trump’s administration have made tremendous efforts in regulating police practice. For instance, President Obama established a task force to look into possible police reforms in response to the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown (Eisen). The taskforce made recommendations that would see the enhancement of trust between the public and the police. The taskforce urged police officers to promote their level of training and service delivery. At the local level, Los Angeles police department employed a psychology based approach to police violence, a move that reduced use of force by 23% (Abrams). The “procedural justice” paradigms designed by psychologists similarly reduced police use of brutal force by 43%.

In all these interventions, the police services has exhibited appropriate judgment while handling situations with possible catastrophic outcomes. However, there has been backlash by the political class opposed to progressive changes. According to Lauren-Brooke Eisen of the Brenan Center for Justice, President Trump rolled back on some of the initiatives implemented by President Obama. For example, the department of Justice crippled the activities of Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in 2017. This office whose operations began with Obama’s administration had been pivotal in supporting police reforms aimed at combating brutality against members of the public. Americans have not only expressed satisfaction in the reforms done by the government so far but also made suggestions that would improve accountability in the police department. A 2020 Pew Research Center report showed that 66% of Americans support the suing of police officers by civilians. The majority (86%) of proponents in this survey were from the African American community.

In conclusion, police brutality affects many people from all socio-demographic segments. However, African Americans are disproportionately affected by killings subsequent to the police use of force. Scholarly sources cite that a high prevalence of violence in Black neighborhoods and organizational deficinecies in the department are some of the factors to blame for this vice. Therefore, making reforms in this sector while targeting these areas is a plausible way to resolve police brutality. The government through its various agencies has instituted measures to control police brutality at federal and local levels. Establishing oversight authorities and implementing institutional changes improves service delivery, although recent killings by the police point that the problem is existing. The drawbacks experienced in this sector stems from retrogressive actions by the political class determined to perpetuate while supremacy. The involvement of the public in policing matters, like allowing civilians to sue rogue police officers will complement the already existing regulatory mechanisms.