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2 August 2000
?Police Brutality is a fact of American life. In Major cities across the country, officers are abusing their authority in the most flagrant ways?(?Must End?). Law enforcement officers carry guns, are given special privileges and great responsibility. Public safety officers are trusted and expected to respect society as a whole. Taking all of this into consideration, do cops actually break the law? Yes, they do. They do it quite often. Continuing high crime rates of today have resulted in more police officers being placed on the streets. The Federal Government is paying for 100,000 new officers. Accompanied by this high crime rate comes a desire for officers to achieve rapid results thus there are less restraints on how they behave (Saari 1). The problems I will discuss in this essay are the police officer?s training, the cities they work in, and court cases that have police brutality in them.
There are many police officers today whose violent acts have not yet been investigated. In some cases there has been absolutely no disciplinary action taken. People have a basic right of self-defense and this right is not taken into consideration by some police officers. “Citizens may resist UNLAWFUL arrest to the point of taking an arresting officer’s life if necessary” states Plummer Vs. State of California in regards to the law of self-defense. Police act violently in reaction to a violent society. The increase in violent crime and the resulting police overreaction has caused the police brutality rates to increase at an alarming rate. In large cities there are vast groups of people for the officers to watch over and control. As a result of this greater population, there are more violent people as well. Police officers in bigger cities naturally have to deal with more problems then officers in small towns, resulting in greater incidents of police violence.
The training they receive may actually contribute to this increased violence. Police training for city cops is vigorous and as a result of the training, they tend to react violently and quicker in many situations. ?Congress and state legislatures have introduced incentives that reward departments that elevate their arrest levels, encourage neighborhood sweeps and fund trigger happy SWAT teams?(?Parents?). In larger cities, officers have to deal with a variety of problems much different then problems that arise in smaller towns. These problems include gangs and gang related activity like drive by shootings and gang fights. They also must deal with larger drug problems due to the fact there are more people in these cities. These drug problems result from organized gangs, as well as poor and generally less educated population, making the circulation of drugs very large.
Major cites also have a larger homeless population. Politicians have decreed that cites must become friendlier to their citizens and have instructed law enforcement officials to deal with the homeless problem. The results of these decisions have been to harass the homeless that are begging for money or generally annoying the population at large. Until there are greater resources committed to housing the homeless and getting them back into society, the police will continue to arrest them. The more time the police have to spend dealing with a largely harmless problem, the less time they have to deal with serious criminal activity. A large percentage of the homeless have drug or some psychological problems. Police officers are not psychiatrists and their training does not give them the necessary tools to deal with these individuals. The lack of proper training and the constant stress placed on these officers can and does result in police brutality against the homeless.
In addition to all these problems there are also the everyday situations that police in larger cities face. These aspects of the job that police officers encounter on a daily basis tend to make the police act more violently then they should in many situations (Saari 1). In smaller towns, officers know most of the people they are dealing with. Police in larger cities do not have this luxury. Small town life lends itself to a quieter relationship between the police and the citizens. The greater tendency of crime in larger cities combined with less knowledge of the local population subjects the law enforcement officers to more violence and abuse than police in smaller towns. This increased violence is also due to the fact that police in cities are shot at and attacked on a frequent basis making them quicker on the draw because they feel the need to protect themselves. Police are not only subject to physical abuse but to verbal abuse as well, being constantly called bad names making them act angrily towards people they meet with causing brutality rates to increase (Bernards 2). Police officers in small towns have less to deal with so they react differently and with calmer attitudes in most situations. Police in small towns know many of the people they meet and talk with everyday, and if there is a problem they are able to address people as a friend instead of an authority figure, and get the problem resolved. In smaller towns, the police know the children of the community and know whom the troublemakers are, which makes it easier for them to keep those kids under control. Police in smaller towns are also respected more in their communities and are known as friends, rather than adversaries. People in these towns engage in dialogue with police officers because they do not react violently towards them. Police in small towns do not feel sympathy for their city counterparts, which means that they do not share the same emotions, thoughts and feelings as city police (xofficer 2). Small town police believe they should act calm towards all people and not overreact in a situation in which it is not needed. Most city police believe this too, but due to the reaction of their society it does not always take place
. There are many police brutality cases that have been brought to the attentions of people all over the world. A large amount of these cases have been in big cities and have been covered up to protect the officers that have committed these acts. In Santa Rosa, part of Sonoma County in Northern California, seventeen case histories that have remained hidden have been posted for the world to see. These seventeen cases have all happened in the last two years and have resulted in death due to excessive force and neglect by police officers (Saari 1). Ten of the seventeen cases were people killed by a police officer on duty (Saari 2). Three of the seventeen were suicides in the Sonoma County jail and 4 died within hours after release from the Sonoma jail (Saari 3-8). The ten people who were killed by police on duty were all basic domestic dispute calls that resulted in death of the person in question.
One of the most shocking was when James Hopper, age 37, was found running away from the scene of a fight with his brother when officer Norm Stevens of the Santa Rosa Police force in Sonoma County stopped him, struck him with his fists and then shot and killed Hopper. One eyewitness stated that he saw police beat another witness to the ground when he refused to go along with the police version of the events (Saari 3). Three people who committed suicide in the jail did so because they were not being fed and they were beat on a daily basis. The four who died within hours after release was also do to the fact of being beaten before they were released, showing that police brutality is increasing at a alarming rate (Saari 5). Many other cases have been made public through television and other media outlets. One of the most publicized
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