Police Brutality Description: It was April 29, 1992 and it was my twelve birthday. My mom gave me a little chocolate cake with a plastic surfer riding a wave on top of it. We were watching television while I was getting ready to blow out my candles. There was a disturbance in South Central Los Angeles that the news helicopters were covering on every channel. There were crowds of people flooding the intersection of Florence and Normandy acting rowdy and getting aggressive toward passing cars.
They stopped cars and pulled people out of them. The news cameras were right on top of it all of the way. Reginald Deny was taken out of his semi-truck and severely beaten. You could see people enthused about beating this defenseless man. One man grabbed a brick and threw it at Denys head then began to dance with enthusiasm.
The majority of the crowd were black and they were harassing any other race that happened to go through their neighborhood. The crowd got out of control setting fire to cars and the violence was quickly spreading to other blocks around the neighborhood. I continued to eat my cake as I watched the news broadcasting the surging violence. The crowd was reacting to the acquittal, just hours earlier, of the four police officers in the beating of Rodney King2 . People couldnt believe the outcome.
The beating of Rodney King was videotaped and shown over and over to the public. People believed that finally there was going to be justice. They believed that there was clear-cut evidence showing what has been complained about for years. Finally people who had never believed the accounts of police brutality existed witnessed it for themselves. Finally the public as a whole could react and try to control the officers that abuse their power.
But instead, the officers were acquitted, and the Ngo 2 public felt betrayed. Especially the black community who was fed up with their complaints falling on deaf ears. They were fed up and they resorted to rioting. For five days the violence persisted and spread further and further out of the ghetto reaching across the borders of the black communities of South Central and into adjacent neighborhoods. The subject of police brutality was thrown into the eyes of the public.
People could no longer ignore the problem and the city of Los Angeles was made the example of citizens frustrations in clouds of smoke and looted communities . Police brutality is defined as the unauthorized exercise of police discretion where the policeman acts without the formal capacity to impose legal sanctions (Rucheelman 133). The officers are given the power to use their best judgment in all situations. The main complaint is that the police often use force that is unnecessary. The police argue that they use force in order to protect themselves.
The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics (International Association of Chiefs of Police) begins as follows: As a Law Enforcement Officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence and disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality, and justice (Ruchelman 17). It later addresses prejudices and violence stating: I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities or friendships to influence my decisionsI will enforce the law courteously Ngo 3 and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities (Ruchelman 17). The line between police brutality and the proper force used in any situation is not always clearly drawn. Police officers are in constant danger and need to control people in order to handle certain situations. Police officers need to calculate the amount of force needed as their situations develop.
Their are two kinds of police brutality. One occurs when emotions run high for example, during mass demonstrations or riots. The other kind is carried out systematically and regularly in the line of duty and is often times fueled by stress, frustration, racial intolerance or for intimidation. The second type of misconduct is deliberate and calculating and is potentially more disturbing to society because it causes more distrust and animosity between the community and law enforcement (Ruchelman 134). Causes: Police misconduct or corruption has been in the front lines of the news and in the thoughts of citizens since it was officially made public through the lenses of a video camera in the Rodney King beating. Yet, police misconduct has been complained about for years.
It is often hard to believe the tales of police misconduct because they are given by people who have committed crimes and have been taken into custody. To prove that an officer has committed a crime, the person would need to convince a court room as well as other officers that an unlawful act has occurred. But the claim would be stereotyped before it was even heard, solely on the grounds that it is coming from an individual that is in a position to say whatever it takes to get themselves off the hook. For example, the Ngo 4 case of Mumia Abu Jamal, who claims to have been falsely accused and incarcerated for the December 1981 shooting and consequent death of a Philadelphia police officer. According to the World Wide Web site of The Case of Mumia Abu Jamal, police arrested Mumia with false evidence and for the fact that he was a harsh critic of the police department. The police harassed and withheld witnesses and evidence. There were suspects that were never investigated. Mumia was also defended by a court appointed attorney which he disagreed with and who was later disbarred. The facts behind his case make a point that police can use their extensive leverage to create a case that can stick and place a man on death row despite mounting evidence and widespread public support (Bisson 1).
In Los Angeles the police department has been ridiculed extensively since the Rodney King incident, but other complaints have received less notoriety. On July 14, 1995 a jury found Los Angeles County sheriffs deputies in Lynwood guilty of systematic abuse, brutality, and racism. The class action litigation began in 1990 when mostly black and Latino residents of Lynwood accused deputies of systematic acts of shooting, killing, brutality, terrorism, house-trashing, and other acts of lawlessness and wanton abuse of power (B-1). The Lynwood suit involved fifty residents and seventy deputies. The jury awarded $611,000 to three African American men who were only the first plaintiffs to have their cases heard.
This one decision took five years and cost the county $4.9 million in attorney fees alone. The decision only paves the way for other lawsuits which are pending and will soon follow (B-1). This case seems to be a turn in the right direction for the prosecution of officers abusing their powers, but another case that is much more Ngo 5 publicly visible, due to the media coverage, is the case of the Riverside County sheriffs deputies who were videotaped beating two illegal immigrants with batons after a high speed chase in 1996 on the Pomona freeway. Riverside County was ordered to pay $370,000 to each of the victims, but the courts refused to prosecute the officers on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to prove that they violated federal civil rights laws (A-15). The Justice Department in …