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It’s hard to believe that the ones we have always relied on for help, the ones who protect us and we have put our trust in for years, turn into the people we fear. There is not one instance where you turn on the news and not see a report about another innocent, unarmed African American being brutally beaten and oftentimes fatally shot by a police officer. On average, in the United States, a police officer takes the life of a citizen every 7 hours (Fatal Encounters) and people who are African-American/Black are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer while being unarmed compared to a Caucasian/White individual (The Guardian). These shocking statistics are prime proof of the ever growing problem of police brutality in the United States. Police brutality is the excessive and often illegal use of force against civilians by police officers. Throughout history, there has been a prevalence of police violence. From cases like Rodney King to Philando Castile, it is apparent that this issue is not old news. Police Brutality is a widespread issue, resulting in the deaths of many African Americans in which needs to be addressed. By changing the way in which police officers go about doing their job, we can ensure that this senseless violence no longer afflicts innocent African American citizens of the U.S. This post will address the numerous occasions where police brutality was prevalent as well as pose some solutions that may have a significant change in society.
When you think of police brutality, Eric Garner is the first case that probably comes to mind. One of the most well known police brutality case, Eric Garner, a 43 year old African American man was strolling down the sidewalk minding his own business when suddenly an unmarked police car pulls up in front of him. Two off duty officers approached Garner and knew him well for he was a repeated offender for selling untaxed cigarettes. But little did they know, that Garner wasn’t actually selling loose cigarettes this time, but actually trying to break up a fight between two individuals who had just ran off. The officers didn’t believe Garner’s story even when an eyewitness, Ramsey Orta explained how he saw the whole situation go down and even caught it on camera. This led police to using extreme physical force on Garner. One of the officers, Daniel Pantaleo placed an illegal chokehold on him ultimately leading to his death. Garner was left gasping for air pleading to police that he “can’t breathe” approximately 11 times. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at a nearby hospital.
Police violence didn’t just end at Garner, it continued onto our youth. Ramarley Graham, an eighteen year old young man was seen by officers from the NYPD Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit, adjusting and tugging at his waistband. The police officers had assumed that Graham was carrying a gun and decided to follow him back to his apartment building. Although Graham was walking casually to his home, the officers have claimed that he started to run from them toward his home. When the officers approached the building, they unsuccessfully tried to kick down the front door, two of the officers went to the back entrance where they were let in by a first-floor tenant. The officers then approached the door of Graham's apartment, where they were let in by his grandmother. Graham and the officers soon cross paths leading Graham to run into a bathroom, where he allegedly tried to flush a bag of marijuana down the toilet. One of the police officers, Officer Richard Haste, ordered Graham to put his hands up. While doing so, he thought that he had seen a gun on Graham, shooting him in the upper chest. Graham was pronounced dead a short time later at a nearby Medical Center.
The cases of Eric Garner and Ramarley Graham are prime reasons why the police department should change their tactics on how they handle crimes. Police departments need to stop practicing ‘broken windows’ policing. Not only does it prevent them from focusing on much more serious crimes, but it could also lead to racial profiling. In addition, police officers must be psychological tested prior to stepping into this type of work. It is often in police brutality cases that police officers fire off their weapon because they are either scared or they shoot without thinking about the consequences of their actions. Through psychological evaluations, we can be certain that we recruit officers that will not react irrationally in a serious situation.
Police brutality is a huge issue that is greatly impacting the lives of African Americans in the U.S. Through learning about the cases of Eric Garner and Ramarley Graham, it is evident that this problem of police violence has been reoccurring, in which seriously needs to be recognized. By police departments changing their policing tactics as well as better evaluating their officers, we can ensure a safe haven for African Americans to live. This all goes to show how we need to stand up to the very individuals that have brought us down.
“42 Shocking Police Brutality Statistics.” Vittana.org, 22 Feb. 2017, vittana.org/42-shocking-police-brutality-statistics.
Swaine, Jon, et al. “Black Americans Killed by Police Twice as Likely to Be Unarmed as White People.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 1 June 2015, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/01/black-americans-killed-by-police-analysis.