Rodney King had a life as a citizen working in construction before he became an activist and writer explaining the depths of police brutality after phasing brutality by the Los Angeles Police Department. On the year 1991, King was beaten by police over fifty times while four officers were present at the scene. He was being followed for driving while intoxicated and resisting his arrest. When these police officers were tried for the incident a year later in court, they were convicted not guilty regardless of the video evidence. This conviction made many individuals question and riot against the police department. Many felt that the ultimate outcome of this incident was due to racism and created such historical rioting in the united states since the 1960s. We begin to question the ethical dilemma on how racism plays a part in the criminal justice system? In this piece, we will examine the rate of the police brutality in America, how individuals perceive police and what these perceptions hold for black men in America.
Rodney King became the face of police brutality, the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project examined how many male black individuals suffered from police brutality. Many cops have been shed to light following this incident arising negative stories relating to the criminal justice system. The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project also examines the perception individuals carry upon the Rodney King incident, or police brutality. We first take a look at racism and discrimination amongst Black men including their portrayal in mass media. The critical race theory is a theory that will provide an understanding to the relevance of race in the criminal justice system.
For years Africans have constantly been victims of racism and discriminatory practices. The practices have been substantiated by those who enforce the law. Examples of this include the Watts Riots that took place in Harlem in which blacks were assaulted in 1920s, violence against black women by law enforcement, the Rodney King incident, and more recently the Trayvon Martin incident. The listed events are all a few of the historical ways in which Black in America have been assaulted by members of the police department.
In many cases, African Americans are viewed to deserve harsh treatment in the criminal justice system. This viewpoint derives from mass media. The way in which media portrays people of color in this case Black people has played a special role in contributing to ethical issues in the criminal justice system. When media misrepresents Black males it causes individuals in the real world to see circumstances differently. The public perception includes being seen as dangerous suspects by police. The Opportunity Agenda conducted a study in 2011, in which served to show that mass media representations were in relation to lower life expectations for African American men. It has also been discussed that mass media distortions are multi-faceted. An example of this is the misrepresentation of evidence of Black men in association with drug-related crimes, poverty, and unemployment. America often perceives the black man in the corner of streets selling drugs to other pupils. This is just one example of many that associate black men with problems, crimes, and negative connotation. Blair et al. (2004) shared a study that inferred more Afrocentric features in males tend to receive longer sentences than African Americans with light skin. This causes a stereotype called negrophobia. Negrophobia is the fear of victimization of African Americans following the harming of African Americans based on criminal/racial stereotypes. Due to this stereotype this allows white supremacy to justify shooting a Black male. Racism and discrimination of Black males in the justice system creates an increasing psychological distress.
The definition of police brutality is the “use of excessive physical force or verbal assault and psychological intimidation” according to Walker (2011). The most targeted individuals who deal with police brutality are African American males. Studies have been made to reveal the rates of how many times black men are stopped for driving a vehicle and being “black”. It is discussed that they are stopped due to desirability factors, stereotypes, discrimination, and racism within the police force. How is it that in a “free” and “just” society we still have police brutality? The line of law enforcement in which we are supposed to confide in and feel safe around the most. Black males are misunderstood as aggressive criminals in society giving the possibility that it is why police officers see them as a threat and use excessive force. It is right to believe that to some limit race has to do with why there is police brutality amongst African American males. The more Afrocentric the individual the more it is believed by public that the individual will be defiant in actions. We must also integrate the fact that media consumes viewers attitudes and perception of the world and the people living amongst them. Police are more likely to believe that Black males are involved in criminal behavior.
It is unfortunate how common it is to hear a story of police harassment and violence within the black community. Both Black males and law enforcement desire the same thing, peace. Police brutality amongst colored people has caused fear, stress, and depression. Not to mention the harm that police brutality causes amongst those who have been targeted. Reports of bruises, broken bones, and the disturbing pictures of wounds have been released in order to show the unfortunate factors that take part when police officials beat an alleged “suspect or criminal” in an overly unjust way.
Derick Bell helps us understand his creation of the critical race theory when studying the situations introduced with marginalized groups. Five areas of focus that contribute to the critical race theory are the following: race and racism and there interconnectedness with other forms of subordination, questioning the belief of dominance and its status, social justice commitment, experiential knowledge centrality, and a multidisciplinary perspective. The CRT is used to assess the media when it comes to the Rodney King incident. It was the taped evidence of police officers beating him that brought to light police brutality to the public eye. The critical race theory has allowed us to be more open into thinking deeply of social justice. CRT is the formation of scholars and activists studying and revolutionizing the relationship between race, racism, and power. An example of a case that has to do with critical race theory is Brown v. Board of Education. It is the critical race theory that provides an understanding of community and group empowerment.
Understanding police behavior is essential in relation to sociological knowledge. The temptation to assert and judge if a cop is good or bad interrupts our ability to understand cops from a human perspective. They also battle with determining where good and evil lie within them and the choices they make each day. It is highly considered that police officers try to conduct themselves in a conservative and order-oriented attitude. Yet, we come across different attitudes towards minority hiring practices among different groups in the police department.
Police officers are trained to abide by the law not abuse their power. The objective of this discussion was to give a better understanding of how individuals perceive law enforcement and the factors that play a part with Black men and police misconduct. Racism and police brutality is a study that is ongoing and new stories surface more frequently now. The United States Department of Justice should be more careful in enforcing the law of justice for those victimized. Department of Justice investigation on sentencing decisions, police departments, and racial profiling are still being emphasized and studied. Department of Justice, police superiors, and city officials fail to act and help mitigate this ethical issue in criminal justice of everyday life. Many of these officers don’t cross the “blue line” meaning they seek each others best interest instead of doing what it right for our fellow citizens. Race will continue to a contributing factor and main concern in police brutality.
Police are known to making minority groups the center of discriminatory treatment. Incidents that involve police mistreatment towards African Americans and other minorities are those particular situations that receive a subjected amount of media attention making it a stronger belief that certain groups are vulnerable to racial bias and harsh treatment. Those who have been involved in police brutality have options in being able to report the abusive treatment but have little to no chance of being able to see the officer to face any severe consequences for his or her actions.