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Police Brutality: Issues of Discrimination and Media Coverage
Police brutality and lawlessness have been in the spotlight of the US media coverage for many decades. With officers being initially charged with protection of law and order in the country, the representatives of law enforcement are constantly accused on discrimination, racial profiling, and other forms of injustice expressed in treatment of different population groups. Indeed, the disproportionately high percentage of arrests and shootings of the racial minorities across the USA does not add to defense of police officers’ impartiality and objectivity. However, there are still numerous experts believing that police brutality is over-exaggerated and politicized in media coverage, with police actions rarely exceeding the reasonable amount of force applicable in this or that concrete scenario.
The opinion about whether police brutality is a racially colored issue or not is a matter of personal viewpoint largely; nevertheless, facts speak for themselves and pinpoint the higher proneness of a racial minority person to be shot or experience brutal attitude than a white American would have. According to national statistics, 346 Black people were killed in 2015, with 30% of the shot victims of police brutality being unarmed when being shot, as compared to only 19% white victims of police shooting (Mapping Police Violence, 2017). Some simple calculations make it evident that African Americans and other US citizens/residents of color are at a three times higher danger of becoming the victim of police brutality as compared to white suspects, which indeed serves as strong evidence to suggest that racial profiling is still occurring in the USA. Additional proof of its continuing occurrence is the “zero tolerance” policing strategy mostly applied in minority-populated neighborhoods and involving criminal charges for minor offenses, which makes persons criminals for drinking beer in public or spending time in a park after dark (The New York Times 2017).
Obviously, the police murder scandals of 2014, 2015, and 2016 have caused a new wave of accusations in police brutality and racial discrimination; all those cases involved accidental murder of innocent African Americans by police officers. However, the factual evidence and media coverage have to be clearly distinguished from one another, since the latter is always accompanied with ambiguity, clashing perspectives, high emotions, and divided public perceptions (Lawrence 2000). All cases of police brutality become immediately politicized, and their coverage points out the gaps and inconsistencies of the very institution of police training, management, and culture. Mcardle and Erzen (2001) pointed out the deeper issue of police neglect towards fellow misconduct, which is justified by the “blue collar code” of comradeship existing in law enforcement groups. This is a much more significant issue as compared to the sporadic scandals related to excess force application, as it shows that the policing system itself endorses violence and brutality at times.
Thus, as the presented evidence suggests, there is a much greater need among the American public to stop endorsing to broader institutional violations of the code of ethics and professional conduct, and to urge the government to enforce stricter codes for police officers’ behavior in the streets. Killings are accidental and sporadic, but pointing out the broader caveats in policing morality, which allows some police officers to act lawlessly and others – to ignore their fellows’ acts. Police brutality is definitely much less pronounced than it was in the times of Civil Rights movement and racial segregation, but it definitely shows some racial traits that have to be addressed with wise reforms on the path to strengthening the ideals of democracy and equality in treatment for all US citizens not depending on their skin color.