The issue of police brutality is high on the socio-political agenda across the United States of America. For decades, this is one of the major concerns public holds against the authorities. Just like the evil of corruption distorting our society from within, the instances of police brutality come as a shock to the established order of civil society. The term stands for the abuse of authority with unauthorized and excessive infliction of force by law enforcement officers and personnel. On various occasions, police officers neglect their warranted powers and cause physical and psychological harm to other people when they perform their official duties.
The real problem with police brutality is that police officers can mask their misbehaviors and dirty deeds under the mask of the law. In most cases, local legal system implicitly approves their actions, while the tradition stretches from the times of the Civil Rights era. Today, police officers mostly back their actions with tacit approval from their superiors and, this way, justify their actions under color of law, which they use as a cover-up for their illegal actions. The causes of police brutality are deeply rooted in the nature of police environment and its subculture. Mostly, police staff undergoes serious psychological changes related to becoming superior to others and gaining absolute authority of power.
Even though all the cases caused by brutal actions of police are deeply sensitive and emotional, there is the only recipe to combat it that lies in proper applications of institutional and legal controls. The victims should foremost refer to the Fourth Amendment that stipulates unreasonable searches and seizures, the Fourteenth Amendment that envisages Equal Protection Clauses and the Due Process, as well as the Civil Rights Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act. Regardless of such impressive legal framework, in reality judges mostly approve of police officers convicted of brutality. In most instances, they receive light sentences, while judges make allowances for the hardships of their occupation.
Last December, thousands of Americans joined the nationwide march against police violence in major US cities, including Washington, Boston, New York, Chicago and Oakland. They protested against unfair jury decisions on the deaths of black men who died because of brutal police actions. The issue of police brutality has deeply interwoven with the permanent racial tensions across the country. The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner provoked a torrent of protests and gave way to the most recent tensions because of unpunished police brutality on the background of deeply rooted racial injustice in the United States. Both lethal cases have much intensified the issue of police brutality against people of color. Public activists believe that police officers deliberately exceed the bounds of their warranted authorities especially against young black men. Regrettably, the recent instances of police brutality are vast and numerous. The names of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Trayvon Martin, and Amadou Diallo will always ring the bell to the nation.
Eric Garner died on July 17, 2014 in New York because police officer chokehold him. The New York City Police Department policy bans the use of chokeholds. The police officer suspected him of selling single cigarettes from the packs that lacked tax stamps. After a short exchange of words, the officer Daniel Pantaleo grabbed Garner’s wrist behind his back, wrapped his neck with his arm, and finally pulled him backwards onto the ground. Once on the ground, four other officers came to restrain Garner, who only managed to whisper, “I can’t breathe” for 11 times. Then he lost consciousness, lied face down on the ground for about seven minutes while the officers were waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Officers failed to perform CPR on their victim while they believed he was still breathing. Garner died an hour later after the ambulance brought him to the hospital.