Table of Contents
The cases of police brutality have increased in the recent times across the world. In the United States, the authority given to the police as the representatives of the government is usually misused and yields brutality and use of force. The brutality concerns the excessive use of force by the police officers against the civilians, the suspects, and criminals. The problem intensifies when it is perpetrated against individuals from disfavored races, class, or sexual orientation. Historically, the minority groups have suffered from this cruelty, which is against the general rule that expects the armed forces to act for the good of the public. The law enforcers tend to develop negative perceptions towards certain members of races, sex orientations, or religions, especially when an individual or a few people associated with the groupings prove to be a threat or disrespectful to the police officers. The law allows the use of force when handling an individual considered being a threat to the officers and the members of the public. Compelled by the seriousness of the matter, this dissertation will enhance understanding of the use of excessive force by the police officers against the people they are expected to protect.
The continued cruelty of the police officers against the people because of discrimination is a serious matter that needs to be addressed. The use of force is inhuman; it leads to physical and psychological harm, and can potentially lead to the deaths. Additionally, the brutality can increasingly lead to a loss of faith in the armed forces, reducing the opportunity for community policing and volunteering information. The support from the members of the public to the law enforcers can largely decline; hence, increasing the security threat in the society. In other cases, civil unrest can arise against the government when some communities or groups feel discriminated and disrespected.
Studies that Addressed the Problem
Previous research on the topic concentrated more on the brutality against the African-American. Some of the studies considered in this case include: Dottolo & Stewart, 2008; Elicker (2008), Kane and White (2009); Smith and Holmes (2003), Tomaskovic-Devey, Wright, Czaja, & Miller (2006); and Staples, 2011). The studies do not provide information about the perception people have towards the law enforcers who treat people unfairly. The current study is new because it involves the examination of the existing perception of the members of the public towards the police and the brutal acts associated with them. The study is also likely to unveil additional information amidst the increased cases of atrocious treatment of the people by the armed forces.
Importance of the Study to the Audience
The importance of the study is to provide additional information on the perception of the people on what constitutes police brutality. The compiled information would be important for the policing agencies and the future researchers on this topic. The police agencies will be aware of the extent of the use of force and the people/society’s perception of the services offered. The future researchers will have links between the studies done in the past with the findings of the current study to determine the gap to concentrate on in their research.
The purpose of the study is to establish the relationship between the police brutality and the perception that people have towards the police service. The participants in the survey study are the students from at Governors State University. The independent variable in the study is the policy brutality, while the dependent variable is the perception of the participant in the police service.
The police are crueler to civilians of African- American background, particularly in regions with greater inequality
The use of authorized force is one of the most misused powers by the police as the representatives of the government in maintaining law and order. The officers are legally allowed to use the psychological force in apprehending and resolving crimes, and where necessary the use of physical force is permissible. However, the use of reasonable physical force is highly advocated. The problem arises because of lack of clarity on what constitute of the reasonable force. Lack of defined standards makes it hard for the police to control or limit the force applied. Nevertheless, members of public that fall the victim do not have the grounds upon which they can verify that excessive force was used except when the injury level clearly demonstrate that the treatment was gross. The literature review seeks to provide information on what previous studies found in the role of racism and discrimination in police brutality and the circumstances that the police use force.
The role of Racism and Discrimination in Police Brutality
Racism and Discrimination are historically considered as the factors triggering the use of excessive force by the law enforcement agencies. According to Marger (2012), racism is a belief system used in the justification of racial and ethnic inequality, while discrimination is an act of behavior for denying individuals from certain ethnic or racial groups the opportunity to enjoy their social rights. It is upon the two precepts that discrimination leading to the use of force in the law enforcement can occur. In his edition, Punishing Race (2011) Michael Tonry pointed out that the Whites excuse the use of police brutality to racial animus held against the Black people. Peffley and Hurwitz (2013) supported the argument where they found that according to the Whites, the Black deserve harsh treatment in the justice system. The black people, particularly the young men, are largely viewed as typical criminals, and they trigger the use of force by the police officers. Brair et al., (2004) revealed that individuals with more Afrocentric features such as dark skin, filled lips, and expansive noses are at high threat of brutality that the one with less of such features.
Shaun Gabiddon (2010) elaborated on Negrophobia as the aspect that describes Blacks as irrational. It also includes the fear of being victimized, resulting in Whites shooting and harming African-American due to criminals and racial stereotyping. The stereotypical assumptions are deleterious because the Whites can use them in justifying the shooting of the Black people.
Tonry (2011) outlines some interesting findings of the public opinion leading to society tolerance to police cruelty when dealing with the Black males. The study involved 978 Whites and 1, 010 Blacks. The findings revealed divergence in perception between the two categories concerning the justice system. About 38% of the Whites viewed the justice system as biased towards the African-American compared to 89% of the Blacks with the similar opinion. In addition, only 8% of Blacks indicated that the law enforcers treat the Blacks fairly; about 56% of Whites sees fairness in the treatment of their counterparts. On the same note, only 18 % of Blacks in the survey had confidence in the law enforcement agencies, as opposed to 68% of the Whites on the same aspect. It is clear that as the majority of the Blacks do not approve the performance of the police, a large number of the Whites are of a different opinion. Bearing in mind that the Whites are the majority in the society, they are likely to dominate the police force. In essence, it is clear that police brutality against the minority is likely to continue.
According to Gabbidon and Greene (2013), the issue is not a new phenomenon in the country. The Department of Justice through the office of Civil Rights has undertaken an investigation on a number of public departments amid allegations of racial discrimination and brutality. In 2010, the department investigated 17 sectors in major cities and was monitoring the situation in five settlements on the same issue. Indeed, these occurrences reveal that the level of cruelty based on ethnic and racial stereotypes is more rampant than the reported cases in the United States today.
Plant and Peruche (2005) states that the police officers view Black males as potential law breakers. Additionally, the Blacks are viewed as aggressive, which increases the threat to other people in the community and the police officers themselves. When handling suspects among the Black males, the police are psychologically prepared to use excessive power at the slightest provocation.
The role of the media in portraying the Black men as less than a sanguine member of the study is also a significant concern about the issue at hand. The media have portrayed men as negatively regarded by others. Because of the tag by the media, the Black men are regarded as prototypes of criminal suspects. The police take up the stereotype and tend to treat the individuals as criminals. Due to this aspect concerning their behavior, individuals who are actually not criminals tend to be deviant (Eberthard, 2006). Such a reaction triggers the use of excessive force against the innocent individuals. While reporting such incidences, the media does not provide clarification that the Black man/woman apprehended has not been proved guilty, but was a suspect.
Peffley and Hurwitz (2013) had a similar opinion about the role played by the media in creating a false impression about the Black males. The authors in the mass media hypothesize that most Whites are of the opinion that the African-American are inclined to engage in criminal behaviors. With such a perception, the Whites support the misapprehension that the Blacks, in general, deserve harsh treatment in the criminal justice system. The media propels the racial animus, which has led to the increased justification of the police brutality against the Blacks. The media creates division between the two racial groups on the perception of the performance of the police forces. Impartiality and justice in the police service are no longer a core value, which compromises the suitability of the criminal justice system in the society.
Circumstances of Police Use of Force
Apart from the racial discrimination, which leads to suffering to the disfavored race or ethnic group, the brutality can be prone under other circumstances. The circumstances, in this case, should be considered by the justice system to investigate the claims that excessive force was used in apprehending a suspect. The aspects include the organizational atmosphere, the situation, the environment, and the relationship between the participants.
The normative expectations of the officers in the police force persuade the level of force that the police deem reasonable when dealing with a criminal suspect and the members of the society. The expectations in a given police agency are defined from the training curriculum offered. The training in areas such as policy interpretation, interpersonal relations, conflict management and reduction, and the proficient use of weapons play a fundamental role (Terrill, Leinfelt & Kwak, 2008). The training determines the knowledge and skills, as well as the values upheld by the officers when it comes to the use of force. The training may influence acceptable behaviors among the officers, but the subculture at a police agency can influence the conduct of the affiliated law enforcers. In this aspect, upon the posting of the trained recruits, the history at the workstation and the acceptance of the use of force influences the new entrants to assimilate cruelty in their practice.
The efforts to evaluate and take action by the administrators against the use of excessive and unreasonable force can be a determinant factor. In a case where an administrator is keen on setting up the expectation and undertake an investigation, the officers become cautious, which can reduce the level and incidences of the use of force. On the other hand, when an administrator is not used to questioning the officers and takes no stern action when citizens file complaints, the use of excessive force is likely to be rampant. Such an atmosphere encourages the officers to misuse the powers and forces accorded to them as the state representatives.
The situational variables, including the character of the offense warranting the apprehension of a suspect as well as the behavior and characteristics of the suspect, dictate the level of force the police tend to use. Violent felony justifies the use of excessive force to minimize the harm to the members of the public and the police officers involved in the operation (Terrill, Leinfelt & Kwak, 2008). On the other hand, while dealing with minor property crimes, the amount of force used should be at tolerable levels.
The behavior of the suspect towards the officers and citizens defines the existing threat in the given situation. When a suspect runs towards an officer with a knife, the situation poses a serious and immediate threat. In such a circumstance, the officer can be forced to use severe force to minimize the threat to him/her and to the members of the public. In other cases, when a suspect is amidst other citizens and holds deadly weapons, a sensible officer neutralizes the threat by retreating and waiting for a backup. Nevertheless, if a delay in using a defensive weapon at hand can intensify the threat, the officer uses deadly force to knock down or scare aware the suspect while awaiting the backup.
The physical and social environment can influence the level of force used by the police. In geographical areas perceived to be dangerous, the perception of the officers can influence the response towards the suspect. In areas with numerous and serious reported crimes and disputes the officers in charge of operations, they are likely to use force than those in areas characterized by low level and minor crimes (Alpert & Smith, 1994). When dealing with suspects from the environment perceived as dangerous and their behavior intensifies the threat to the officers, the brutality can easily be triggered. Lastly, if officers are alone and cannot be seen by other officers or members of the public, they tend to become brutal than in the presence of a camera or eyewitnesses. The officers in such an incidence are sensitive to the consequences of the exposure.
The Relationship between the Participants
The attitude between an officer and suspect towards each other dictates the quality of interaction and the use of force. An officer can reduce the violence level upon the positive interaction with a suspect whose cooperation is perceived positive and preferred (Alpert & Smith, 1994). However, a suspect whose perceived mental state is favorable and resists the orders by officers can increase the possibility of the use of force. In addition, if the police officers have had another incidence characterized with violence with the suspect, it is likely that the use of force would be applied. The existing relationship, particularly when both the police and the suspect are from the same ethnic and racial background, the level of force applied can reduce significantly than otherwise.
The Summary of the Literature Review
The sources consulted contain information considered relevant and important towards the subject matter. It is clear that the police cruelty perpetrated to the Blacks, particularly men tend to become more severe compared to the Whites. The difference, in this case, arises because of racialism and discrimination directed towards the African-American. The Black men are perceived and stereotyped as criminals and aggressive, a situation that triggers the use of force towards them. The behavior by the police in handling the disfavored race is highly approved by the Whites, which encourages the behavior. In addition, the reports from the media, in which the Black people are reported to engage in dangerous crimes and a threat to the law enforcers, create perceptions that when dealing with a suspect from the black community, the use of police force is necessary.
Apart from the racial and ethnic discrimination, there are other factors triggering the use of police force, which can be evaluated objectively irrespective of the background affiliation of the suspect. The organizational culture imposed towards the police from the training academies and the exposure at the police agencies they work for can influence their perception and the use of force. The behavior of the suspect is the other factor triggering the presence or absence of the use of force. A cooperating suspect is treated gently compared to an escaping suspect who is facing the officer(s) while possessing dangerous weapons. The use of force can also be triggered when there is excessive force in the physical and social environment of the operations. Some geographical areas are considered dangerous and the police apprehending a criminal in such areas are likely to result in force.
In essence, the decision to use severe force by the police is a multivariable triggered issue. Despite the fact that the police are expected to minimize the use of power to serve the citizens effectively, there are certain circumstances that call for the use of cruel approach in apprehending suspects. The sources provide answers to a variety of questions, but the primary questions addressed include:
- What role does ethnic/racial background play in triggering brutality by the police?
- What circumstances/situations influence the likelihood of use of force by the police?
However, the studies do not provide answers to important aspects, particularly the perception of the citizens on the role of gender, age, and economic inequality in determining the levels of police violence. It is from such an aspect that the questions used in the survey were developed.
A research approach in a given study can be either primary or secondary or a combination of the two (Kothari, 2005). The primary research involves the collection of data representing the current state of the topic from the participants. This is different from the secondary research where a researcher analyzes data and information compiled from the studies conducted in the past. The primary research approach is applied in the study, where survey through the questionnaire is involved. The questionnaire is selected for the data collection because of the two key reasons. First, the method is largely acceptable to the target participants because it is easy to fill in and that privacy and confidentiality is guaranteed. Secondly, the data collected can be converted into a numerical form for analysis. The benefit, in this case, is that the objectivity and reliability of the findings are highly enhanced.
The purpose of any study is to address an issue or provide answers to questions, which are not addressed through the formal research (Kothari, 2005). In the attempt to answer such questions, a researcher assists in developing new knowledge, confirm, or reject the findings of the previous studies, or giving a direction to the future researchers. The research on police brutality seeks to address two primary questions including:
- Do the racism and discrimination play a role in determining the level of police brutality?
- What circumstances can trigger the police use of force when apprehending a suspect.
Apart from the primary questions, the study also seeks to address three secondary questions, including
- Does the brutality of the police officers undermine the support required from the members of the public?
- Are there clear standards used to determine whether the force used is excessive or reasonable?
- Are the age and gender key determinants of the cruelty level committed by the police officers?
Data Collection Procedures
Collecting the relevant data using the research approach selected requires a systematic and well-organized procedure (Kuada, 2012). The relevant steps must be taken and the critical details incorporated. The first step starts with the formulation of the questionnaire. As shown in appendix 1, where each of the survey sheets will have three parts. Part one requires the participant to fill in the basic background information; the next part contains the six close-ended questions, and the last part has three open-ended questions. After formulating the questionnaire, the draft will be subjected to a peer review to ensure that the questions involved are relevant and ethical. After making the necessary adjustments, the next step will be to seek permission from the faculty and college administrator to collect data from the students. The importance of seeking the permission is to demonstrate respect to the authorities as well as seeking the relevant support, including the arrangement of the venue to administer the survey.
A face-to-face mode will be used in collecting the data. The sheets will be issued to the participants in organized venues at Governors State University. Since it is had to bring together all the target participants, I intend to identify the time allocated for lectures for the target participants. Immediately after the lectures, the students would be requested to remain behind for some minutes to fill in the questionnaires. The exercise will take place with the assist of fellow students.
Target Population and Sampling
The validity and reliability of research findings are determined by whether the relevant individuals participated in providing the data collected. It is for this reason that it is important to identify the target population. The study targets to collect data from law and political science students, who have the general knowledge and would be interested in the topic. The number of students in this category would be large and hence not possible to include all of them in the exercise. As a result, the selection of a manageable number through a sampling approach is required. The research intends to involve, 50 students selected at random, while observing the requirement that 25 are Whites and 25 are Blacks. In addition, the group will be required to constitute a reasonable balance between both genders.
Timing is important while conducting the study. The research has limited time; hence, it is imperative to have a time schedule upon which the research would be completed. The following schedule identifies the activities and the time expected for their completion.
|Drafting of the questionnaire & peer review
|Seeking permission and preparing for the exercise
|Administering the questionnaire
|Compiling the report
|12 weeks (3 months)
The research is expected to take up to three months as shown in the above schedule. The lead-time refers to the extra time in case either of the activities takes longer than anticipated. For example, the faculty and college administrator can take longer to reply to the request since they have many of such requests to address.
The methodology used should be effective in collecting the data and providing information to answer the questions intended. However, it is not practical to have a perfect methodology due to underlying limitations. The primary limitation, in this case, concerns the limited coverage of the participants. The topic concerns an issue of public interest and is directly related to the police force. The survey only involved the students, and hence, the input from the players in the police force as well as other members of the society would be missing.
Chapter 4: Data Analysis/Results
The analysis of the data and results from the research is an important step because it forms the basis upon which the conclusion about the topic can be drawn. The analysis, in this case, constitutes descriptive statistics and the testing of the hypothesis.
|1. Police brutality is on the rise in the society
|2. The level of police brutality is high in areas where blacks are predominant
|3. Police officers are triggered to use excessive force in certain circumstances
|4. Individuals in low-income regions are at higher risk of suffering police cruelty
|5. The young Black men are largely subjected to police brutality than any other group in the society
|6. Police cruelty has lead to the decline in the confidence that I have to the police service
The statement sought to find out how rampant is the rough treatment perpetrated by the police in the society. Thirty of the participants constituting about 60% agreed with the statement against twenty constituting 40% who disagreed. The results, in this case, imply that the majority of the people in the society are concerned with the cruelty level.
The statement aimed at finding out whether racial discrimination influences the level of the vindictiveness. The 70% of the respondents agreed that indeed the areas with a large number of Blacks have had a relatively large number of reported cases. The results, in this case, indicate that racial discrimination is potentially one of the factors leading to the mistreatment.
The aim of the statement is to assist in determining whether the participants are of the opinion that police officers are at times forced/triggered to use excessive force against suspects in crime. About 64% of the participants stated that at times the officers are forced to use violent approaches to apprehend suspects and criminals.
The statement intended to find out whether there is a relationship between income inequality and cruelty by the police to the people. In this case, 60% of the participants agreed as opposed to 40% disagreeing with the statement. It is evident that the majority of the people are of the opinion that low-income earners are more likely to be subjected to the ill treatment.
The statements try to find out whether the young Black men are likely to fall, the victim of the brutality than other people in the society. About 56% of the respondents agreed that the said group in the society is likely to suffer in the hands of the police officers.
The cruelty of the police is an act of the rights and dignity of the people. Such acts can lead to the decline in the faith that the citizens may have in the law enforcers. The 68% of the respondents supported the statement, which implies that the relationship between the police officers and the members of the public is likely to be poor.
Apart from the data from the close-ended questions, the responses from the open-ended questions provide significant information. A number of respondents stated the behavior of the suspect, the risk level in the particular area, and weapons held by the suspects are some of the circumstances triggering the use of unreasonable force. Secondly, a significant number of the participants said that there are no clear standards, which can be used in determining whether the force used is excessive or reasonable. This makes it hard for the victims to realize when the police officer used unreasonable force against them. Concerning the solution/steps to reduce the impunity by the police, the respondents started the change of the training curriculum, increased aggressive of the police oversight authorities, and enhanced enlightenment of the members of the public.
Testing the Hypotheses
The hypotheses of the research state that he police are crueler to civilians of African- American background, particularly in regions with greater inequality. The hypotheses try to reveal whether the Blacks are largely subjected to the brutality that others in the society. The statements that are crucial in providing the relevant information to either support or reject the hypotheses are three including statements 2, 4 and 5 (see appendix). These are the statements whose results can be subjected to statistical testing.
|1. The level of police brutality is high in areas where blacks are predominant
|2. Individuals in low-income regions are at higher risk of suffering police cruelty
|3. The young Black men are largely subjected to police brutality than any other group in the society
From the chi-test analysis, the p- value is 0.332. Therefore, a p-value of 0.005 is considered to be significant for hypotheses to be accepted. Consequently, the “p” value from the analysis is a confirmation that the hypotheses in the study are accepted and valid.
Chapter 5: Discussion/Conclusion
The primary objective of the study was to compile additional information about police brutality in the society. The study was functioned through the research questions and seeking answers through the literature research and survey. From the literature research and the data analysis, it is evident that the use of unreasonable force by the police is not a new phenomenon in the society. The research, in this case, intended to find evidence from the participants on the biased treatment of the Blacks in the hands of the police. The data and information compiled through would be of no importance if the research questions are not addressed, and the hypothesis confirmed. For instance, under the research question;
- What role does ethnic/racial background play in triggering the use of brutalit by police?
The findings from the research clearly confirm that ethnic background triggers the police to use excessive force, while dealing with a suspect. Tonry (2011) states that despite the fact that discrimination and the use of excessive force are not acceptable, the Whites largely support police brutality against the Blacks. The same argument is supported by Peffley and Hurwitz where stated that according to the majority of the Whites, the Black people are largely involved in criminal activities. As a result, they deserve harsh treatment. The findings from the survey concur with the information from the literature review. With 60% of the respondents agreeing that the cases of police cruelty are many, the findings from the survey agree with the findings and arguments from previous studies. It is clear that the issue is of concern to the society and hence, not a new phenomenon.
Interestingly, 70% of the respondents were of the opinion that the Blacks are at a higher risk to be subjected to brutality, which is largely in line with the findings from the literature review. In another perspective, 60% of the participants agreed that brutality by the police was rampant in areas with people characterized by low income. In the United States, the Blacks are largely dominant in areas whose income levels are low, because of the historical inequalities. This is a confirmation that indeed the African-American are more likely to face police brutality than the Whites in the society.
- What circumstances/situations influence the likelihood of the police use of force?
The question was formulated to demonstrate that apart from ethnicity and discrimination, other factors can force the police to decide on the use of excessive force. Previous studies identified some of the circumstances triggering the use of the force. According to Klahm (2010), identified conflict in the encounter, resistances, and absence of other citizens are factors triggering the rough treatment of suspects. Alpert and Smith (1994) pointed similar factors, including escape, physical threat, the organizational culture, and the environment of the incidence to play a direct role in the matter. From the survey, 64% of the respondents agreed that there are some factors apart from discrimination leading to the use of unacceptable force. The responses from the open-ended question 1 reveal that the behavior of the suspect, the risk level in the particular area, threatening behavior, and weapons held by the suspects are some of the key factors triggering the use of force. Some of the factors, particularly the possession of a weapon by a suspect put the police officers at risk. When it is not possible to use psychological approaches to contain the suspect, the police resolve to use deadly force. In other situations such as the attempt to escape and to pose a threat to others, the police use the force to protect the members of the public against the suspects.
In retaliation of the hypothesis, the study intended to confirm whether the police are crueler to civilians of African-American background, particularly in regions with greater inequality. Previous studies had largely confirmed the hypothesis, and hence, the current study was to test its validity. The hypothesis was tested using the Chi-square. The results from the analysis (p-value) were 0.33, which is immensely significant. The test, in this case, implied that the data collected and analyzed were not only relevant but also reliable and valid to the hypothesis and the topic. The interpretation of the data and the findings are done with a high level of validity.
In essence, the current research was significantly instrumental and provided an opportunity to learn and develop knowledge about the police brutality in the society. The research was successful because of the selection of previous studies that were relevant to the study. The research revealed two things concerning police brutality. First, the Whites would support the brutality against the Blacks; the findings, in this case, confirm the existence of ethnic division among the people. Secondly, as long as the police brutality was an issue, I had no idea that it was that rampant and that many victims do not report the cases. Despite the fact, the study achieved its intended objectives. Therefore, it is clear that I would improve the research in the future given more time. In this case, I would use another survey involving the members of the public outside the college, and interviews with experts and police officers to gather additional data and information.