Police Brutality: Is America Still the Land of the Free?
Ever since the United States was founded, it has always been known as the Land of the Free – the land where anyone can go and start over, the land where all dreams come true, and the land where oppression will never rule because it is the land of laws and the land of freedom. Its one defining cry was “government of the people, by the people, and for the people”. However, in the last decade, the country has seen a growing encroachment on its freedoms and a rising trend of police brutality that has grown quite alarming. In an article by Global Research News, it stated that in the last decade, the number of people killed by US police has reached 5,000 while the number of American soldiers killed since the war in Iraq started was 4,489. This is troubling news. Looking at that data, it seems as if the war is being waged right on American soil.
Simply defined, police brutality is the excessive use of force by the police, either through physical force, verbal attacks, or psychological intimidation. Police brutality is not uncommon. It exists in one form or another in many countries. While most countries declare it illegal, it nonetheless continues to exist because police brutality can be done under the guise of law. Many erring police officers go unpunished because the government is reluctant to antagonize a group whose sole purpose is to keep it in power. The government would rather tolerate activist movements like Black Lives Matter, (which are quite benign) than prosecute an organization that bears arms and have the capacity to overthrow it.
Police brutality can be traced back to a couple of root causes. First is the inadequacy of training. Most police officers who commit blatant acts of violence are poorly trained and unprepared to deal with a stressful situation. In an article by Steven Rosenfeld for Alternet.org, he wrote “police don’t know how to de-escalate” and that they “do not make effective use of de-escalation techniques, too often instead escalating encounters and employing force when it may not be needed and could be avoided.” Poor training leads police officers to take actions that lead to more violence instead of less violence. There’s also wide belief that most officers are trigger happy, which leads us to the next root cause – the profession itself attracts the wrong kind of people. Which isn’t strange when you think about it; after all, what kind of sane person would like to have a job that entails the possibility of killing people? In fact, in an article by Forbes.com, it lists policing as one of the top ten jobs that attract psychopaths.6 This, when combined with poor training, makes for the grisly news we hear nowadays.
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But despair not—there is still some hope. After all, America is still the Land of the Free, and it is within your power to help keep it that way. What can you do as a free citizen of this country to help curb police brutality? First, you must know your rights. An informed citizenry is a citizenry that will be victimized less by an aggressive police force. Know what to do when you are confronted by police. Never engage in an argument with a police officer as this will lead to tension and can escalate the situation. Obey the police at all times and do not give them a reason to use excessive force. Next, campaign for better police training and increased police budget. Pressure your local leaders to call for reforms. Better training will produce better police officers and an increased budget as a result of citizen campaign will gain goodwill among police officers.
Last but not the least, treat police officers kindly and courteously, even in the face of violence and incompetence. Good treatment always evinces good will, and God knows, we need as much as we can get from the police.