No Justice, No Peace

Today marks Stop Police Brutality Day, a day of action used to expose the lasting effects of police abuse. As many people of color know, police brutality often goes beyond the context of excessive physical force and can also include verbal intimidation or degradation. A study performed by Steven A. Tuch and Ronald Weitzer, titled “Race and Perceptions of Police Misconduct” shows how African American communities have different perceptions of police presence:

…verbal and physical abuse, unwarranted stops—are likely to be experienced as unfair, disrespectful, and intrusive “procedures.”

Unfortunately, cases of verbal abuse or everyday intimidation are not likely to be in the news. Weitzer and Tuch point out that “…more Americans believe that police verbally and physically abuse citizens than the number who report a personal experience with these actions.” With only a portion of police brutality getting noticed, extreme cases, like Rodney King’s, make headlines. The public is only being made aware of a fraction of this epidemic.

Everyday experiences of Black Americans are frequently going unheard. The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project highlights just how often people are victimized by police:

  • There were 6,826 victims of police brutality in 2010
  • 23.8% of these cases were categorized as using excessive force
  • Of the these cases, 56.9% involved the use of physical force, which includes fist strikes, throws, choke holds, baton strikes, and other physical attacks
  • There were 127 fatalities

The most recent research gathered by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Black Left Unity Network, and U.S. Human Rights Network report that from January to June 2012 there have been 120 state-sanctioned murders of Black people in the United States – that is one killing every 36 hours.

Growing up, we are taught that when someone is being hurt, you call the police. Who do you call when the police are doing the hurting? In order to stop police brutality, our voices need to be heard. For immediate action, there are a number of protests happening today around the country that we encourage you to participate in.

by Danielle Tascone

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4 Comments

  1. Natasha P.

     /  October 24, 2012

    It doesn’t surprise me that a number of cases of police brutality or cases that involve the use of excessive force go without sanction or report. The police and the criminal justice system have a long history muddled with discrimination, profiling and the mistreatment of people of color. Criminalization of people of color, especially Black men, takes place daily through the use of the stereotypes we see every day in mass media and in some cases, even in the home or at school. But even before that, we can take that criminalization back centuries. So, it’s no wonder why many people don’t report police misconduct or the reports never make it through the proper channels to get reviewed. In the scheme of the hegemonic state that we currently live in, the police could be considered a part of the elites, in that they possess a power, provided to them by the state. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in increasing cases of wrongful deaths where the police are involved, they don’t always use this power for good, but rather to reinforce the hegemony and leave some groups, mainly people of color, marginalized. Yet, together, as has been proven in the past, we can work toward bringing these abuses to light and work to change the policies that allow for police wrongdoings to go unpunished.

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  2. Emily S.

     /  October 25, 2012

    That last question has always haunted me. “Who do you call when the police are doing the hurting?” It is such an important question. Like Natasha said, I am unfortunately not surprised by the number of cases of police brutality that happen each year or by the number that are not reported. With only the “most extreme” cases getting media attention, it makes a lot of people think that police brutality isn’t really an issue anymore. That it’s only a couple bad cops here and there that are bad, not the corruption of the system as a whole. But it brings us back to that question: even if we acknowledge that the system is corrupt and something needs to change, how is that change brought about? It’s great that there are protests each time a case gains media attention, but what about the rest of the times? And what about when you find yourself in such a situation and have nobody to protect you because the police are the ones you need protection from? This is such an important issue that needs to get more attention so that something will be done about it. Another thing that is equally as frustrating is that even in the cases that do get media attention, it seems that the police are rarely held accountable or, if they are, rarely get more than a slap on the wrist. The problem, then, is not just the persistence of police brutality but the lack of repercussions to the officers involved in the cases. Thank you for this piece. Hopefully people will stay informed on this issue and together we can bring about change.

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  3. Courtney L

     /  October 27, 2012

    The media is saturated with a disporportionate number of criminal images being people of color. On top of that, the streets in historical Black and Brown neighborhoods are flooded with cops and at any time your dad, your uncle, or you could be the next target of a random search. These images run deep within the subconscious of many people of color. Leading to lack of trust towards police and other authority figures; and consequently instances of police brutality that go unreported.

    So the change that is truly needed is is not how we encourage more reports of police brutality, but putting an end to police brutality.

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  4. Michele E

     /  October 28, 2012

    I agree with both Natasha and Emily in that this is a very unpublicized issue when taking into account the statistics mentioned in the blog post. It seems that the brutality is only made public when it goes as far as death. The constant police brutality displays the obvious physical abuse on the black community but sweeping the issue under the rug further deepens the ideas behind how much value is placed on the lives of those who are beaten and murdered at the hands of the police. The issue is also furthered by the fact that there are little to no repercussions for these officers. On the flip side, debates about capital punishment for killing a cop is continuously discussed in the news by public officials and reporters. It is as if the murder of a cop is somehow worse than that of any other person so much so that legislation should dictate a harsher punishment. I can’t help but think that all humans should be judged equally and that as a society we certainly shouldn’t be perpetuating the notion that police, are better than others. If anything, considering the numbers of incidents it would seem only logical that we should be focusing on making legislation harsher for those who wear a badge and exert force on the very public they should be protecting.Thank you for this blog. It is important that society be more vocal about this brutality so that we can move towards decreasing this epidemic.

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