November 25, 2014
America’s Social Unrest Against Police Brutality
“There is a movement that believes that the federal government has dangerously overstepped its authority, and within that movement are groups that believe they need to be ready to fight back against any perceived overreach” (Nakashima, Washington Post) Ellen Nakashima wrote an article in the Washington Post titled “FBI reports 27 cops were killed last year. But how many civilians were killed by officers?” In this article she talks about how civilians who are being killed by police officers is on a rise and what should be done about this growing issue. The unnecessary police brutality in the United States has increased over the years and is becoming a public concern. Do the police abuse the power given to them by the American government, or are these unfortunate events set into action because of their line of work?
There is no doubting the fact that officers put their lives on the line for the American public and they deserve a vast amount of respect for the service that they do, however there is a mounting abuse of power among the police community. Without “reliable national data on how many people are shot by police officers each year” there is no way of holding them responsible for the towering number of casualties (Nakashima). In Lars Holmber’s book, called Policing Stereotypes: A Qualitative Study of Police Work in Denmark, Kenneth Culp Davis defines the concept of police discretion as “ whenever the effective limits on his [a public officers] power leave him free to make a choice among possible courses of action or inaction’”(11). This choice of “action or inaction” closely resembles C. Wright Mills definition of elite power. He also says “There are also men of power who in quite small groups make decisions of enormous consequence for the underlying population” (Mills, 12) Though that sounds like normal rights given to any American citizen, for a person who handles a weapons on a daily bases, it can be a direct source of power not fully realized by the general public. Police officers also get a great deal of protection from the political power of the government in which they work for.
Through recent years the rise in technology has given a small amount of power back to the powerless in the form of information. No longer living in ignorance with information so readily at their disposal, it is easier to self investigates proclaimed deviancy and whether they are accurate or are used as a social control by those who hold greater power. This is relevant because when understanding the deviancy behind a crime we can better understand the motives behind the recent murders at the hands of police officers and whether they were justified. Nakashima claims, “Several independent trackers, primarily journalists and academics who study criminal justice, insist the accurate number of people shot and killed by police officers each year is consistently upwards of 1,000 each year” (Nakashima). That number of deaths seems highly unlikely to be only against deviants so it begs the question of, what is Americas view on deviancy and how does it hold up to the amount of killings at the hands of the police each year?
Based on cultural norms, the definition of deviancy changes within the social structure it belongs to. Within the many diverse cultures around the world they each have their own views on what is considered a deviant act. In the book Shades of Deviance, the “construction of deviance [is]… described in 1929 as cultural hegemony. This describes the domination by the ruling elite through manipulation of…what is publicly to be seen as deviant” (Atkinson, 42) This means that those who hold all the power control the public view on what is deviant as a way of conforming the thought process of the majority. So if the police work for the Government, and Government holds power is America, who is keeping police officers