Police Brutality Analysis

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Pages: 10

"Can't we get along?” -Rodney King, 1992 (“The Legacy…” 1)

These famous words spoken by Rodney King during his police detention in 1992 signaled the growing racial tensions in America at the time. Now, at the end of 2015, headlines declaring police violence and a racial divide still spatter newspapers across the United States in response to the public problem of police brutality involving members of the black community. The future of confidence in law enforcement and the criminal justice system seems even bleaker with reports suggesting in 2012 alone, from January 1st to June 30th, one Black person was killed by someone in a law enforcement capacity every 36 hours, and 46% of those killed were unarmed (Chaney and Robertson). In the following
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(See Figure 4.) As an example, in the case of Oscar Grant, who was shot in 2009 in Oakland by police officers, a majority of the articles draw particularly close attention to the fact that he was only 22 years old and a young father, adding also that his friends witnessed his murder as they stayed by his side. These articles most often diagnose the situation in terms of understaffing of police forces and poor use of force training. Although the latter is frequently cited as a possible catalyst for police violence, research shows that police officers are trained in the importance and tactics of the use of force (Kramer). However, there is little emphasis on the cognitive and judgmental aspects of the use of force (Gallo, Collyer, Gallagher). In the case of Michael Brown, Brown is often described as an 18 year, old soon-to-be college student before a detailed description unfolds about the racially-driven violent police tactics used by Ferguson, Missouri police officers. Shanto Iyengar explains that episodic frames "[depict] concrete events that illustrate issues, while thematic framing presents collective or general evidence” (Ansell 2/4). Iyengar also found that the audience found subjects highlighted by episodic frames to be more likely to be considered responsible (Iyengar 25-150). Thus, the use of episodic framing in these articles consequentially places responsibility on law enforcement and legal institutions that commit police brutality, which is unsurprising when considering that the articles employing the greatest amount of this framing device is New York Times, a newspaper with a traditionally strong liberal perspective that would most likely rank police brutality coverage high on its