Criminal Justice 1010
“Between 1987 and 1996, 696 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the United States. Of these, 91.5% were killed by firearms; and body armor did not prevent the deaths of 38.3% of the officers killed by firearms” (Charles & Copay, 2003). These astounding statistics are what lead me to the interesting topic of police brutality. It seems like, over the decades, the public’s views on law enforcement has been changed from respect to contempt, and law enforcement is becoming less about protecting and serving and more about enforcing and punishing. Using sources from academic police journals, periodicals, and magazines I was able to research a lot of credible, verifiable information and come to a general consensus on police brutality and shootings. Before starting this research I was naïve, as most people are, about the inner workings of law enforcement. Don’t get me wrong, I admire all the work that law enforcement officers do on a daily basis to protect and serve, but at what point does the desire of power overcome the desire to do what is right? After reading through many police journals, reading experiences told by law enforcement officers themselves, and knowing what I have learned about law enforcement, it seems that no matter what the intention of the officer was in coming into law enforcement, their views and morals tends to change when presented with moral decisions. It is my belief that, and observation, that people put in positions of power tend to let that power take over and they end up doing things that normally they would deem “unmoral” if in any other situation.
It seems that police cultures instill a sense of entitlement to power and authority over the rest of society. “Police training is especially designed to strip the individual’s previous identity and ‘make’ a police officer. The police uniform, badge, and gun are universal symbols of power and authority. When the individual puts on the uniform, they assume the authority that goes with it. They expect and command obedience and respect from the public. Donning the uniform and wielding the power of the job contribute to what is known as the ‘police personality’. Some officers leave the police personality on the job, while others carry it everywhere, all the time” (Wetendorf). Power really does go to the head, and this is one way that we see that. The police personality serves to isolate officers from the rest of society. It raises an “us versus them” mentality where the cops are the good guys and everyone else is a potential bad guy. There is a constant power struggle between the good and the bad guys. Police believe that societal order depends on the good guys winning—at any cost. When anyone challenges the police, the police defend their right to enforce control and authority. But when does this go too far?
“Police departments across the country now sport armored personnel carriers designed for use on a battlefield. Some have helicopter, tanks, and Humvees. They carry military-grade weapons. Many SWAT teams today are trained by current and formal personnel from Special Forces units like the Navy SEALs or Army Rangers. National Guard helicopters now routinely swoop through rural areas in search of pot plants, and, when they find something, send gun-toting troops dressed for battle repelling down to chop and confiscate the contraband. But it isn’t just drugs. Aggressive, SWAT-style tactics are now used to raid neighborhood poker games, doctors’ offices, bars and restaurants, and head shops—despite the fact that the targets of these raids pose little threat to anyone. This force was once reserved as the last option to defuse a dangerous situation. It’s increasingly used as the first option to apprehend people who aren’t dangerous at all” (Balko, 2013). This is one point of law enforcement letting power take control over what their moral