Law enforcement engages in excessive brutality and that is not okay. Right wing pundits argue that the police use justifiable force, but that is not the case. By definition, excessive force is not reasonable or warranted. There are international guidelines that advise police how to act ethically, but unfortunately, many police departments ignore them. The only way to stop police brutality is to start holding police accountable for their actions.
Here are some excerpts:
Non-violent means are to be attempted first
Force is to be used only when strictly necessary
Force is to be used only for lawful law enforcement
No exceptions or excuses shall be allowed for unlawful
use of force
Well, whatever the police are doing out there, it is not conforming to UN guidelines. The videos prove it. Oh there is more:
Accountability for the use of force and firearms
All incidents of the use of force or firearms shall be
reported to and reviewed by superior officials
Superior officials shall be held responsible for the
actions of police under their command if the superior
official knew or should have known of abuses but failed
to take concrete action
Officials who refuse unlawful superior orders shall be
Officials who commit abuses of these rules shall not be
excused on the grounds that they were following superior order
No matter how you slice it, it is clear that too many police departments are ignoring the reasonable and ethical guidelines developed by the United Nations. Why? Why are there so many ‘bad apple’ cops roaming the streets? Why are there no consequences for excessive police brutality?
Body cams are only useful if authorities hold the police accountable
The UN believes that police shouldn’t use excessive force, but if they do, they and their superiors should be held accountable. Oh and it is the responsibility of the individual to resist against unlawful orders. Hmm. Do you think there would be less police brutality if people were held responsible?
Apparently, police are better behaved when they are required to wear video cameras. Sadly, however, the use of body cams has done little to increase accountability. Although body cam footage has been used to convict some police officers at trial, it is rare for police to face charges in the first place. Body cam footage is used more often to convict private citizens of crimes, rather than used to prosecute cases of police brutality. In all the cases that body cam footage has been used as evidence, only 8.3% has been used for a case against a police officer.
Something is wrong with that statistic. Despite generating evidence through video footage, it is still difficult to get a police officer charged for excessive force. Clearly, body cams help, but they do not solve the problem of police brutality.
Time and time again, the news reports cases of excessive force by police, especially against people of color. We can see with our own eyes that the force was excessive, but nothing is done. Even worse, certain pundits will defend the excessive use of force and proclaim the victim ‘had it coming’. There are always excuses.
Did these people deserve police brutality?
No, because no one deserves police brutality. It doesn’t matter what the victim of police brutality is alleged to have done, it is not acceptable to use excessive force. The police are neither jury nor executioner.
Let’s look at a few high profile examples of alleged instances of excessive force by police. Did these people ‘have it coming’? No they didn’t.
Did the cops who pushed this man down and then refused to allow another cop to provide assistance engage in ethical behavior? It doesn’t seem so:
In this case, the victim is an elderly white man who is a known activist against injustice. Although police disproportionately use excessive force against black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), sometimes they target white people, too. What seems to attract the police is the level of vulnerability that a victim has, and those with the most vulnerability are in danger. The more marginalized a person is, the less mainstream society is willing to protect them. Martin Gugino, the man in the video, was participating in a protest against the killing of George Floyd–that in itself made him vulnerable.
There was no reason to use excessive force against 75 year old Martin Gugino, but police put him in the hospital for a month. Despite the use of excessive force, police and various media personalities came to the defense of the cops who cracked Gugino’s skull. Former President Trump actually tweeted that he believed Gugino was an “antifa provocateur” that was trying to sabotage police equipment.
Unfortunately, using excessive force against elderly people is a thing. Here is an example of police shoving another elderly man to the ground, for no reason:
If you watch closely, you can see the one ‘bad apple cop’ push the first man down the road. Then, the same cop circles back toward another elderly man with the cane and forcefully pushes that man until he falls over a scooter. What a jerk! Another cop, likely a horrified ‘nice guy cop’ comes to the aid of the fallen man. Either that or they suddenly became aware that a television camera caught the whole thing.
On what planet was it justified for a cop in riot gear to push and shove an old man with a cane? Are the cops so hungry for violence that they attack an old man standing outside the library? Did they think the cane was a weapon?
Now what about this? This poor kid was selling water without a license. He is clearly a minor and frightened out of his wits. As he cries for help, the TRANSIT cop appears to choke the young man until he passes out. He is then rolled onto his front and cuffed, but not before he gets 200 lbs of big cop kneeling on his back. Why is it even necessary to arrest someone for selling water without a license? Isn’t that something that demands no more than a ticket? Regardless, there is no doubt that this young man believed that the cops were going to kill him.
Who can forget Eric Garner? The police claim that Eric Garner was selling illegal cigarettes. Garner said no, he wasn’t. So what did the police do? They choked him to death in broad daylight in front of witnesses. Really? Is that the penalty for ALLEGEDLY selling cigarettes? Spoiler: no, it’s not.
The cop who choked Eric Garner to death was fired by the NYPD, but authorities at both the state and federal levels declined to charge Daniel Pantaleo. That’s right, they declined to charge a bad apple cop who had SEVEN misconduct cases on his record. Additionally, there were seventeen complaints made against Pantaleo. Despite the high profile of Eric Garner’s death, it took five years before Pantaleo’s misconduct records were released. Why? There is a law that protects cops from having their misconduct records released. Actually, there are laws to protect the police in general.
Although most of these police brutality incidences do not result in charges, at least the killing of George Floyd did. Hopefully, justice will be served.
I can’t breathe:
The police seem to rely on chokeholds and strangleholds to ‘subdue’ the people they are brutalizing. The gasp of “I can’t breathe” is often the last words we hear from police brutality victims. Why are the police being taught to suffocate people? Why are they taught to kneel on the chest or back to force compliance?
For decades, authorities have tried to ban chokeholds as they know these techniques are excessive and dangerous. Major cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Houston all have chokehold bans. So why are police still choking people to death? Why are the police disproportionately choking black men to death? Why are chokehold bans merely internal policy rather than law?
Nothing will change until the police are held accountable for excessive force. People will keep getting choked to death, on camera, because there is no consequence for the cops.