In the past few years, the action of the police force has been scrutinized due to the perception of unnecessary excessive force in a myriad of situations. Is this a perception constructed by the media or are police officers taking advantage of their power?

News has hit the stands in the past few years showing explicit videos of police officers gunning down citizens who are unarmed, stopping to frisk people based on racial profiling, and obstructing the peace by wreaking havoc on communities and treating neighbors violently. The news has shown stories of an unbalanced number of black men being killed which sparked racial controversy. Per Mapping Police Violence, African American people are 3x more likely to be killed by police than white people. Additionally, 1 in 5 African American people have reported being treated unfairly in the past month in 2016. The duty of a police man is to ‘protect and serve’ their community, but was this objective kept in mind when cases surfaced of unnecessary killings and racist messages between officers?

Lack of Accountability

If you are protected from being imprisoned for your violation of another person’s civil rights, officers might feel like it is their duty to do whatever it takes to exert control. This situation of police officers failing to be convicted and serve jail time for their crimes has come to the news’ attention and is creating controversy. Although the data for on-duty police killings have not been updated, according to the data compiled from The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Mapping Police Violence, there have been around 1,000 fatal shootings every year. Out of those 1,000 deadly shootings, about 5 of these cases were deemed manslaughter or murder by prosecutors and grand juries. Out of those five cases, about one of these were considered murder by the criminal justice system.

The Supreme Court protects police officers of the risk of being civilly sued due to their line of risky work with a Qualified Immunity Doctrine, which could be a contributing factor to the outbreak in violence. The supreme court has ruled that, “government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Basically, the lack of accountability within the police force can be contributed to the fact that the supreme court defends most of their actions in faith that every act was carried out with the best intentions for justice. Due to the Qualified Immunity Doctrine, it is extremely difficult to sue a police officer for any mistreatment. The first step is to consult a civil rights lawyer to ensure you are properly educated about your options to pursue a case against a police officer.

For example, Peter Liang, a New York City cop shot and killed a 28-year-old resident of Brooklyn named Akai Gurley last year in the stairwell of a housing until. Liang claimed it was an accident and received six months’ house arrest, five years of probation, and 500 hours of community service. Typically, a manslaughter conviction comes along with a jail sentence. Additionally, a 24-year-old man Jamar Clark, was shot in the back of the head and died by two officers after only 61 seconds after arriving at the crime scene. According to officers, Clark was resisting arrest and attempted to grab the officer’s weapon, but witness deny this claim by saying Clark was already handcuffed. Clark was unarmed. Both officers received no criminal charges for their actions. They later returned to their officer duties after being placed on short administrative leave. According to Cato Institute’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, excessive force reports made up over 23% of all police misconduct in 2010 and 57% of those cases were categorized as ‘physical force’ which were things like chokeholds, strikes with batons, and violent physical attacks. This is why the police force has been in the hot seat in recent years- why is the level of police brutality rising?

Why hide the data?

Another key factor that plays into citizens lack of trust of the police force is the failure to record police officer’s killings. It was recently exposed that the record of killings by police officers was inaccurate and not up-to-date. FBI director, James Comey describes the lack of data on fatal police shootings as “embarrassing and ridiculous” – why are these killings not registered? The lack of trust between citizens and the police force is rooted in many different spots…

  1. Why all the recent violence?
  2. Why the racial violence?
  3. Why was the record of police killings not accurate?
  4. Why are officers given a qualified immunity doctrine although some actions are unjustifiable?

What now?

If you believe you have been mistreated by a police officer and your civil rights have been violated, do the following….

  1. Write down everything that happened in detail
  2. Videotape the encounter if you can (future use)
  3. Contact a civil rights attorney right away
  4. Discuss how to bring justice to your situation with your lawyer
  5. Share your story with other people to bring awareness

There are many different opinions of the police and citizen encounters that have taken place recently, but the most important thing is to stay educated about the current events going on nationally. This will give citizens a better understanding of what is taking place and how to act accordingly.