Police brutality is a serious problem here in the United States. I wish I could say that it’s starting to turn around for the better, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The misconduct of police officers has always been going on, body cameras and smart phones have just made it easier to capture the police violence. Social media has exploded with outrage at the recent events, and a popular hashtag related to these events has surfaced “#iftheygunnedmedown“.
Police reform started in Baltimore after Freddie Gray’s death. Gray was arrested without probable cause, and the police who took him into custody did so with an excess of force and without any regard to the proper procedure. They had handcuffed him in the back of the police van, but neglected to put a seatbelt on him. He died of severe neck injuries from the “rough ride” he received. None of the police officers were convicted of any serious crimes, like murder or manslaughter, and none served any jail time. All six of them were expected to go back to work at the police station after the hearings. This caused an uproar which led to the reform of the department. The police department started reevaluating the officers employed there, and revised 26 procedures, including changes in policies, training, a body-camera program and use-of-force guidelines. This is a huge step in the right direction. Baltimore has become the leader in reform, and hopefully more cities will follow.
A city in desperate need of reform is Chicago. Seven officers were caught in the cover up of Laquan McDonald and their punishment? No prosecution, no convictions, instead they were fired from their jobs. Police in Chicago do not face any consequences for their unnecessary violence, and nothing is being done to fix the system. Instead the city council pays settlements to the victim’s families. Since 2004, Chicago has spent more than $500 million to settle cases of alleged police misconduct. Instead of spending their money on their struggling school systems or a police reform program, the city uses the tax dollars to pay the victim’s families.
John Oliver has a segment that he has dedicated to police accountability and brutality. It highlights the code between officers that prevent them from speaking out against one of their own, and shows police brutality in a much needed humorous tone.
The police are never held accountable for their actions. 97% of cases did not result in an officer involved being charged with a crime. This is because the legal system gives police officers the benefit of the doubt every single time. When brought before a jury, the police officer’s testimony will hold more ground, even if it’s a complete lie, than the evidence will. This is the main reason attorneys don’t prosecute officers unless there is overwhelming evidence stacked in their favor. Because the attorneys work closely with the police on other cases, to prosecute a police officer and lose is career suicide.
Reform not only needs to occur in the police departments themselves, but also in the judicial system. It needs to be shown that police make mistakes too, and each mistake has a consequence. The juries cannot be so lenient with the officers on trial.
Below is my podcast in which I discuss a couple of police brutality cases with my friend Madison: