Police brutality: A reason for racial divide in America

Last Updated on

670 views

Andrew Flores

Aflores@Radford.Edu

What happens when the people that are supposed to serve and protect you are actually the ones you are most scared of? Who do you look to for justice when “justice” is being stripped from you in ways that resemble primitive times?

     That is the struggle that many African-American people have today, and recently it has become even more noticeable in today’s world.

    While some officers of the law pursue righteous careers and take the oaths they have taken serious, some are still living in the past and living in fear of another man. Police brutality is a very real problem in today’s world and it is causing a social and racial divide in our nation.

   For a country to be so young and promising, it’s embarrassing seeing young African-American citizens being harassed daily by our law enforcement.

   It’s amazing how we forget how we fought off England for our independence as a free country, suffered through one of the worst financial periods in any country’s history, stood as one through terrorist threats and give a helping hand during natural disasters.

   But our own protectors are scared to perform their sworn duty due to fabricated stereotypes.

Police brutality against African-Americans started well before the most recent occurrences we have heard about in the media or even before the Civil Rights Movement.

   The first type of police departments that were around 400 years ago were slave patrols. These were people specifically aimed at helping plantation owners “control” their slaves and bring back run-aways. 

     Little change in the police force had occurred before WWII, only after had we started to see an integration of African-Americans into the force. African-American police officers were still given limited responsibilities, being policed themselves by white officers.

   With all of the instances that have occurred recently, I take a look at the cases of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and most recently Walter Scott. All of these cases included an unarmed African-American male who was shot and killed by people in authority positions, abusing their powers.

Giving people the power of protecting another’s life is a great responsibility.

   We trust that these men and women that have sworn to protect us understand this. Police officers have failed; they have broken the trust we should have in them in our communities, especially ones that are greatly made up of minorities.

     Martin and Brown were both unarmed teenagers when they encountered this not so uncommon “justification.”

    A security guard saw a black male in a black hoodie and was scared. Martin did nothing to entice the guard’s aggressive behavior.  George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder charge, which caused an uproar in the black community.

   As with Brown, there is still much debate between witnesses on the specifics leading up to his death but the display of unnecessary force by Officer Darren Wilson is evident. 12 shots were fired, six of which hit Brown and two to his head. Shouldn’t officers be trained to subdue suspects without ringing out that many shots?

   The obvious fact that the police target young African-American males is inarguable and the numbers are jarring. Compared to young white males, African-Americans males are 21 times more likely to be killed by the police, per Propublica.

   Scott on the other hand was not a young man, 50, but still experienced the absolute disgraceful police work all the same. In a video released on CNN, police officer Michael Slager “feared for his life” and let out eight rounds into the back of Scott. The video shows Scott take off from the officer at a not so brisk pace, and without a chase Slager choose to revert to an unjustified way of handling the situation.

   Slager had been previously investigated in 2013 for a very similar situation. He had entered a man’s house misinformed on who the subject he was looking for was and assaulted someone using a taser. This man just so happened to be an unarmed, young African-American male too.

   People have claimed that we need to make our police force more diverse, but I don’t find that to be the true problem, officer training must be more rigid and selective. Police officers should be revered in a community not hated or feared. Raising the standards of becoming a peacekeeper and protector of the law will have a direct correlation to the amount of police-caused fatalities.

   Giving more in depth psychoanalysis into potential officers could reveal a deeper-rooted problem that may go overseen as it does now. Where is the officer from? Has he ever acted in a way that may be construed as racist before? How does the officer truly feel about his black co-workers? What does the officer think about African-American people?

     In the situations of Brown and Scott the use of multiple gunshots to “defend” themselves and subdue suspects seems to be excessive.

    Officers are trained in the academy where the fatal zones are on people, subsequently they know how to disarm or put down a non-fatal shot as well. The aggressive behavior produced by “fear” causing unprofessional actions is due to the lack of quality training and quality officers.

   I go back to May 1, 2011, the moment when Radford University found out about the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. Students stopped studying for their impending final exams and joined as one to peacefully assemble and cheer for the feat.

   The police that monitored the situation didn’t overstep their boundaries and allowed us all to peacefully celebrate. I couldn’t tell you if there was a black or white student next to me but I do know we were echoing the same chants, carrying the same flag, and proud to be Americans.