Introduction Law enforcement deviance remains to be one of the major human rights issues in the United States. Police departments across the United States have been accused of massive abuse of power. Some of the major complaints regarding police brutality include unjustified shootings, severe beatings of people arrested, and various forms of rough treatment. Human Rights Watch claims that the persistence of police abuse in the United States is due to lack of accountability of police officers in the United States (“Shielded From Justice: Police brutality…”).
The lack of institutions of accountability in the Police Department creates an environment conducive for police abusing their powers and their authority.
In the study of Human Rights Watch in several states in the country, they found that police brutality is actually more common than is expected in major cities in the United States. In all of the cities assessed, victims all had difficulties in seeking redress from police that have committed the abuse. There are lots of barriers in seeking administrative punishment or criminal prosecution for police officers that are abusive of their power (“Shielded From Justice: Police Brutality…”). Despite the media hype, there are no effective or meaningful solutions that have been provided in order to address issues of police brutality.
This paper would address issues of law enforcement deviances. The goal is to provide an overview of incentive structures and administrative problems that perpetuate the environment of abuse. From this, it is hoped that this paper could provide important recommendations on how the issues would be addressed.
The Case of Rodney King and Other Cases of Abuse The case of Rodney King is one of the high profile cases of police brutality in the United States. The police officers who beat Rodney King were unaware that a bystander caught the beatings while he was arrested. This incident created massive public protests especially from the African-American communities who saw the footage of the beating. The four LAPD officers were sued in court for that and were later on acquitted by the state court. This led to the 1992 Los Angeles riot, which was part of the massive protests around the country regarding police abuse (“Rodney King”).
While the case of Rodney King is one of the major points of protest against police brutalities in the United States, there are lots of cases of police abuse that are occurring in other cities in the country. The Aaron Williams case in San Francisco is one of the important cases in police abuse. The poor investigation process and the misuse of pepper spray caused the death of Aaron Williams while under the custody of San Francisco police.
According to some witnesses, Williams was arrested for the suspected burglary. The officers arrested him and put him in handcuffs and ankle cuffs and subsequently, the police hit and kicked him after restraining him (“Shielded From Justice: Police brutality…”).
These are just some of the important cases of police brutality in the United States. In both cases, the accused police officers did not suffer severe penalties for the abuses that they committed. This lack of punishment is one of the major incentive structures that allows the continuous perpetuation of abuse of police powers in the United States.
Reasons for the Minimization of Police Brutality The core reason for the persistence of incidents of police brutality in the United States is the lack of structures of accountability that would create incentive for police departments to avoid practicing abuse of power. There are barriers to accountability across the police departments in the United States (“Public Accountability and Transparency”). There is a need to improve this structure in order to protect the rights of individuals. The civil liberties protection that is contained in our Constitution would lose its meaning if accountability is not enhanced.
One of the main problems in the police system is the lack of sufficient recruitment management, training and development, and management development in police departments. Recruitment and training lack foundations on ethics is needed in conducting operations. At the core, there is insufficient provision on discourses relating to the specific authorities of the police as it is positioned with regards to the rights of the people.
This lack of training leads to police departments lacking clear process structures that would define their authorities in law enforcement in the country (“Public accountability and transparency”). This leads us to the second argument. Police brutality that arises from lack of standards would create massive public terror and fear of law enforcement, which would undermine the sense of security that police departments should provide.
Thirdly, police brutality undermines the efforts of the country to fight violation of human rights. This is important in the context of United States leadership in human rights issues, especially in the Middle East. This comes from the lack of management capabilities in the police department, which results in problems of implementing sanctions and punishments for not following procedures. The process of reporting arrests and incidents lack robustness. This means that the system of reporting is not embedded in human rights protection.
The system also lacks sufficient capabilities for monitoring, oversight, and accountability systems that would help the police department to effectively curtail the incidents of abuse (“Shielded from justice: Police brutality…”). The system of reporting allows for cover up and protection of police officers that have committed abuse of authority and power. The inaction of police departments results in problems of persistent abuse of human rights in the United States and an increase in public distrust of the police department.
Fourthly, this creates a crisis of public trust. This arises from information and data on abuse incidents that are scarce. Trends in police abuses are not reported because they are usually not monitored. As a result, police departments are unable to respond efficiently on the problems of police brutality. Certain plans to curtail abuse also lack basis because of insufficient information. This results in lack of deterring effect on abuse incidents. High profile abuses are the only ones acted upon albeit minimally just to quell public exposures on police brutalities.
At the core, law enforcement deviance is a violation of human rights. The occurrence of police brutality is an irony considering the law enforcement or the police are symbols of the capacity of the country to protect the rights of their people. The continuous occurrence of police brutality is instilling a different image of our law enforcers. While not all of them are using their force to inflict abuses on arrested or imprisoned people, the over all respectability of the institution is at stake. Police are a very important source of security in any country.
The inability of the police department to provide protection to its citizens, criminal or not, undermines the safety and security that the police department would like to deliver. It is, therefore, very important that the police department revitalize their processes and ensure that accountability and responsibility of law enforcers are preserved in all of the steps in the operations.
Conclusions One of the needed reforms is the abolishing of ‘specific intent’ clause in the civil rights statutes. The prosecution of police officers should only be based on the fact that he or she is unjustifiably the beaten or abused the arrested person. There should be no need to prove that the officer intended or planned the abuse of the person’s rights. It should be obvious that use of excessive force is de facto violation of human rights regardless of intention
There is a need to revitalize the administrative capacity of police departments in order to restructure the processes of law enforcement. This would help in implementing training and management development systems that would help the police department to curtail the problems of abuse. This would help in setting systems of oversights, and monitoring of police abuses.
In addition to this, there is a need for police brutality to be punished as a criminal case in order to effectively create an incentive not to participate in excessive use of force. Through this, police officers committing police brutality could meet criminal prosecution. The lack of incentive structure not to commit abuse helps in reinforcing police to continuously exercise excessive use of power, which is not very helpful in evoking a positive image for the police department.
Police departments are the main institutions of law enforcement in the country. If they would invoke an image of abuse and threat to the public, they would not be able to deliver the security that they should provide. They should maintain public trust and confidence in order for them to receive the respect that they also deserve as servants of the country. Without the respect and confidence of the people, they would not be able to attain the ‘enforcement’ that they would like to achieve. In a country that has been known to be prime movers of civil rights, it is ironic that the country is unable to resolve its biggest human rights problem.
Works Cited “Obstacles To Justice.” Retrieved Jan. 8, 2007 at: <http://www.hrw.org/reports98/police/uspo09.htm>.
“Public Accountability and Transparency.” Retrieved Jan. 8, 2007 at:
“Rodney King.” 7 Retrieved Jan. 8, 2007 at: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_King>.
“Shielded From Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in The United States.” Retrieved Jan. 8, 2007 at: <http://www.hrw.org/reports98/police/uspo14.htm>.