The Racial Disparity in Police Brutality
Writer: Gabrielle Poole
Editor: Pat Sevikul
Graphic Designer: Betty Zheng
Police brutality is a serious and reoccurring issue that is prominent globally, especially in the United States. In particular, police brutality disproportionately targets black people. We hear about how severe police brutality is everyday in American News, where most cases are against people of color. There are countless examples of the abuse that these people face, with well known examples such as, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Daunte Wright, and the list goes on. However, former president Donald Trump rebutted against this statement, stating that people of color are the only ones being targeted. In an interview with Catherine Herridge of CBS News, former president Trump stated, “So are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people. More white people by the way.” This was the follow up answer to the question, “Why are African-Americans still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?” Statistics demonstrate that while more white Americans are killed by the police over all, it's shown that people of color are killed at higher rates. In a federal study that examined lethal force used by the police from 2009 to 2012, the study determined that the majority of victims were white. However, the victims were disproportionately Black. In the United States, the black population is significantly smaller. They make up about 13.4% of the population. Black people had a fatality rate at the hands of police officers that was 2.8 times as high as that of white people. Adding on, according to the Harvard school of public health, “black people are more than three times as likely as white people to be killed during a police encounter. Plus, Black Chicaogians were found to be over 650% more likely to be killed in contrast to white chicagoans. Evidently, there is a major racial disparity between these two groups when it comes to who inevitably becomes the victim of a police encounter.
Furthermore, statistics also show that in many incidents, police shoot and kill African-Americans, at a much higher chance relative to other cases involving different races (like Caucasions). They are 20% more likely to be pulled over in comparison to white Americans, and are arrested at a higher rate for drug use. In many instances, the American police have mishandled situations and acted prematurely, merely because they felt “threatened.” Most famously, George Floyd died unrightfully to the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck until his last breath. Mr. Floyd struggled for air and begged the officer to alleviate his pain but the officer refused and the situation escalated to the point of his passing shortly after. This all occurred due to the fact of an alleged petty crime that was convicted against Floyd. In most cases there tends to be more leniency with people who are white thus supporting the point that Black people are disportirantley targeted.
A protest over the death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York police/ Getty Images
An important issue to also look into is why this particular group of people are being unfairly targeted. Before exploring race and systematic racism, we can look into the tendency to prioritize violence and force amongst the police. Police academies heavily stress the use of weapons, instead of teaching how to de-escalate violent situations. According to a 2006 report published by the US Department System, “Police academies spend an average of 110 hours training future officers on fire-arms and self-defence and only eight hours on subjects like conflict resolution, ethics and hate crimes”. Moving forward, another reason that African Americans are more subjected to police violence is due to the lack of police accountability. In some circumstances, certain police agencies will wipe officers' records clean of prior incidents after a couple years, essentially giving them a ‘clean slate’. An article from the Washington Posts states, “1 in 5 police officers' names go undisclosed in fatal shootings. In 2015, the names of 210 police officers' implicated in fatal shootings were not disclosed by their departments to the public, highlighting the lack of transparency and honesty.” Furthermore, between2013 and 2019, 99% of police killings did not result in criminal charges according to the Mapping Police Violence Group. Finally, the most well known reason is racial bias. The underlying problems such as the lack of accountability and issues with training all point towards the reinforcing of racial bias and structural racism within the police department. A plethora of police officers can be racist because of the communities that they were raised in, which hold racial biases. Systematic racism runs deep within American history. Generation after generation, people have been taught with racist ideals and ways of thinking, which have become normalised. Not only this, but the stereotypes that have been accumulated over the past several years against Black People such as the image of being savages or conveyed as “more dangerous.” play a role in why African Americans are more targeted by police.
It’s the same story, just a different name. Unarmed black men, women, and children being killed because their color is seen as a threat. These lives matter, they deserve justice, they do not deserve to die in vain. The sad truth is that children who are biracial or black, are taught to keep their heads down low and always oblige with whatever the officer says. Don’t argue, just do as you're told even if you know you didn’t do anything wrong. Parents, friends, and family are fearful that their loved ones could be the next name that floods the news with the #Saytheirname or #JusticeFor… It's time for people to speak out about these issues and let these problems be heard. Things need to start changing now. There are numerous protests, both online and in person that take place globally that you can participate in. There are petitions and organizations to help raise awareness on the issue. The truth of the matter is that this can’t continue. Police are supposed to support, not shoot. They are here to protect not kill. This is why it's important to educate yourself on these issues and bring attention to them so they don’t keep occurring. There are simple actions that you can take such as, raising awareness, signing petitions and keeping informed. We have to start making the changes that we want to see in this world.
Please see the link below if you are interested in learning more about the victims of police brutality in the US. Each page has a description of the situation and this can help you and your community stay more informed.