A Dark Reality in American Police Departments forces Americans to Answer Some Tough Questions Dec 15, 2014

Thousands broke into protest this fall after the shooting of Michael Brown and the choking of Eric Garner, both fatally, by police officers. Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old African American was fatally shot by white officer Darren Wilson on August 9th. This had happened only a couple of weeks after the death of 43 year old African American Eric Garner at the hands of Daniel Pantaleo, a 29 year old Caucasian NYPD police officer. Since then, thousands of blacks and whites alike protested against police brutality, calling for more accountability and restriction on the power the average American officers used. Evidently up till now, thousands debate whether this was a racial issue at all, let alone what steps can be done to fix this. Fox News reporters and many others have claimed that this was by no means an issue of race. But this raises a question of why these tragedies took place.

In both cases, neither officer was indicted or charged with any serious offense. Yet the real tragedy, as pointed out by John Stewart on The Daily Show, is the immunity officers seem to face. The Michael Brown shooting had some arguable ambiguity. There were contradicting witness accounts and poor video quality to really conclude what had happened. But in the case of Eric Garner, clear footage and overwhelming witness accounts show the NYPD using unnecessary force against the victim, who did not present any real threat other than being larger than the average man, as pointed out by Fox News. 

The problem with the police in America extends well beyond these tragedies. The stop and frisk policies adopted by the NYPD gives officers the right to check and question any passer–byer without a warrant. Insiders from the police department further revealed that this system worked via a quota, and that a majority of these stop and frisk cases were done on lower income, often African American citizens. Civil Forfeiture in other parts of the country give the police the completely unrestricted liberty to confiscate property and money if they believe it could be involved in a crime.  

During the Ferguson protests, police were seen pushing legal demonstrators back with military vehicles and tear gas. This comes out of the noticed militarization of police in America. Many departments have applied for and received military equipment, from assault guns to, in some cases, even tanks.

The reality of the police in America is very complex. Beyond tragic racial biases within departments, there also appears to be little check on their power. There is no real way to claim a police department ever treated a citizen to harshly, or ever did anything against the law. With each passing day, the police grow more powerful and people more distrustful in the officers that are supposed to protect them. Whatever the core problem is, Americans and many others around the world are pushed to answer serious questions concerning the power their police departments hold, and whether there are any institutions in place to change a system if it becomes corrupted.

By: Emil Stanca

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