North America

Police Brutality

Police brutality in the United States, the unwarranted or excessive and often illegal use of force against civilians by U.S. police officers. Forms of police brutality have ranged from assault and battery (e.g., beatings) to mayhem, torture, and murder. Some broader definitions of police brutality also encompass harassment (including false arrest), intimidation, and verbal abuse, among other forms of mistreatment. Police brutality is an extremely prevalent issue, mainly targeting black lives and also indigenous communities.
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Are police allowed to kill people?
There are strict international laws and standards governing how and when police can use force - particularly lethal force.
The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (BPUFF) is the key international instrument that deals with police use of force.
The most important thing to remember is this: it is the utmost obligation of state authorities, including police, to respect and protect the right to life.
Under international law, police officers should only ever use lethal force as a last resort. This means when such force is strictly necessary to protect themselves or others from the imminent threat of death or serious injury, and only when other options for de-escalation are insufficient.
Racial Stereotypes

Police brutality is sometimes motivated by racial stereotypes. Law enforcement officers may believe that blacks are more violent than others, and this image is often replicated in media. Law enforcement officers who are already concerned about their safety on the job may be even more anxious when confronting individuals who they prematurely perceive as violent or criminal. These stereotypes are rooted in the sordid history of enslavement, genocide and segregation.
Racial stereotypes are only part of the problem that leads to police brutality. Other factors include rampant discrimination and disparate treatment of certain minorities in the judicial system also lead to the misinformed belief that certain minorities are more likely to engage in criminal activity than others.
Historical theories have been made across centuries, beginning with theories regarding dominance based on color. This theory states that the dominant racial group minimizes police brutality because marginalized groups are more likely to experience this treatment rather than the dominant group. The dominant group may justify such behavior by believing that other groups deserved such treatment.
Black people have been 28% of those killed by police since 2013 despite being only 13% of the population.
Historical Context
Police brutality has historically been perpetrated against individuals in lower socioeconomic levels and the social marginalized, commencing with worker strikes in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Police brutality was permitted against citizens who challenged big industries. Police brutality was used to oppress labor strikes. Also, police would brutalize working-class people and arrest them without cause. Police brutality was also a common occurrence during the civil rights era when activists would be sprayed down with water hoses and attacked by police dogs.
Lack of Consequences
While police officers who demonstrate excessive force may receive a negative review or face some consequences on the job, many fatal police altercations are ultimately ruled in favor of the law enforcement officer, allowing him or her to keep a job even if he or she killed an unarmed suspect or community member. Even in the Rodney King case, the officers were originally acquitted by an all-white jury. In repeated instances and even in the rare circumstance that a law enforcement officer is charged with criminal activity pertaining to police brutality, law enforcement officers continue to be acquitted or the jury deadlocks. The lack of consequences may contribute to undeterred instances of police brutality.

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