Police brutality

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"Excessive force" redirects here. For the film, see Excessive Force (film). For the band, see Excessive Force. For other uses, see Brutality.
"Police abuse/misconduct" redirects here. For other uses, see Police abuse.
New York police violently attacking unemployed workers in Tompkins Square Park, 1874.

Police brutality is the wanton use of excessive force, usually physical, but potentially in the form of verbal attacks and psychological intimidation, by a police officer.

Widespread police brutality exists in many countries, even those that prosecute it.[1] It is one of several forms of police misconduct, which include: false arrest; intimidation; racial profiling; political repression; surveillance abuse; sexual abuse; and police corruption.[2] However, as aforementioned, it may involve physical force but never reaching death under police custody.[citation needed] Although illegal, it can be done under the color of law.

History[edit]

April 21, 2001: Police fire tear gas at protesters during the Quebec City Summit of the Americas. The Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP later concluded this constituted "excessive and unjustified force."
Screenshots of King lying down and being beaten by LAPD officers

The word "brutality" has several meanings; the sense used here (savage cruelty) was first used in 1633.[3] The first known use of the term "police brutality" was in the New York Times in 1893,[4] describing a police officer's beating of a civilian.

The origin of modern policing based on the authority of the nation state is commonly traced back to developments in seventeenth and eighteenth century France, with modern police departments being established in most nations by the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Cases of police brutality appear to have been frequent then, with "the routine bludgeoning of citizens by patrolmen armed with nightsticks or blackjacks."[5] Large-scale incidents of brutality were associated with labor strikes, such as the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, the Pullman Strike of 1894, the Lawrence textile strike of 1912, the Ludlow massacre of 1914, the Steel strike of 1919, and the Hanapepe massacre of 1924.

Portions of the population may perceive the police to be oppressors. In addition, there is a perception that victims of police brutality often belong to relatively powerless groups, such as minorities, the disabled, the young, and the poor.[6]

Hubert Locke writes,

When used in print or as the battle cry in a black power rally, police brutality can by implication cover a number of practices, from calling a citizen by his or her first name to a death by a policeman's bullet. What the average citizen thinks of when he hears the term, however, is something midway between these two occurrences, something more akin to what the police profession knows as "alley court"—the wanton vicious beating of a person in custody, usually while handcuffed, and usually taking place somewhere between the scene of the arrest and the station house.[7]

In 1991, Los Angeles police harshly beat African American Rodney King while a civilian videotaped the incident, leading to extensive media coverage and criminal charges against several of the officers involved. Hours after the police officers involved were acquitted at trial, the Los Angeles riots of 1992 commenced, causing 53 deaths, 2,383 injuries, more than 7,000 fires, damage to 3,100 businesses, and nearly $1 billion in financial losses. After facing federal trial, the officers received 32 months prison sentence. The case was widely seen as a key factor in the reform of the Los Angeles police department.

According to data released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2011), between 2003 and 2009 at least 4,813 people died in the process of being arrested by local police. Of the deaths classified as law enforcement “homicides,” 2,876 deaths occurred of which 1,643 or 57.1% of the people who died were people of color.[8]

Examples[edit]

People's Republic of China[edit]

Politically motivated riots and protest have occurred historically in China, notably with the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Within the past decade, groups such as Falun Gong have protested party measures and been broken up by riot police. Chinese dissidents have been able to arrange effective mobilization through use of social media and informal communication like Twitter and its Chinese counterparts Weibo or microblogs.[9]

Foreign journalists from Switzerland have reported cases of police harassment. Media suppression has increased in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. Plainclothes policemen are often deployed during demonstrations to suppress violence. Censorship is often maintained as a measure to maintain political stability in China. Web activists can be charged by the police for using false identities to surf the Internet. After arrests, homes of the arrested individual are often searched for incriminating evidence such as computers, hard drives, and flash drives.[10]

Russia[edit]

Russian protests have gained media attention with the reelection of Vladimir Putin in 2012. Attention has been given to incidence of violence via posting videos online. President Dmitry Medvedev has initiated reforms of the police force, in an attempt to minimize the violence by firing Moscow police chief and centralizing police powers. Police divisions in Russia are often based on loyalty systems that favor bureaucratic power amongst political elites. Phone tapping and business raids are common practice in the country, and often fail to give due process to citizens. Proper investigations of police officials still remains lacking by western standards.[11]

In 2012, Russia's top investigative agency investigated charges that four police officers had tortured detainees under custody. Human rights activists claim that Russian police use torture techniques to extract false confessions from detainees. Police regulations require quotas of officers for solved crimes, a practice that encourages false arrests to meet their numbers.[12]

Finland[edit]

Historically, anti-communist police brutality was commonplace during the 1920s and 1930s - in the wake of the Finnish Civil War. Some local sections of the secret police (Etsivä Keskuspoliisi) routinely beat up arrested communists. As of 2014, there are 7700 police officers in Finland. Annually, there are a few hundred crime reports made where one of the police is the suspect and tens of cases in which police officers are convicted of crimes committed whilst on duty. Typically, these cases either concern vehicular collisions in pursuit or the excessive use of force.[13]

In 2006, a 51-year-old police officer attracted a 16-year-old girl to his house by showing her his badge, where he got her drunk and raped her twice.[14] In 2007, an Iranian-born immigrant, Rasoul Pourak, was beaten in a cell at Pasila Police Station, Helsinki. The ill-treatment caused Pourak bruises all over the body, an open wound over his eyebrow, and a fractured skull. In addition, facial bones were broken and the victim was left permanently damaged. One guard participating in the assault was sentenced to an 80-day suspended prison sentence.[15][16] In 2010, two police officers assaulted a man in a wheelchair in connection with an arrest. The police twisted the man's hands and pushed him backwards causing him to break a femur.[17] In 2013, two policemen were sentenced fines for assault and breach of duty in connection with stamping on a man’s head onto the asphalt thrice. According to the police, the man of Romani descent resisted, yet according to eyewitnesses, the man did not resist. The event was captured in surveillance video, which was stored but somehow destroyed.[18][19]

Indonesia[edit]

Islamic extremists in Indonesia have been targeted by police as terrorists in the country. Police may either capture or kill dissidents. Cases of police corruption with hidden bank accounts and retaliation against journalists who attempt to uncover these cases have occurred such as in June 2012, when Indonesian magazine Tempo had journalist activists beaten by police. Separately, on August 31, 2013 police officers in Central Sulawesi province fired into a crowd of people protesting the death of a local man in police custody. Five people were killed and 34 injured. History of violence goes back to the military-backed Suharto regime (1967–1998), from which Suharto seized power during an anti-Communist purge.[20]

Criminal investigations into human rights violations by the police are rare, punishments light and Indonesia has no independent national body to deal effectively with public complaints. Amnesty International has called on Indonesia to review police tactics during arrests and public order policing, to ensure that they meet international standards.[21]

Canada[edit]

There have been a number of high profile cases of alleged police brutality including, 2010 G-20 Toronto summit protests,[22] the 2012 Quebec student protests,[23] and the Robert Dziekański taser incident. The recent public incidents in which police judgments or actions have been called into question have raised fundamental concerns about police accountability and governance.[24]

On March 16, 2014, 300 people were arrested in Montreal during a protest against police brutality.[25]

Turkey[edit]

A protester shows his wounded eye. Police brutality was one of the main issues arising from the 2013 protests in Turkey.

Turkey has a history of police brutality, including (particularly between 1977 and 2002) the use of torture. Police brutality featuring excessive use of tear gas (including targeting protestors with tear gas canisters),[26] pepper spray and water cannon as well as physical violence against protestors has been seen, for example, in the suppression of Kurdish protests and May Day demonstrations. The 2013 protests in Turkey were in response to the brutal police suppression of an environmentalist sit-in protesting the removal of Taksim Gezi Park.

In 2012 a number of officials received prison sentences for their role in the death in custody of political activist Engin Çeber.

The European Court of Human Rights has noted the failure of the Turkish investigating authorities to carry out effective investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement personnel during demonstrations.[27]

Egypt[edit]

Police brutality was a major drive behind 2011 Egyptian revolution;[28] the incident of Khaled Said's death and other stories, yet very little has changed since. One of the "demands" around which people decided to take it to the streets in Egypt is "purging the Ministry of Interior" for its brutality and torture practices. Things are said to have gone wrong following the ouster of Morsi regarding police reforms. Police are said to have used brutal force again while dispersing a pro-Morsi sit-in near the Rabaa al-Adawiya square, with the official death toll at nearly 600, in what is said to be one of the most brutal uses of force against civilians in Egypt's modern history.[29]

United States[edit]

Throughout history the United States has seen major political and social movements that have increased the appearance of excessive force, including the civil rights movement of the 1960s, anti-war demonstrations, the War on Drugs, and the Global War on Terrorism.

Causes[edit]

Ian Tomlinson after being pushed to the ground by police in London (2009). He collapsed and died soon after.
Protest against police brutality after the eviction of unemployed demonstrators occupying the Post Office in Vancouver, Canada, 1938

Police officers are legally permitted to use force, and their superiors—and the public — expect them to do so. According to Jerome Herbert Skolnick, in dealing largely with disorderly elements of the society, some people working in law enforcement may gradually develop an attitude or sense of authority over society, particularly under traditional reaction-based policing models; in some cases the police believe that they are above the law.[30]

There are many reasons as to why police officers are excessively aggressive to civilians. It is thought that some personality traits make some officers more susceptible to the use of excessive force than others. In one study police psychologists were surveyed on officers who had used excessive force. The information obtained allowed the researchers to develop five unique types of officers, only one of which was similar to the bad apple stereotype. These include personality disorders, previous traumatic job-related experience, young inexperienced or macho officers; officers who learn inappropriate patrol styles, and officers with personal problems. Schrivers categories group officer that most likely use excessive force.[clarify][31]

However, this "bad apple paradigm" is considered by some to be an "easy way out". A broad report commissioned by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the causes of misconduct in policing calls it "a simplistic explanation that permits the organization and senior management to blame corruption on individuals and individual faults – behavioural, psychological, background factors, and so on, rather than addressing systemic factors."[32] The report goes on to discuss the systemic factors, which include:

  • Pressures to conform to certain aspects of "police culture", such as the Blue Code of Silence, which can "sustain an oppositional criminal subculture protecting the interests of police who violate the law"[33] and a "'we-they' perspective in which outsiders are viewed with suspicion or distrust"[32]
  • Command and control structures with a rigid hierarchical foundation ("results indicate that the more rigid the hierarchy, the lower the scores on a measure of ethical decision-making" concludes one study reviewed in the report);[34] and
  • Deficiencies in internal accountability mechanisms (including internal investigation processes).[32]

Police use of force is kept in check in many jurisdictions by the issuance of a use of force continuum.[35] A use of force continuum sets levels of force considered appropriate in direct response to a subject's behavior. This power is granted by the civil government, with limits set out in statutory law as well as common law.

Violence used by police can be excessive despite being lawful, especially in the context of political repression. Indeed "police brutality" is often used to refer to violence used by the police to achieve politically desirable ends and, therefore, when none should be used at all according to widely held values and cultural norms in the society (rather than to refer to excessive violence used where at least some may be considered justifiable).

Studies show that there are officers who believe the legal system they serve is failing and that it is their duty to pick up the slack. This is known as "vigilantism", where the officer involved may think the suspect deserves more punishment than what they may have to serve under the court system.[36]

Global prevalence[edit]

  • The Amnesty International 2007 report on human rights also documents widespread police misconduct in many other countries, especially countries with authoritarian regimes.[1]
  • In the UK, the reports into the death of New Zealand teacher and anti-racism campaigner Blair Peach in 1979 was published on the Metropolitan Police website on 27 April 2010. The conclusion was that Blair Peach was killed by a police officer, but that the other police officers in the same unit had refused to cooperate with the inquiry by lying to investigators, making it impossible to identify the actual killer.[citation needed]
  • In the UK, Ian Tomlinson was filmed by an American tourist apparently being hit with a baton and then pushed to the floor, as he walked home from work during the 2009 G-20 London summit protests. Tomlinson then collapsed and died. Although he was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, the officer who allegedly assaulted Tomlinson was released without charge.
  • In Serbia, police brutality occurred in numerous cases during protests against Slobodan Milošević, and has also been recorded during protests against governments since Milošević lost power.[citation needed] The most recent case was recorded in July 2010, when five people, including two girls, were arrested, handcuffed and then beaten with clubs and otherwise mistreated for one hour. Security camera recordings of the beating were obtained by the media, causing public outrage.[37][38] The police officials, including Ivica Dačić, the Serbian minister of internal affairs, denied this sequence of events and accused the victims "to have attacked the police officers first". He also publicly stated that "police isn't here to beat up citizens", but that it is known "what one is going to get when attacking the police".[39]
  • Some recent episodes of police brutality in India include the Rajan case, the death of Udayakumar,[40] and of Sampath.[41]
  • Police violence episodes against peaceful demonstrators appeared during the 2011 Spanish protests.[42][43][44] Furthermore, in August 4, 2011, Gorka Ramos, a journalist of Lainformacion was beaten by police and arrested while covering 15-M protests near the Interior Ministry in Madrid.[45][46][47][48][49] A freelance photographer, Daniel Nuevo, was beaten by police while covering demonstrations against Pope's visit in August 2011.[50][51]

Investigation[edit]

In England and Wales, an independent organization known as the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigates reports of police misconduct. They automatically investigate any deaths caused by, or thought to be caused by, police action.

A similar body operates in Scotland, known as the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland. In Northern Ireland the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has a similar role to that of the IPCC and PCCS.

Independent oversight[edit]

Various community groups have criticized police brutality. These groups often stress the need for oversight by independent citizen review boards and other methods of ensuring accountability for police action.

Umbrella organizations and justice committees (often named after a deceased individual or those victimized by police violence) usually engage in a solidarity of those affected. Amnesty International is another organization active in the issue of police brutality. Amnesty International, also known as AI, is a non-governmental organization focused on human rights with over 3 million members and supporters around the world. The stated objective of the organization is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."

Tools used by these groups include video recordings, which are sometimes broadcast using websites such as YouTube.[52]

Citizens and communities have begun independent projects to monitor police activity in an effort to reduce violence and misconduct. These are often called "Cop Watch" programs.[53]

Proper supervision by competent police supervisors and administration can reduce police misconduct.

See also[edit]

General:

US specific:

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Amnesty International Report 2007". Amnesty International. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  2. ^ Martinelli TJ. (2007). Minimizing Risk by Defining Off-Duty Police Misconduct
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  4. ^ "Police officers in trouble: Charges against policeman McManus by his sergeant". New York Times. June 23, 1893. 
  5. ^ Johnson, Marilynn S. (2004). Johnson, ed. Street Justice: A History of Police Violence in New York City. Beacon Press. p. 365. ISBN 0-8070-5023-7. 
  6. ^ Powers, Mary D. (1995). "Civilian Oversight Is Necessary to Prevent Police Brutality". In Winters, Paul A. Policing the Police. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. pp. 56–60. ISBN 1-56510-262-2. 
  7. ^ Locke, Hubert G. (1966–1967). Police Brutality and Civilian Review Boards: A Second Look 44. J. Urb. L. p. 625. 
  8. ^ Kappeler, Victor. "Being Arrested can be Hazardous to your Health, Especially if you are a Person of Color". 
  9. ^ "Chinese censors block news on blind activist's escape - CNN.com". CNN. May 9, 2012. 
  10. ^ http://en.rsf.org/china-police-violence-against-28-02-2011,39643.html
  11. ^ "Cops for hire". The Economist. 
  12. ^ "Russian Police Charged With Torture In Deadly Rape, Death Of Detainee". Huffington Post. March 29, 2012. 
  13. ^ http://tampub.uta.fi/handle/10024/93527
  14. ^ http://www.iltasanomat.fi/kotimaa/poliisi-raiskasi-16-vuotiaan---selvisi-ehdollisella/art-1288335053979.html
  15. ^ http://takku.net/article.php/200710022319038
  16. ^ http://blogit.mtv3.fi/kolmevarttia/2007/10/10/putkat-vailla-tallentavia-kameroita
  17. ^ Iltasanomat 5.6.2010 Poliisi pahoinpiteli vammaisen
  18. ^ http://www.hs.fi/kotimaa/MTV3+Romanimiehen+p%C3%A4%C3%A4t%C3%A4+poljettiin+asvalttiin+poliiseille+sakot/a1379902738575?ref=hs-art-top-7
  19. ^ http://www.mtv3.fi/uutiset/rikos.shtml/2013/09/1809380/poliisi-polki-romanimiehen-paata-asfalttiin
  20. ^ "Cop killers". The Economist. 
  21. ^ http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/indonesia-must-end-impunity-police-violence-2012-04-25
  22. ^ http://rabble.ca/news/2010/07/medics-g20-protests-speak-out-against-police-brutality-0
  23. ^ http://rabble.ca/news/2012/03/police-violence-rise-montreal
  24. ^ http://www.cpc-cpp.gc.ca/cnt/tpsp-tmrs/police/projet-pip-pep-eng.aspx
  25. ^ http://rt.com/news/canada-police-brutality-arrests-166/
  26. ^ "Tear gas as a dangerous weapon". The Economist. 
  27. ^ http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/Pages/search.aspx#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-122885%22]}
  28. ^ "What happened to reform?". The Economist. 
  29. ^ [1]
  30. ^ Skolnick, Jerome H.; Fyfe, James D. (1995). "Community-Oriented Policing Would Prevent Police Brutality". In Winters, Paul A. Policing the Police. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. pp. 45–55. ISBN 1-56510-262-2. 
  31. ^ Scrivner, 1994: 3–6
  32. ^ a b c Loree, Don (2006). "Corruption in Policing: Causes and Consequences; A Review of the Literature" (PDF). Research and Evaluation Community, Contract and Aboriginal Policing Services Directorate. Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Retrieved 2007-09-01. 
  33. ^ Skolnick, Jerome H. (2002). "Corruption and the Blue Code of Silence". Police Practice and Research 3 (1): 7. doi:10.1080/15614260290011309. 
  34. ^ Owens, Katherine M. B.; Jeffrey Pfeifer (2002). "Police Leadership and Ethics: Training and Police Recommendations". The Canadian Journal of Police and Security Services 1 (2): 7. 
  35. ^ Stetser, Merle (2001). The Use of Force in Police Control of Violence: Incidents Resulting in Assaults on Officers. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing L.L.C. ISBN 1-931202-08-7. 
  36. ^ Chevigny, P. (2008). "Police Brutality", In Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict. oxford: Elsevier Science and Technology, 2008.
  37. ^ B92 (video)
  38. ^ Blic (video)
  39. ^ B92: Dačić: Police isn't here to beat up citizens
  40. ^ "Police question forensic experts". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 4 October 2005. 
  41. ^ "Sampath case: 4 police officers to turn approvers". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 17 May 2011. 
  42. ^ Spanish police clash with protesters over clean-up - The Guardian
  43. ^ Los Mossos d'Esquadra desalojan a palos la Plaza de Catalunya - Público (Spanish)
  44. ^ Indignats - Desallotjament de la Plaça Catalunya on YouTube
  45. ^ Spanish riot police clash in Madrid with anti-austerity protesters - The Guardian
  46. ^ Los periodistas, detenidos y golpeados al cubrir las manifestaciones del 15-M - El Mundo (Spanish)
  47. ^ Doce policías para detener a un periodista - Público (Spanish)
  48. ^ Gorka Ramos: "Me tiraron al suelo, me patearon y luego me detuvieron" - Lainformación (Spanish)
  49. ^ La policía detiene al periodista Gorka Ramos - El País (Spanish)
  50. ^ Spanish police officer slaps girl during Pope protests - The Telegraph
  51. ^ La policía golpea a un fotógrafo y a una joven - Público (Spanish)
  52. ^ Veiga, Alex (November 11, 2006). "YouTube.com prompts police beating probe". Associated Press. Retrieved 2006-11-12. [dead link]
  53. ^ Krupanski, Marc (March 7, 2012). "Policing the Police: Civilian Video Monitoring of Police Activity". The Global Journal. Retrieved 2012-03-13. 

Further reading[edit]

  • della Porta, D., A. Peterson and H. Reiter, eds. (2006). The Policing of Transnational Protest. Aldershot, Ashgate.
  • della Porta, D. and H. Reiter (1998). Policing Protest: The Control of Mass Demonstrations in Western Democracies. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.
  • Donner, F. J. 1990. Protectors of Privilege: Red Squads and Police Repression in Urban America. Berkeley, University of California Press.
  • Earl, Jennifer S. and Sarah A. Soule. 2006. "Seeing Blue: A Police-Centered Explanation of Protest Policing." Mobilization 11(2): 145–164.
  • McPhail, Clark, David Schweingruber, and John D. McCarthy (1998). "Protest Policing in the United States, 1960–1995." pp. 49–69 in Policing Protest: The Control of Mass Demonstrations in Western Democracies, edited by D. della Porta and H. Reiter. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Oliver, P. (2008). "Repression and Crime Control: Why Social Movements Scholars Should Pay Attention to Mass Incarceration Rates as a Form of Repression" Mobilization 13(1): 1–24.
  • Ross, J.I. (2000). Making News of Police Violence: A Comparative Study of Toronto and New York City, Westport, CT: Praeger.
  • Zwerman G, Steinhoff P. (2005). "When activists ask for trouble: state-dissident interactions and the new left cycle of resistance in the United States and Japan." In Repression and Mobilization, ed. C. Davenport, H. Johnston, C. Mueller, pp. 85–107. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

External links[edit]