Police Accountability and Brutality in the United States

Police Accountability and Brutality

Police officers have great powers to carry out their duties (Smith & Holmes, 2014). The constitution, however, has created boundaries on how far a police officer should go when enforcing the law. Corrupt practices and misconduct, despite the similarities in the persons involved, mean different things. Corruption is the abuse of the authority by the police for personal gain, and the end results are always likely to be profit or a material benefit obtained as a consequence of the illegal use of authority by the officer. On the other hand, police misconduct is the procedural violation of civil rights, federal laws, and departmental rules and regulations (Chaney & Robertson, 2013).  The principal purpose of the nation’s civil rights law is to guard the citizens against police misconducts and also from abuses by the government. Civil right laws allow compensatory and punitive damage and attorney fees as incentives for victimized parties to enforce their rights.

A law referred to as Section 1983 is the major civil rights norms police victims’ misconduct depend on. The was first passed by as a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which was meant to lower oppressive conducts by private persons involved in vigilante groups, as well as the government. Federal law, through both civil and criminal statutes, critically targets the misconducts of police. The law applies to all local, county, and state officers. The law makes it an offense for any individual acting with police authority to conspire to deny or deny another person of any right protected by the laws or constitution of the United States. Police misconduct provision, another statute, also makes it unlawful for local and state officers to be involved in practice or pattern of conduct depriving any person the rights (Skolnick & Fyfe, 1993). One of the recent developments in this sector has been realized with the Justice Department, in which the civil rights division evaluated the shortcomings concerning misconduct accountability. The victimized cities agreed to use this reforms to fight the war against violation practices to bar the Justice Department from taking them to court as a result of injustice action (Miller, 2015).

One of the most often asserted claims against the police is the false arrest. Most people who bring such claims have always declared, with lots of assurance, that the police violated their Fourth Amendment right (Hutto & Green, 2016). In case the arresting officer had probable causes and reasons to believe the person had committed a crime, the Fourth Amendment, according to the stature, is not violated and the arrest is also said to be reasonable. The stature also allows the police to arrest those who break law in their presence despite lacking an arrest warrant. The federal law seems not to care even if the information that the police officers relied upon were unreal. According to the act, the police officer is not liable for the accuracy of the information during the time of arrest (Lawrence, 2000). For the victim to prevail on a claim of false arrest, one must show sufficient facts and reasons as to why the police officer had no reasons, most likely crime related, which would cause arrest. For any individual to win a claim related to Fourteenth Amendment right to freedom, the victim must bring out four things, as demanded by law. The victim must show the defendant police started a criminal proceeding, then was no probable cause, the proceedings concluded with the victim’s favor, and the proceedings were brought with ill will towards the victim. In accordance to false arrests, the claim has no chance to being justified if in any case, the police had any probable cause to begin the criminal proceedings. Another claim comes in the manner of excessive force.

Claims about use of excessive force have a lot of publicity, and this can be attributed to their outrageous outcomes, commonly resulting in death or serious physical injury. Judging the intensity of the force applied by the police depends on surrounding circumstances and facts. The motivations or intentions of the officer are not controlling. If the magnitude of the force was reasonable, then the intentions of the police officer do not matter. The unreasonable application of force by the departments of police, together with unjustified shootings, fatal choking, rough treatment, and severe beatings, persists due to the barriers of accountability that make it easy for police officers to escape punishment and even repeat the same mistakes (Chaney & Robertson, 2013). Public or police officials always deny reports of brutality or shift the whole scenario and make it an aberration, the criminal and administrative systems, on the other hand, virtually affirm them impurity instead of deterring them abuse through holding them accountable. The obstacles to accountability are similar from city to city (Smith & Holmes, 2003). Deficiencies in management, recruitment, and training are also common to all. Officers, although a small minority, therefore repeatedly violate human rights and taint the whole department of police but are occasionally protected by other police officers supported by the flawed reporting systems, accountability, and oversight (Collins, 1998).

Claims pertaining civil rights are a critical section of the legal system, with the aim of giving a balance between the individual rights to be free from the misconducts of police, and the duty of law enforcement to maintain the law. With controversies, the legal system tends to give the police a lot of undeserved power. Indeed it is right for any individual, more so those involved in police deeds, to feel they are mistreated. The expensive nature of defending one’s self is completely evident with the quantity of evidence needed, included statements of witnesses, declarations of police, records, and a variety of other documentations, to justify the claim of misconduct. All these facts taken into consideration, the court system tends ti have a hand in violation of civil rights.


Smith, B. W., & Holmes, M. D. (2003). Community accountability, minority threat, and police brutality: An examination of civil rights criminal complaints.Criminology41(4), 1035-1064.

Smith, B. W., & Holmes, M. D. (2014). Police use of excessive force in minority communities: A test of the minority threat, place, and community accountability hypotheses. Social Problems61(1), 83-104.

Collins, A. (1998). Shielded from justice: Police brutality and accountability in the United States. Human Rights Watch.

Chaney, C., & Robertson, R. V. (2013). Racism and police brutality in America. Journal of African American Studies17(4), 480-505.

Miller, M. (2015). Police Brutality. Yale Law & Policy Review17(1), 4.

Lawrence, R. G. (2000). The politics of force: Media and the construction of police brutality. Univ of California Press.

Skolnick, J. H., & Fyfe, J. J. (1993). Above the law: Police and the excessive use of force (pp. 43-48). New York: Free Press.

HuttoSr, J. W., & Green, R. D. (2016). Social Movements Against Racist Police Brutality and Department of Justice Intervention in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Journal of Urban Health93(1), 89-121.

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