Whether you like them or not, the truth is undeniable – law enforcement agencies across the world have a tendency to overextend their reach and use excessive force when said force is not an acceptable response to the offender’s actions. Now, before anyone lambasts this article as a slur against the police, I would like to make it clear that this does not apply to everyone and that I do truly believe that there are some exceptional policemen who risk everything in the pursuit of justice, and it is those men and women who I salute. The real question about this subject is, however, why? Why do police officers from all corners of the world use excessive brutality and why do they feel the need to physically injure suspects even when they pose no threat and in some cases, after they have submitted to the arrest?
I do not consider myself an expert on psychoanalysis, but nonetheless I do feel like some conclusions can be drawn after a bit of research into these cases. Mostly, excessive use of force is about the feeling of dominance wearing the uniform brings – abusive or rogue police officers have a tendency to emphasise this superiority complex by using physical abuse to prove the point.
There is also the issue with the legal framework that protects an abusive police officer; the burden of proof. The burden of proof (Latin: onus probandi) is the imperative on a party in a trial to produce the evidence that will shift the conclusion away from the default position [the offending officer’s statement] to one’s own position [the version of the accused]. Therefore, it is much more likely that an abusive officer can get away with it when the case has to be investigated by the police themselves, especially when evidence must be presented by the accused.
Even when evidence presented by the accused turns out to be overwhelming and the case actually goes to court, usually it ends with the officer being kicked out of the force at most and in rare cases, maybe some probation or minimal jail time. In most cases, however, other police officers tend to intervene and cover-up the evidence so the case doesn’t even go public. Upon perusing about this topic, another question springs to mind; how and why do they get away with it? This is mostly achieved via the exploitation of the psychological repercussions of a racist, ignorant political culture. The fear of crime is instilled inside our minds from the beginning of our education (“don’t talk to foreigners”, “don’t talk to the man with the tattoos”, “be careful around that neighbourhood”), and this leads to a society made up of people who are practically programmed to value tough policing (in order to quench the fear of crime) instead of due procedure and justified persecution.
The only way to fight something like this is to educate people about their rights and make sure that evidence of brutality is crushingly overwhelming to the point where not even the Commissioner would be able to get away with it. ‘How would that be possible?’ is what you might be asking yourself right now; well, experiments with body-camera technology in Rialto, California yielded the following results: “The findings suggest more than a 50% reduction in the total number of incidents of use-of-force compared to control-conditions, and nearly ten times more citizens’ complaints in the 12-months prior to the experiment.”
In truth, no sophisticated body technology or strict internal conduct policy could manage to eradicate a problem which is inside our minds. What the world could definitely use is a stark reminder that ultimately, we are all human and we are all the same.