Police brutality: Officers not excused from acting inhumanely
Police brutality stories in American society are no longer a rare occurrence; many have become so desensitized to these reports that it barely stirs a reaction out of them any longer. And if these stories still do get a reaction, it is usually distrust and outrage for the people who serve and protect.
This is the problem then: some police are abusing the power that was given to them in confidence of our protection, and more people are beginning to distrust police indiscriminately because of these unjust actions.
This past Sunday, a 25-year-old Baltimore citizen named Freddie Gray died in a hospital after suffering extreme injuries during an arrest. According to USA Today, “his spine was 80 percent severed at his neck.”
Injuries like these don’t just happen in a car ride.
But according to the Washington Post, the police department in question tried to play this injury off as spontaneous.
“When he was placed inside that van, he was able to talk, he was upset,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez. “And when Mr. Gray was taken out of the van, he could not talk, he could not breathe.”
Baltimore, like many other communities, responded with an outcry at not just the death of this man but at the justification with which the officers used to arrest said man.
“Officers said in a court document justifying the arrest that they were in a high-crime area on that Sunday morning and that Gray, who was 5-foot-8 and 145 pounds, ran when he saw them, prompting a pursuit. The officers said they then found a switchblade in his pocket and arrested him,” according to the Washington Post.
According to the Guardian Liberty Voice there’s been “disintegrating relations between police and communities across the country,” and with consequences like these, it’s not hard to see why.
Police aren’t properly punished for acts of violence against those their badge claims they should protect and serve, and courts of law let them get away with their actions by giving them excuses like “it was not an officer’s job to protect the public but only to enforce the law.”
Among UH students, there is distrust when it comes to the police and their power.
“I definitely think they are (abusing their power), at least the ones that appear on TV,” said Edward Ansong, a computer science sophomore. “Not all cops are the same, of course, but there needs to be structure of laws and what they can do, because they’re doing just about anything they can get away with and not really being punished for it.”
“Being put on a desk job or having unpaid vacation isn’t really punishment.”
While many others agree with Ansong, there are those who are more forgiving. Perhaps this stems from accepting that all humans make mistakes — and yes, police officers are humans — or maybe it comes from something else.
“As far as being in the weaker position and you’re about to be arrested, I think it’s best to submit to the law in that moment,” said Ashley Lewis, a math senior. “But in those cases, I definitely think that they just took advantage of the power that they have over civilians.”
There is room for forgiveness in these incidents, but not too much room. It’s not to say that all police officers are bad, but lately the perception of the American police force is negative.
These “hotheaded reactions to a real or imagined insult … an act performed in a flash of anger,” has people fearing those that they ought to be glad for, according to Newsweek.
When there are incidents popping up every day where police kill and injure people for no legal reason, gaining celebrity status in the process and not receiving proper punishment, it has even the most law-abiding citizens wondering if they’ll be next just for looking at cops the wrong way.
Opinion columnist Nicollette Greenhouse is a creative writing senior and may be reached at [email protected]