Police brutality

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You can truly grieve for every officer who's been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards.
Jon Stewart[1]

Police brutality is the use of excessive and/or suppressive force by (otherwise legitimate) police. This should be made distinct from force by a secret or foreign (illegitimate) occupying force or police inaction that allows a third party to initiate force (such as Orval Faubus standing down the police force so that mobs could harass black students trying to integrate into a segregated school), though the lines can get blurry.

While police brutality gets the most attention when it's done against an emergent or temporary movement, police brutality is often a continuing problem. It's also noteworthy that police brutality rarely happens as an initiating force for change; indeed, police brutality tends to intensify when direct action is aimed directly at the status quo. Contrast the hostility of police towards American civil rights versus their ambiguity towards the first and second incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan.

Interestingly, when police brutality gets bad enough, the military often comes to the side of the populace. This might be because the job of the police is to defend the status quo and the job of the military is to protect the people.[2] Of course, if the military is also functioning as the police, all bets are off.

However, the perception of the military to be "on the side of the people" (at least more often than the police) may, in fact, be a contributing factor in the enduring popularity and power of military dictatorships. Apart of course from Mao's quote that "political power originates from the barrel of a gun". On the other hand, a dictator who relies on the military for power is more likely to be overthrown by the military than one who relies on a hand-picked police is to be overthrown by said police. As Yeltsin said, "You can build a throne out of bayonets, but you can't sleep on it".

Police brutality and authoritarianism[edit]

While it should be obvious that police brutality is the first line of defense for an authoritarian regime's hold on power, distressingly often citizens in a republic encourage police brutality as an impetus to keep down citizens of a "bad" subgroup. You can blame citizens' and their politicians' fetishism for "tough on crime", which leads to a spiraling increase of force.

Black Lives Matter[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Black Lives Matter

Recently in the US, police brutality (specifically against unarmed black people) has come back into focus. This is most likely not due to it becoming more widespread, but rather due to cell phones with video capability catching more and more of those acts[3] and thus shattering the stories of policemen who were acting in self-defense. Whether guns or the lack of training[4] of police officers play a role has not yet been discussed all that much. However, surprisingly often police departments that have problems with police brutality against minorities have also had accusations of racism against them or even a department head who takes part in KKK rallies in his spare time. This, of course, is entirely coincidental.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. https://www.thenation.com/article/after-death-two-cops-right-wing-media-demonize-blacklivesmatter-protests/
  2. This is usually the same thing, because the status quo gives us awesomeness like running water and trains running on time (but not always).
  3. BY THE NUMBERS: HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE KILLED BY POLICE? AUGUST 19, 2014 BY DANIEL BIER: "It’s not obvious that such killings are dramatically more common than they used to be. It may just be that in the digital age, we are much more aware of them." Or maybe not: Updated BY THE NUMBERS: HOW OFTEN DO COPS KILL? JULY 13, 2016 BY DANIEL BIER
  4. A police officer in Europe goes through two or more years of training; in the US it is rather something like eight weeks.[citation needed]