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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 - as distinct from force used by secret police or by a foreign (illegitimate) occupying force or police inaction that allows a third party to initiate force (such as Orval Faubus standing down the police force in 1957 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. Note too that police brutality rarely happens as an initiating force for change; indeed, police brutality tends to intensify when direct action aims directly at the status quo. Contrast the hostility of police towards American civil-rights activists 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. Of course, if the military is also functioning as the police, all bets are off.

However, the perception of the military as "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.

Instruments of brutality[edit]


The weapon of gun is a favorite, and this rings especially true in the United States of America, where it is assumed everyone owns a gun or two, hence why the police freak out if the odd Australian steps out of their cars to confront officers. Has seen use in many notable cases, such as the death of Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead by George Zimmerman, the death of Botham Jean, who was shot in his own apartment by an off-duty cop,[2] the shooting of Charles Kinsey where a toy truck was mistaken for a firearm,[3] and, unfortunately, many more that would be too comprehensive for this page to list. Some countries don't arm their police with guns, most notably Britain.[4] According to the Police Shootings Database, almost 1000 people get shot to death every year, though most shootings are justified, as many suspects were either carrying a weapon themselves or were acting aggressive towards the officers (such as trying ton seize their weapons).[5] A disproportionate amount of victims have mental health problems (keep in mind the stigmatization of these mental health problems and their association with violence), and the police receive a paltry amount of training and resources dealing with this, required only between 5 and 10 hours of training.[6] Out of the 1099 shootings in 2019, 24% of the victims have been black, despite being only 13% of the population.[7]

Electric Guns[edit]

Also known as Tasers or stun guns, these electric-powered weapons that fire two prongs are a less-than-lethal measure used to incapacitate suspects, such as dangerous 10 year olds who refuse to take a shower,[8] menacing old ladies,[9] and the equally threatening unconscious diabetic, 11 times just to be safe.[10] When used properly, however, they are more likely to keep a suspect alive than guns are, though it may be lethal to people who have heart disease, seizures, or are using a pacemaker; children, elderly people, pregnant women, and thin people are at higher risk of serious damage.[11] Other potentially serious side effects that may occur from taser deployment can contribute from falling on hard surfaces, operating hard machinery, or places where explosive or flammable material are present. Another way that tasers could be used is to "Drive Stun" people; in other words, deliver a painful shock as a pain compliance technique (or torture in other other words).

Another problem with tasers is that although they are a less-than-lethal option, their reduced chance to cause long-lasting damage has occasionally led to the increase use of them.[12] For example, the Baltimore Sun in Maryland found that the officers that used them fail to meet safety guidelines and used them against people who posed no immediate threat.[13] In fact, most states don't have Taser standards, with only Connecticut and Vermont adopting statewide policies.

Beanbag Guns[edit]

A less-than-lethal measure that loads a shotgun with a pillow filled with fluffy feathers lead. The weapon short-term incapacitates people if aimed at large muscle groups, though head shots can cause death, and hitting the ribs can cause fractures or pierce the heart and lungs. Unintended discharge additionally has killed two suspects.[14][15] A young woman during the 2019 Hong Kong protests may lose sight in the right eye after being hit with a bean bag on the face.[16]


Unfortunately not primarily used to conduct orchestras, these heavy, blunt sticks that are also known as nightsticks can be used to brutally beat people up. While they have their uses, such as breaking windows to free trapped people, breaking windows to free (and then cuff) trapped sovcit idiots in their cars, and self-defense, abuse of the heavy, blunt sticks onto people can have deadly consequences. A famous example of an incident is Rodney King, where he was beaten up by LAPD officers for 15 minutes after he was chased.[17] After the acquittal, a giant riot started, which ignited the conversation surrounding racial and economic disparity and police brutality.

Pepper Spray[edit]

Loaded with capsaicin, these canisters can be used to keep rabid animals at bay, which include sitting protestors at a universityWikipedia and Hong Kong protestorsWikipedia. Aimed at the eyes, and they strongly irritate them to the point of incapacitating a violent person. Though like a lot of less-than-lethal methods, some people just don't get fazed by it.[18] Like tasers, it also requires the police to be close to the suspect and it must be aimed directly at the eyes to stop them. It's also been misused by a lot of crazy people as well, so unlike most weapons listed here, you don't need a badge to abuse it.[note 1]


Rodney King[edit]

A widely covered incident that involves Rodney King and the LAPD.[19][20][21][17] In March 3, 1992, after a high speed chase, King was dragged out of the vehicle and was brutally beaten by LAPD officers over 50 times, where King suffered 11 fractures and multiple other injuries due to the beating. Although the officers were tried for charges on assault with a deadly weapon and excessive force, the officers were acquitted by a predominantly white jury, which sparked the 1992 violent riots in Los AngelesWikipedia. The riots left more than 50 people dead, more than 2,000 people injured, caused over $1 billion worth of damage, 12,000 people arrested, and more than 9,800 California National Guard troops deployed[22] alongside other branches of the military. Mayor Tom Bradley was against the verdict, saying "Today that jury asked us to accept the senseless and brutal beating of a helpless man." On the third day of the riots, Rodney King was quoted saying, "People, I just want to say, can't we all get along? Can't we all get along?"

In June of 1993, police chief Daryl Gates was forced to resign and was replaced by a black chief, Willie Williams, whereas, Bradley chose not to run for a sixth term as mayor. The United States Department of Justice then filed two civil suits against four of the officers, where two of them, Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell were found guilty, served 30 months in prison, and did not return to the police force while King was awarded $3.8 million for the injuries he sustained. The other two officers, Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno were fired from the LAPD.

In social media[edit]

One has to be careful when relying on viral incidents in social media such as Twitter or Facebook to properly document accusations of police brutality. While there are some legitimate cases of police brutality that spun from viral incidents on social media,[23] there are plenty of examples to be in the lookout for, but the general trend of the videos recorded on social media is that the interaction occurs at the climatic peak,[24] sometimes deliberately cherry-picked to solicit an emotional response from the viewers, which make for a sensational story, but not the one necessarily driven by a matter of-fact. Some viral incidents perpetrated also originate from a lack of understanding of police tactics (such as mistaking a beanbag shotgun for a real one or misunderstanding how a taser works) or any sort of prior history on why the police react towards a suspect; on-lookers are not going to be aware that the person the police are chasing after may be a dangerous, armed criminal who has recently robbed a store, for example. One example is an incident in Hyattsville, Maryland where 10 officers shoot what appears to be an unarmed, wandering suspect down, where the tweet sourced got viral.[25] In actuality, the suspect was carrying two knives, aggressively charged at them and resisted the officer's nonlethal measures (tasers, pepper spray, beanbags, and a flashbang grenade) to put the guy down.[26][27] Certainly, this incident is not the only viral incident to be on the look out for, but one should understandably be skeptical of such incidents and look up sources to get a fuller picture of the entire incident, as well as wait until investigations are played out before throwing any accusations of mistreatment.

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[28] and thus shattering the stories of policemen who were acting in self-defense. Whether guns or the lack of training[29] 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]


  1. If you take a look at recent pepper spray incidents on the news, many of the incidents have been perpetrated by criminals rather than the police.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Plain View Project, a database containing horrific posts made by police officers, both current and former.


  1. https://www.thenation.com/article/after-death-two-cops-right-wing-media-demonize-blacklivesmatter-protests/
  2. Allyn, Bobby. (October 2, 2019). Amber Guyger, Ex-Officer Who Killed Man In His Apartment, Given 10 Years In Prison. NPR. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  3. Neuman, Scott. (June 18, 2019). Miami Officer Acquitted Of Attempted Manslaughter In Shooting Of Caregiver. NPR. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  4. Rathi, Akshat (June 4, 2017). Even with all these terror attacks, it’s still very rare to see police with guns in England. Quartz. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  5. Police Shootings Database. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  6. Pauly, M. (October 11, 2013). "How Police Officers Are (or Aren’t) Trained in Mental Health" The Atlantic. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  7. Mapping Police Violence.
  8. Allen, Nick. (Nov 19, 2009). Taser gun used on 10-year-old girl who 'refused to take shower'. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  9. Raw Video: Cop Tasers 72 Year-Old Granny. Wired. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  10. Fallon, Sean. (December 30, 2019). Cop Tasers Unconscious Diabetic 11 Times. Gizmodo. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  11. Zipes, Douglas P. , MD (March 19, 2012). Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Death Following Application of Shocks from a TASER Electronic Control Device. American Heart Association. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  12. Editorial Board. (April 12, 2020). Police use Tasers with increasing frequency — and some lethal results. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  13. Police in Maryland didn't follow Taser safety recommendations in hundreds of incidents. Baltimore Sun. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  14. Fourkiller, Larkin. (April 6, 2020). Understanding less lethal options. Officer.com. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  15. Less-Lethal: Bean-Bag Rounds. POLICE Magazine. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  16. Ramsay, Stuart. (August 11, 2019). Hong Kong protests: Police in no mood for compromise now. Sky News. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Karen Grigsby. Sastry, Anjuli. Bates,(April 26, 2017). When LA Erupted In Anger: A Look Back At The Rodney King Riots. NPR. Retrieved April 5, 2020.
  18. (March 31, 2020). Police: Partially Naked Man Tased After Being Unfazed by Pepper Spray. Arlnow. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  19. Rodney King. Biography. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  20. Wallenfeldt, Jeff. (Feb 13, 2020). Los Angeles Riots Fast Facts. CNN. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  21. Los Angeles Riots of 1992. Britannica. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  22. Staff. (Sep 18, 2013). Los Angeles Riots Fast Facts CNN. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  23. Like this example, where, while the family pulled over did have a suspended license, didn't pull over when traffic-stopped, and had shoplifted a store, it is utterly inexcusable to threaten a mother holding a baby to "Put a fucking cap in your fucking head!". The good news is that those two officers got punished for it, with the shouting man getting fired and his partner getting a written reprimand.
  24. Take a look at this incident on Buzzfeed, complete with clickbait headlines, where the viral tweets fail to mention that the officers were responding to a shots fired call. The footage in question isn't even all that violent as it says it is, it's simply a bunch of cops dogpiling on a suspect, which is sometimes necessary to detain a person who really does not want to be detained.
  25. Twitter post about the incident. TRIGGER WARNING ON THE VIDEO, it shows officers gunning a guy down. Twitter. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  26. Ray, Rashawn. (October 16, 2019). What does the shooting of Leonard Shand tell us about the mental health of civilians and police?. Brookings. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  27. Donut Operator. (Sep 30, 2019). TEN COPS shoot one guy in Hyattsville, Maryland - Liar Liar Pants on Fire. YouTube. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  28. 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
  29. 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]