The Use of Force Should Not Be Abused by the Police

Black Lives Matter (BLM) was founded by Alicia Garza with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. Originally introduced as #BlackLivesMatter on Twitter after the Trayvon Martin was killed and his killer, George Zimmerman’s, subsequent acquittal. The movement has since gained support, becoming more widely known after organized protests erupted in Ferguson after police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown.1 According to the BLM website, “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise”.

The movement seeks to address the institutional racism ingrained in government and law enforcement that not only disenfranchise black individuals by denying them equal opportunities for success, but can be literally life threatening. The failure of the judicial system to convict killers like Darren Wilson and George Zimmerman undermine the inherent worth of black lives and decisively advertises that black individuals are still seen as “less-than” despite claims (or hopes) that we might live in a post- racial society.

There is no easy way to address racism in a society that was built on racism and in which racism has been ingratiated in every power structure that influences its citizens for more than two-hundred years. However, there are policy options which could serve to improve the mistreatment of black individuals by the oppressive power structures that reign over society. One of the more pressing issues is police brutality. The vicious mistreatment of black individuals by law enforcement is documented in the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland.

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More than that, the racial bias in police shooting is statistically significant: “the probability of being black, unarmed, and shot by police is about 3.49 times the probability of being white, unarmed, and shot by police, on average’. The use of lethal force before implementing de- escalation techniques or the use of non-lethal force is largely responsible for many of these unnecessary deaths.

The policy solution in this case must prevent the unnecessary use of lethal force, increase the probability that officers who abuse their position will be held responsible for their actions, and address the clear racial bias among these events. It should be cost effective and easily integrated into the existing system (because while a total overhaul of the law enforcement and judicial systems might seem preferable at times it is by no means realistic). The criteria for the policy to address these issues is relatively simple because the issues themselves are really very simple.

Innocent people should not be killed. Guilty people should be tried and convicted. People should be judged by their actions and not the color of their skin. The greater implications of these issues and how they fit into a society in which racism has always existed as a part of governing power structures is much more complicated, but the issues themselves are not, and the criteria, that the issues are addressed appropriately and efficiently, are not very complicated either.

The use of lethal force as a first resort in any situation should be entirely unacceptable. De-escalation techniques should be taught in training and applied in every situation. One option to prevent the unnecessary use of lethal force is to prevent law enforcement officers from carrying lethal weapons. This would definitively prevent unnecessary shootings. However, the likelihood that policy like this would pass, particularly given the rather lax gun laws that apply to the civilian population, is very low. Even with the exclusive use of non-lethal weapons and carefully applied de-escalation techniques in the field, the fact remains that there is still a racial bias. There is no policy that can accurately prevent racism.

However, mandatory sensitivity training could serve to inform and educate officers who may hold false beliefs about different people groups which could result in racially motivated actions in the field. In any case, officers must be held responsible for their actions. Body cams provide complete coverage of the officer’s actions on every call. This conclusive evidence could serve to absolve innocent individuals and condemn those who should be rightly prosecuted.

It is impossible and unreasonable for any policy to address the behavior of law-abiding civilians. That is to say, to impose restrictions on how citizens behave, so long as it is legal and not harmful to themselves or others, would be a gross violation of basic civil rights. Local law enforcement officers, however, are expected to undergo rigorous training so that they can serve and protect citizens. Anyone who is expected to intervene in high-stress, high-stakes, and potentially life threatening situations, not to mention moving about the local civilian population with a loaded fire arm, should be well-trained to manage those situations and minimize potential damage as much as possible. A frequent assertion by officers who have been accused of unnecessary shootings have cited that they feared for their life and felt that they were in danger.

However, in many of these cases, there are no attempts to de-escalate the situation or use non- lethal force to take a suspect into custody. A longer and more rigorous training period for local law enforcement officers could very well prove to be more cost effective in the long run, as fewer “mistakes” would be made in the field, but it would also remove the excuse that they were somehow unprepared or unable to manage a situation without resorting to lethal force right away.

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The Use of Force Should Not Be Abused by the Police. (2023, Feb 19). Retrieved from

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