Police Brutality: A Global Phenomenon

Seared into the minds of society are victims of police brutality: Rodney King, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, to name a few. These are some of the specific American police brutality cases that made national and international headlines. Other nations are suffering from a corrupt police force as well. As new videos of police brutality are constantly released and quickly spread throughout all platforms of media, the public’s awareness of police corruption is increasing like never before. Nonetheless, the problem continues to act as a leading issue across the globe, while expressing no signs of improvement.

Cases involving police misconduct are commonly misconceived as having increased dramatically over the years; studies show differently. Official data reported by the F.B.I.’s Uniform Crime Report, which reported the number of killings  by a law enforcement officers in the line of duty, showed that in recent years, deaths have hardly increased, if at all. The aspect of police brutality that is increasing, however, is its connection with media. With the widespread of new technology, the world has access to constantly updated news, as well as the ability to share updated news worldwide, at all times. As a crime story is released, the internet blows up in a matter of seconds.

Police brutality is one of several forms of police misconduct; other forms include false arrest, intimidation, racial profiling, political depression, surveillance abuse, sexual abuse, and police corruption. These acts are displayed throughout police forces worldwide. Though the world is encountering much news relating to white on black crime (in reference to unarmed black men being killed by police), police brutality is a global phenomenon with victims of all races. It extends far beyond the United States.

In February 2017, a total number of 113 people were killed by the police, per data compiled by KilledbyPolice.net, an organization that has been tracking the U.S. police killings since 2013. An annual average of approximately 1,000 civilians are killed by the police force in the United States. Police brutality in the U.S. is bad, but other nations do report to be even worse. Between 2008 and 2013, Brazil recorded an average of 2,200 annual civilian deaths by police, according to data in a Brazilian Public Security Forum (BPSF). Brazilian journalist Juliana Barbassa, in an interview, described the Brazilian police force as expressing some “very ugly cases of abuse of power,” including the torture and killing of civilians, and the hiding of their bodies.

In addition to the Brazilian police force, Sudan and South Sudan are known to have one of the most corrupt police forces in the entire world. Along with other evidence, videos have been leaked online which show law enforcement officers beating people in the street accused of theft. The Sudan police force seemingly acts in its own interests. By requesting bribes in order to pursue criminals and then using physical force to silence the complainers, the police forces of Sudan and South Sudan have a reason to incite fear into the hearts of citizens.

A third example of countries outside the U.S. suffering from police brutality is Haiti, which expresses incredible levels of police brutality. For example, the island Ile a Vache was taken over by government officials who wished to reconstruct the island into a tourist attraction. And with no warning, the island was bulldozed down to nothing; homes of residence were destroyed and people were forced to leave their town. When residents began protesting in hopes of finding answers, like the police forces of Sudan, Haiti police used violence to keep them quiet.

Every reasonable individual with access to the media should now be aware of the realities of police brutality. Not only its revolution of media coverage, but the protests and movements created that followed have since spread the most awareness of the phenomenon that the world has ever seen. The solution to this issue is not an easy fix; evidently there isn’t one singular solution that will solve the problem. The issue must rather be approached from every angle. To find the solution, I first went about researching why police brutality is so low in some countries and incredibly high in others. Specifically, I aimed my research on two countries that are considered to be ranked among the lowest amount of police brutality in the world: Germany and Iceland.

In Germany, officers are required to be put through a rigorous police training, which lasts about 130 weeks (compared to 19 weeks in the U.S.). During training, officers go through extreme pressure situations where they are taught that reaching for a gun may not be the best move, and are taught many alternatives to gun violence, like pepper spray and batons. More police training like Germany’s needs to be required in countries suffering from high amounts of police brutality (if not all other nations).

In Iceland, although the population is relatively small (323,764), the nation has only encountered one reported fatal police shooting. The incident took place in December 2013 when a 59 year old man with a history of mental illness shot at police as they entered his building. Yet, the police officers believe they could have avoided his death. The police department utterly regret the incident when it occurred and wished “to extend its condolences to the man’s family,” national police chief Haraldur Johannessen said. “The nation does not want its police force to carry weapons because it’s dangerous, it’s threatening,” Thora Arnorsdottir says, news editor at RUV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. “It’s a part of the culture. Guns are used to go hunting as a sport, but you never see a gun.” In fact, Iceland ranks 15th in the world in terms of per-capita gun ownership. So how do they do it? How does Iceland manage to have such little violence, yet so many guns? The answer is peace. It’s a mentality. Countries ought to strive for peace. Whether it be by encouraging governments to supports peaceful policies, joining local peace movements, or just simply choosing to be a peacemaker. Striving for peace can minimize police violence.

Stacey Patton, in her article “Stop Beating Black Children,” suggests a root to this issue and why it persists, as well as a very thought out, clever solution. Black parents are twice as likely to beat their children as a form of punishment, compared to white and Latino parents. Patton argues when it comes to white on black crime, these incidents are linked with the violence that black children experience in their homes. By black parents beating their kids, they are not only sending the message that the only way to make their child obedient is through violence, but also they are teaching children that obedience is their greatest virtue, argues Patton. She continues by arguing that by black parents allowing themselves to engage in corporal punishment, they are only allowing white supremacy to continue succeeding at its job of “getting black people to continue its trauma work and call it ‘love’ [pertaining to ‘tough love’].” Essentially, Patton is arguing that black parents beating their children to discipline them is only telling law enforcement that in order to discipline a black human being, physical force must be used. So, in addition to the beneficial outcome of safer and healthier children, perhaps Patton’s proposal of encouraging less violent disciplinary measures will also help minimize police violence against black people.

Clearly, police brutality is a global issue. Although some nations encounter more violence than others, it would be beneficial for the safety of everyone if police brutality became reduced worldwide.