1

Running head: POLICE BRUTALITY

Derek Platte
Police Brutality Crippling a Nation
Grand Valley State University

POLICE BRUTALITY

2

Abstract
This research paper involves the concept of police brutality in the United States. The purpose of
this research paper is to answer the question, what outlook does today’s public have on our
nation’s police forces? This question is researched and answered using peer reviewed articles
from databases and Google. The way results were found was using the Boolean research method
in the databases and basic research method in google. The results were a little biased but overall
the right research done and the appropriate data was found. Based on the results, the citizens of
America are more paranoid of police officers rather than feeling safe or protected. The data was
up to date but the topic should actually be constantly monitored for the better of the country.
Keywords: brutality, corruption, paranoid, warrants, warranted.

POLICE BRUTALITY

3

Police Brutality Crippling a Nation
“Statistics from the NPMSRP were compiled between the months of April 2009 and June
2010. During this time, there were 5,986 reports of misconduct, 382 fatalities linked to
misconduct, settlements and judgments that totaled $347,455,000” (Chaney & Robertson, 2013).
Police brutality has been a big problem in our world for years and years. Even in the United
States, it has been a huge problem. The first known use of the phrase, “police brutality,” was in
the New York Times in 1893 (“Police officers in trouble: Charges against policeman McManus
by his sergeant”, 1893). This concept of brutality has not strayed from the original meaning very
much if at all over the years. We all have our own version of the definition but we can all agree
on the dictionary definition which is: “the use of excessive physical force or verbal assault and
psychological intimidation” (Walker, 2011, p. 579). The excessive and/or unnecessary force can
be either physical, as in using a blunt force weapon of any kind, or emotional, as in verbal jabs of
any variety. For example, a situation of police brutality of the physical kind is:
A short film called Operation Small Axe, directed by Adimu Madyun, offers the clearest
video. Its vantage point is through the train door, where a disturbance had occurred. We
see Grant sitting on the platform between two companions, backs to the wall with police
guarding them in front. The scene seems stable. From the left side of the frame, a
uniformed man suddenly approaches the men under guard. He and another officer lift
Grant from the platform and then throw him face down. To break his fall, Grant's hands
move beneath his body. The police struggle with him to get his hands in position for
handcuffing. Because they are sitting on him, they are prevented from doing so. With two
cops already on Grant, Mehserle appears to be superfluous and unable to participate.
Although under no threat, he feels the necessity to act, responding to an arbitrary drive.

POLICE BRUTALITY

4

He draws his gun and shoots Grant. The excuse that he thought he was reaching for his
Taser is totally false. His Taser was on the left side of his body and the gun on the right.
The video shows his right hand move seamlessly to the gun on his right hip. (Martinot,
2012)
This example is a clear case of police brutality because of the unnecessary use of the firearm by
the police officer. This whole situation could have been avoided if the officers approached the
situation like this:
They could have said, "stand up, we're going to handcuff you, you're being arrested."
Instead, they threw him down. The only struggle or resistance was that created by the
police themselves. Grant was to be handcuffed as the victim of an arbitrary police action.
He appeared to resist handcuffing because the police had his hands pinned under his
body. He appeared to be disobedient because the police had created his disobedience for
him. (Martinot, 2012)
The need for any type of force is unwarranted in this example. However, cases like this rarely
come about in the United States.
The Grant example shows that there are some bad apples employed by our nation’s police
forces but they are few and far between. However, all it takes to sour a reputation of a big group
is a few incidents with the wrong members.
It is also no secret that police brutality is said to be racist based. This has been an issue in
our country for quite some time now. To illustrate this point, take for example that African
Americans have a biased opinion towards the police force because of past happenings. However,
Caucasian people have a biased opinion as well. That’s just the way the world works so we have
to take the numbers as is.

POLICE BRUTALITY

5

With this in mind, police brutality videos have been popping up on social media more
and more as the awareness grows. The initial opinions are split up to those who see videos on fb
and those that have experience like law enforcement officials and children of those officials.
Based on this split of views the research is warranted because the public needs more education
on the altercations that happen because sometimes it may seem harsh but necessary. Also,
education on this topic would be beneficial to clear the table of any false judgment based upon
one bad experience with law enforcement or an opinion from an outside source. However, these
videos that pop up on social media sites are mostly true brutality cases. That’s how they make
the news right? From the opposite view, the public also needs to see true police brutality for their
best interest and safety. Having knowledge of both sides is important. For example, most people
that have the judgment of police officers beating on civilians without justification just because
they can, change their views because they are more familiar with the law after experiencing both
points of view. Stop and think about it for a second. Does a judge in court provide a ruling after
only listening to the plaintiff? No, because in order to make a fair ruling the judge must listen to
both sides then make an informed decision.
All of this builds up to answering my research question. What outlook does today’s
public have on our nation’s police forces? Police forces were created to protect and serve but do
people nowadays feel safe when an officer is around or paranoid?
Methodology
To complete this secondary research paper the objective is to do as much research as
possible so you can sound credible in your paper. Before I dove in to endless resources, I
established some keywords that are associated with my topic. These keywords were part of my

POLICE BRUTALITY

6

problem statement and the keywords were: brutality, corruption, paranoid, warrants, and
warranted. The next thing I did is thought of synonyms to these keywords. My first research
problem was too broad. Also my first research question was more of a yes or no question. These
were revised and worked out well. I used the keywords to search for the answer to the question
using google and Grand Valley State University’s databases. The database I used was General
One file.
The sources used in this paper are all peer reviewed articles from journals and
newspapers. These articles contained keywords that I used as well but also had some like: racism
and African American. Between the two search engines I used to form this paper, the most useful
was Grand Valley State University’s database, General One file. This database provides peer
reviewed articles that come from journals, newspapers, magazines, and books. In General One
file I used the Boolean search method entering a keyword and a phrase using quotations. This
was useful because it really narrowed my results and saved me a lot of time.
Google was only used to define words and a single newspaper article. Since it was used
simply I did not use any specific search technique. I only ended up using one citation from the
Google search engine.
Results
To restate my research question, what outlook does today’s public have on our nation’s
police forces? My hypothesis is that currently in this day and age the citizens of our country are
more paranoid and afraid of the police force. Again, the purpose of the police is to serve and
protect but the few incidents of brutality could spoil the reputations.

POLICE BRUTALITY
My first finding I would like to present came from a peer reviewed article published in a
high regarded journal. It was written by two successful authors. This is a primary research study
that played out like this:
The survey, which involved approximately 978 non-Hispanic Whites and 1,010 Blacks,
revealed a divergence in attitudes between Blacks and Whites concerning the criminal
justice system. For instance, 38 % of Whites and 89 % of Blacks viewed the criminal
justice system as biased against Blacks. Additionally, 8 % of Blacks and 56 % of Whites
saw the criminal justice system as treating Blacks fairly. Perhaps most revealing when it
comes to facilitating an environment ripe for police brutality against Black males, 68 %
of Whites and only 18 % of Whites expressed confidence in law enforcement. (Tonry,
2011)
This data is split up fairly evenly on the view of the police but it leans a little more towards the
fact that people these days are paranoid of police officers.
My other finding I would like to present comes from the same document as the previous
article as I stated before. The authors took another primary research survey on specifically what
the participants thought of the police department. There findings were:
A closer examination of the responses related to suspicion regarding law enforcement
revealed four subthemes: (a) the acknowledgement that if members of law enforcement
do not personally engage in acts of police brutality, they are complicit in these acts by
covering them up or ignoring them; (b) the need to be proactive by protecting the rights
of citizens; (c) the double standard enjoyed by members of law enforcement that is not

7

POLICE BRUTALITY

8

afforded to citizens; and (d) the need for members of law enforcement to be respected
while not affording this same respect to others. (Chaney & Robertson, 2013)
This piece of evidence fits my research question and objective because they asked the same
question to the public.
Discussion
In reference to the results section, the hypothesis was proven true by the surveys. The
first finding that is gave in the results section was more focused on the role of racism but it plays
into my question just as well as anything else. You can’t escape the bias that’s created.
Everybody is bias in some way or another.
The second finding in the results section dealt with the exact question I am asking in this
research paper. Based on the responses that the authors got in the survey they gave out, they
classified them in the four categories that were stated. The results, in fact, point to the public
being paranoid of the police force.
With all taken into consideration, I would consider my findings valid but a little bias. The
results I pulled were published in a journal called, Journal of African American Studies. The
journal itself tries to keep an unbiased position but they can only somewhat successful. However,
the numbers aren’t just from African Americans and the results are up to date. Therefore, this
research is as credible as it can be but the topic should constantly be monitored to make the
country more at ease when coming into contact with the police. This will in turn make our
country safer.

POLICE BRUTALITY

9

References
Chaney, C., & Robertson, R. V. (2013). Racism and police brutality in America. Journal of
African American Studies, 17(4), 480+. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?
id=GALE%7CA352040808&v=2.1&u=lom_gvalleysu&it=r&p=ITOF&sw=w&asid=3d3
40a40d744f895ce3d06e4562cf80d
Martinot, S. (2012). “On the epidemic of police killings”. Social Justice, 39(4), 52+. Retrieved
from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA365890258&v=2.1&u=lom_
gvalleysu&it=r&p=ITOF&sw=w&asid=95e72d5da68f2a2af50f55987e8853e3
"Police officers in trouble: Charges against policeman McManus by his sergeant". New York
Times. June 23, 1893.
Tonry, M. (2011). Punishing race: a continuing American dilemma. New York: Oxford
University Press.
Walker, A. (2011). Racial profiling separate and unequal keeping the minorities in line-the role
of law enforcement in America. St. Thomas Law Review, 23, 576–619.