Research Paper: Civil Rights and Police Departments

Pages: 6 (2200 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] Racial profiling can be a difficult practice to stop, because many well-intentioned officers may believe that race or ethnicity is a valid reason to suspect a person of a crime. For example, in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, many non-criminal Muslims and people who appeared to be Muslim were targeted for criminal investigation because of activity that, if conducted by a white person, would have appeared harmless. Moreover, much of Racial profiling involves an unintentional use of stereotypes and societal norms to inform decision making; officers may not even be aware that they are using race in their criteria. It can also be very difficult to demonstrate racial profiling, especially for the individual victim of the practice. For example, a controversial New York City Police Department stop and frisk policy was recently halted after substantiated complaints by numerous non-white citizens that they were stopped, without any reason to suspect them of criminal behavior, because of their race or ethnicity (Center for Constitutional Rights, 2013).

Excessive force is another way that police officers can violate a suspect's civil rights. Some acts of excessive force are clear civil rights violations. For example, the beating of an unarmed Rodney King by several armed police officers was clearly a violation of his civil rights. However, not all cases of excessive force are so straight-forward. This is because "There's no concrete definition of excessive force. Police have to use force to subdue suspects every day. Reasonable levels of force are guessed by cops on the street, second-guessed by police review boards and sometimes tested in civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions on a case-by-case basis" (Segan, 2013). Furthermore, the type of force that is permissible may vary by jurisdiction; some jurisdictions absolutely bar some moves, like choke holds, while others do not. For police officers, acting in the moment, it may be difficult to gauge when some force is excessive. The reality of police work is that sometimes an officer may be called upon to use tremendous force, up to and including deadly force, to subdue a suspect, protect lives, or engage in self-defense. Knowing when it is appropriate to use such force may be an officer's most difficult subjective judgment call.

Although one might think of civil rights as a well-defined area, the fact that there are at least three distinct categories of civil rights violations, legal civil rights violations, questionable practices, and prohibited civil rights violations, helps explain why police continue to violate suspects' civil rights. Moreover, though these areas have gained greater definition and explanation over time, there is still some ambiguity about them. For example, while Jim Crow laws are no longer enforceable, Arizona just passed legislation that will make it legal for businesses to discriminate against homosexuals. The police will, undoubtedly, be called upon to enforce these laws and remove homosexuals from business establishments. Though the law seems facially unconstitutional, without a court decision declaring the law unconstitutional, it will be considered a valid state law. As a result, police will, once again, be placed in a position of having to enforce state or local laws, as required by their job descriptions, or obey the dictates of the Constitution. What this suggests is that, unfortunately, civil rights violations, both intentional and unintentional, will remain connected with police work.

References

American Civil Liberties Union. (2014). Racial profiling. Retrieved February 21, 2014

from: https://www.aclu.org/racial-justice/racial-profiling

Center for Constitutional Rights. (2013). Report: Racial disparity in NYPD stop and frisks.

Retrieved February 21, 2014 from: http://ccrjustice.org/learn-more/reports/report%3A-racial-disparity-nypd-stop-and-frisks

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).

Pilgrim, D. 2012. What was Jim Crow? Retrieved February 21, 2014 from the Jim Crow

Museum of Racist Memorabilia website: http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm

Segan, S. (2013, July 14). What is excessive force? Retrieved February 21, 2014 from ABCNews website: http://abcnews.go.com/U.S./story?id=96509

U.S. Const. Amend. II.

U.S. Const. Amend. IV.

U.S. Const. Amend. V.

U.S. Const. Amend. VI.

U.S. Const. Amend. VIII.

U.S. Const. Amend. XIII.

U.S. Const. Amend. XIV.

U.S. Const. Amend. XV.

Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471 (1963). [END OF PREVIEW]

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Civil Rights and Police Departments.  (2014, February 21).  Retrieved April 23, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/civil-rights-police-departments/3687845

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"Civil Rights and Police Departments."  21 February 2014.  Web.  23 April 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/civil-rights-police-departments/3687845>.

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"Civil Rights and Police Departments."  Essaytown.com.  February 21, 2014.  Accessed April 23, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/civil-rights-police-departments/3687845.