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The video that recorded the death of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers shook the world. It brought the spotlight on the public issue of police brutality. Following the incident, there were widespread protests across America where demonstrators demanded sweeping police reform. George Floyd’s death was one of many recent high-profile killings of the unarmed Black person by the police.
There is sufficient evidence to show that police brutality disproportionately impacts people of color. Historical data and research indicate that African Americans, Native Americans, and Latino people are at a higher risk of getting shot and killed by police compared to their white counterparts. Systemic racism and prejudice among the majority-white police departments are a big reason why minorities are the victims in most police violence cases.
Many believe that the United States Police Force is yet to leave behind its origin as “slave patrollers.” Back in 1704, when the first policing system was established to track down enslaved people, the so-called “patrollers” were not shy about using violence against them. By the time the first official police department was established in 1838, racism was already institutionalized in the policing system. The police in the Southern states focused on the controlling slave system, while the ones in the North targeted Eastern European immigrants.
The racialized nature of the policing system continues to be prevalent in the 21st century. The deaths of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Dion Johnson, Michael Brown, Stephon Clark, Tamir Rice, and hundreds of others drive home the fact that POC is more vulnerable to police shootings and violence. Most police officers involved in these shootings have been acquitted of the murder or manslaughter charges.
In fact, many of them involved in these civilian deaths have had a long history of aggressive and violent behavior. The lack of accountability in law enforcement has enabled guilty police officers to continue serving in the force. In quite a few cases, fellow officers and their departments have defended the actions of the involved policemen.
One of the four officers implicated in Floyd’s murder, Derek Chauvin, had 18 complaints on his official record. He had previously been reprimanded and twice disciplined for his overkill tactics. Unfortunately, he is not alone; instead, this behavioral pattern is far too common among police officers.
Campaigns like Black Lives Matter and civil rights organizations NAACP are working at the grassroots level to bring police brutality to an end. They are calling for profound policing reform that would address issues of racial profiling, violent encounters, and police misconduct among others. It also includes appeals to defund the police and divert their funds to other systems like Social Services. The passing of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is a small legislative victory that could pave the way for more significant, bolder changes in the future.
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