The recent incidents of police brutality and media blackouts that were so rampant during Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy movements in other states have drawn attention to the often unchecked and misused power of the police force. The media has also fallen prey to the police force’s power. Recently, reporters attempting to enter Zuccotti Park were arrested, pepper-sprayed and treated violently while trying to cover the Occupy Wall Street protestors who were being cleared out.
However, The New York Post, a vocal attacker of Occupy, was mysteriously able to publish a story about it. The protestors themselves have suffered numerous assaults and indignities, often without providing any provokation. What happens to be even more enraging is how mainstream media remains silent about events like peaceful protestors being shot, battered and pepper sprayed, but doesn’t hesitate to tell us how self-sacrificing, valiant and clever the police are for controlling the “hippies.”
The United States is a country that touts freedom of expression and freedom of the press, however attempts at exercising these freedoms have been repeatedly thwarted through the use of unwarranted and often unprovoked violence in the form of batons, pepper spray, vehicles and brute force all wielded ruthlessly by our supposed protectors.
Though Occupy movements have pushed police brutality into the attention of some media outlets it is not something that started recently. Between April 2009 and June 2010 there were 5,986 reports of police misconduct, 40 percent of these assaults involved firearms, and 382 of these were fatal to the victims. Though the statistics are daunting they should be taken with a grain of salt, not because of errors in measurement but because victims of abuse often do not even report the offense. Hence the numbers should be even higher. This underreporting can occur due to fear of further repercussions, or more commonly because the victim believes (sometimes rightly so) that nothing will be done in order to bring about justice. Reporting police misconduct to the police does seem like it might not always be a successful venture.
Megalomaniacal and unnecessarily violent behavior is not just present in the ranks of the state police, but can be observed in all levels of law enforcement. In 2008 a mayor in Maryland had the SWAT team burst into his home because they mistook him for a drug dealer.They gunned the family’s dogs, and then held the family at gunpoint.
While stories like this are prolific they are often ignored by the media, and the victims are not always lucky enough to receive reparations. Corruption in the NYPD has had a marked increase, or has merely become more exposed. The list of recent cases in corruption includes seven instances of narcotics investigators planting drugs on people and eight officers charged with smuggling guns and other illegal items into the state. Funnily enough, the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau is in charge of investigating complaints against the police but has failed to discover any of these issues.
People in law enforcement are often hailed as our protectors and maintainers of the peace, however it has become increasingly apparent that such positions of power attract individuals who used to be that kid in the playground that would throttle you for just looking at him funny. Obviously not all of those working for law enforcement are ruffians and sociopaths but their lack of accountability and excess of power definitely does draw in such characters.
While trouble with the law might be an abstraction for some, and might only be something seen on television, it’s always helpful to have a basic knowledge of your legal rights when faced with the police. Information and education is one vital aspect of combatting this threat that should not exist, at least not in a democratic nation like the United States.