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Danielle Snali
Professor Malvin
English 115
18 November 2016
When a Police Badge Symbolizes Danger
As time continues, police brutality is becoming a more notorious issue in American
society. Although anyone can be impacted by this, there are more cases where AfricanAmericans are victims of it. What makes this problem terrifying is that some police officers that
go on trial for this are pleaded not guilty. What is even more terrifying is that some officers do
not even get prosecuted for the crime. Even though not every police officer commits this horrific
act, many African-Americans fear the whole police force due to some officers acts of violence
upon unarmed civilians. This fear causes them to not report crimes that they witness, which is
problematic because the criminals are still out on the streets rather than in jail. AfricanAmericans should feel safe around the police, not afraid. Due to horrible acts of violence upon
unarmed African-Americans, such as Rodney King, Robert Davis, and Eric Garner and the
aftermath of these incidents, the police force is starting to symbolize danger rather than safety to
certain groups of people of color; thus, causing them to fear the police.
One of the most infamous cases of police brutality that causes fear within the AfricanAmerican community is Rodney Kings story. On March 3, 1991, Rodney King led a car chase
with the police due to his driving under the influence. When King got caught, he was severely
assaulted by four policemen. The officers did not notice someone was recording the whole
altercation and it was eventually displayed for other citizens to see. A year after, The officers
involved, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Stacey Koon, were put on

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trial and acquitted by a majority white jury in April of 1992 (Adams). This decision resulted in
three full days of violence, arson, and complete chaos in Los Angeles. After it was over, fiftyfive people were dead, and two thousand people were injured. Two years later, Anna Deavere
Smith released a play called Twilight Los Angeles, 1992. In it, she interviewed two hundred
people about the riots and performed some of their responses in theaters. One of her interviews
was with Angela King, Rodney Kings aunt. While talking about Officer Stacey Koon, she told
Anna, That Koon / thats the one in the whole trial / that man showed no kind of remorse at
all, / you know that? / He sit there like, It aint not big thing, / and I / will do it again (58).
After seeing the violent confrontation and Koons reaction to the whole situation, many AfricanAmericans grew fearful of the police.
Another horrific case of police brutality that causes fear within the African-American
community is Robert Davis story. On October 9, 2005, while out buying cigarettes, Davis was
hit on the head by two policemen due to their suspicion that he was publicly intoxicated.
According to an online article, CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts reports that it is a violation
of the New Orleans Police Department's policy to strike a suspect in the head, but Davis was
punched in the head at least four times (video) (Pace). While this was happening, journalists
from the Associated Press were videotaping the confrontation. One officer saw them and started
attacking the journalists. This video caused anger and fear around the country; even a policeman
named Warren Riley said that he was completely baffled by what he saw on the tape. Although
the prosecutors had footage of these violent acts, the three officers that were involved were found
not guilty. Even though they committed a horrible act, the police officers felt that they had
justification to do whatever it took in order to restrain Davis. David Benelli, a lieutenant who
knew the officers, stated, They feel they were justified in their actions and they were using the

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amount of force necessary to overcome the situation. Therefore, this case causes fear within the
African-American community because Robert Davis was hit on the head four times by
policemen who felt their violent actions were justified.
The last case of police brutality that causes fear within the African-American community
is Eric Garners story. On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner was on the streets of Staten Island trying to
sell untaxed cigarettes. When the police came, instead of restraining him in a peaceful way,
officer Daniel Pantaleo put Garner in an illegal chokehold. During the confrontation, Garner
stated that he could not breathe eleven times to the officer, but the officer kept going until he was
dead. Like the other two cases, someone videotaped the altercation and displayed it on the
internet. After it happened, Officer Pantaleo was not indicted for the crime but was instead
placed on desk duty. Although he has a lower position on the force, he has been making more
money than ever before. According to New York, Politico reports that during the 2014 fiscal
year, before Garner died, Pantaleo made $99,915, including $17,189 in overtime pay. He appears
to have gotten some kind of raise in 2015: In that 12-month period, ending June 30, 2015,
Pantaleo earned $105,061, with $76,488 base pay, $17,109 in overtime and $11,673 in additional
earnings, records show (Bankoff). This frightened people because he did not get prosecuted for
Garners murder and has been making more money than he did before. What shocked people the
most was, Of the unarmed black men killed by the police, most were shot. [] Mr. Garner, who
was unarmed, died at the bare hands of officers (Baker et al). Therefore, this case of police
brutality causes fear within the African-American community due to how Eric Garner died from
an illegal chokehold, and how Officer Daniel Pantaleo did not get indicted for Garners murder
but is now making more money.
Although many people are devastated by how notorious police brutality is becoming,

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there are some people that defend the policemen that commit this violent act. People believe this
issue is being blown out of proportion because they think only a few police officers are
committing this act. According to David Packman, Well, they are right, 28 out of 800,000 is a
small percentage and nowhere near a majority of the police population in the US. In fact, our
statistics indicate that just under 1000 per 100,000 police officers per year are involved in
credible reports of police misconduct. Yes, that translates to under 1% of all police officers.
People should not make excuses about this issue because there are still unarmed civilians dying.
Any percentage is too big because it is the polices job to protect and serve the citizens of
America. Police officers should have better training in the academy because they are not being
properly trained to restrain people in a nonviolent way. These statistics are inaccurate because
there are a lot of police brutality cases that go unreported. A newspaper article stated, A Wall
Street Journal analysis of the latest data from 105 of the countrys largest police agencies found
more than 550 police killings during those years were missing from the national tally or, in a few
dozen cases, not attributed to the agency involved. The result: It is nearly impossible to
determine how many people are killed by the police each year (Barry and Jones). Since not
every case is being reported, there is likely a higher percentage of policemen that commit this
violent act. Therefore, the uncertainty of the amount of police brutality cases causes fear within
the African-American community because there is a likely chance that the percentage of officers
that commit this crime is higher than under one percent.
Due to the amount of police brutality cases and their aftermaths, African-Americans are
too afraid to call the police when a crime is happening. For example, a woman named Nikole
Hannah-Jones was with her family and friends in Staten Island when all of the sudden there was
a shooting. After the shooting, she was shocked that her friend was calling the police because she

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did not think to do that. The reason why she did not call them was, On the other hand, calling
the police posed considerable risks. It carried the very real possibility of inviting disrespect, even
physical harm. We had seen witnesses treated like suspects, and knew how quickly black people
calling the police for help could wind up cuffed in the back of a squad car. She also stated, For
those of you reading this who may not be black, or perhaps Latino, this is my chance to tell you
that a substantial portion of your fellow citizens in the United States of America have little
expectation of being treated fairly by the law or receiving justice. African-Americans fear the
whole police force since there are some officers that commit abuse on citizens and get away with
it. Consequently, these two groups of people are starting to have a distant relationship. If the
distance between the two groups of people keeps growing, more people will become skeptical of
the police, which can lead to them losing their authority in society. If police brutality stops once
and for all, fewer people will get hurt and be fearful of the police.
Due to cases of police brutality upon unarmed African-American, such as Rodney King,
Robert Davis, and Eric Garner and the aftermath of these incidents, the police force is starting to
represent a sign of danger rather than safety, causing people of color to fear them. This is an
enormous issue in society because it is the polices job to make people feel safe, not to make
them feel scared. Due to fear of a violent altercation, African-Americans do not report crimes to
the police, which is very unsafe because the criminals are still out on the streets looking for
trouble. The aftermath of these cases also causes fear within the African-American community
because justice was not served and some of the officers showed that they did not care about the
victims because they believe they were just trying to protect other individuals. If a poorly trained
police officer commits a crime or a violation, he or she must be removed from the force since he
or she gives every officer a bad reputation. If this issue does not stop, almost everyone will

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become afraid of the police, which can cause them to lose their authority in America. It is
false to argue that only a small proportion of officers commit abuse because there are many
unreported cases that happen each year. Thus, there are more officers that commit this violent act
than people think there are. Also, people should not try to defend these officers because it is
unacceptable for them to assault or kill a civilian that is unarmed. The fear that AfricanAmericans have is unsafe and must stop once and for all.

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Works Cited
Adams, Cydney. March 3, 1991: Rodney King beating caught on video. CBS Evening News, 3
Mar. 2016, cbsnews.com/news/march-3rd-1991-rodney-king-lapd-beating-caught-onvideo/. Accessed 18 Nov. 2016.
Baker, Al, et al. Beyond the Chokehold: The Path to Eric Garners Death. The New
York Times, 13 June 2015, nytimes.com/2015/06/14/nyregion/eric-garner-policechokehold-staten-island.html. Accessed 1 Nov. 2016.
Bankoff, Caroline. Cop Who Choked Eric Garner Has Been Doing Pretty Well for
Himself. New York, 12 Sep. 2016, nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/09/cop-whochoked-garner-earning-more-money-than-ever.html. Accessed 6 Nov. 2016.
Barry, Rob, and Coulter Jones. Hundreds of Police Killings Are Uncounted in Federal
Stats. The Wall Street Journal, 3 Dec. 2014, wsj.com/articles/hundreds-ofpolice-killings-are-uncounted-in-federal-statistics-1417577504. Accessed 28 Nov.
2016.
Jones-Hannah, Nikole. Yes, Black America Fears the Police. Heres Why. Pro Publica,
4 Mar. 2015, propublica.org/article/yes-black-america-fears-the-police-hereswhy. Accessed 1 Nov. 2016.
Pace, Gina. New Orleans Man: I Wasn't Drunk. CBS News, 9 Oct. 2005,
cbsnews.com/news/new-orleans-man-i-wasnt-drunk/. Accessed 6 Nov. 2016.
Packman, David. Arguing The Case For Police Accountability Part 1. Cato Institute,
May 9, 2010, policemisconduct.net/arguing-the-case-for-police-accountability
part-1/. Accessed 26 Nov. 2016.
Smith, Anna Deavere. Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. Anchor Books, 1994.

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