Anybody who pays attention to the news will be aware of how often reports of police brutality filter out of the USA.
Just recently, a passer-by managed to record footage of a California Highway Patrol officer punching an unarmed woman as she lay on the ground. Worse than that, it looks like the woman was trying to walk away when the attack happened. If a policeman feels the need to violently defend himself from an unarmed woman walking away, he should probably think about whether he’s chosen the right career.
This is one of the most recent incidents, but it isn’t even close to being the most shocking. Just ask Henry Davis, a Missouri man who was mistakenly arrested in 2009. Even when police realised they had the wrong man, they still locked the 52 year old Davis up. While in custody, he was viciously beaten. The police claim they were provoked, but have not been able to produce a video despite the presence of security cameras. To top it all off, they actually charged him with destruction of state property for “transferring his blood to their uniforms!”
Oh, and both the unarmed woman and Henry Davis are black. But that never influenced the way the police treated someone, right?
Why is This Bad for Democracy?
Nobody should need to be told why police brutality is bad for the public. What some people may not realise is just how bad it is for democracy. But the simple truth is that when police abuse their authority, democracy suffers.
The police are a part of the state, and the government’s main tool for keeping order and enforcing laws. In a democratic state, power is supposed to rest with the people and the government are supposed to serve the people. When a state police force seemingly has the power to enforce the law however they like, and to beat up unarmed people without provocation, this makes the state a poor servant of the people. In fact, it makes the state actually harmful to the people.
If this kind of behaviour goes unchallenged, it can get worse. The culture within the police can worsen, until the idea that they can casually use violent force whenever they like seems natural and ceases to be questioned. It can become accepted, inside and outside the police force, that this is something they have the power to do and that they can just override people’s rights whenever it pleases them because they have the power and the weapons.
It can also break down trust between people and state. How can the public trust the state to democratically represent them and look out for their interests when this kind of thing is going on? The very foundation of democracy can be ruined.
But despite all this people do have power. Change must come from the bottom up as well as from the top down. People need to make it clear that this isn’t acceptable. Our Too Much to Think Police Brutality T-shirt is designed with this in mind. We hope it will help wearers send out a powerful message about their individual freedom.