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Hot Topics: Police Brutality and Race: Home

A selection of sources concerning different perspectives around the topic of racism and the police.

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Police brutality is a civil rights violation that occurs when a police officer acts with excessive force by using an amount of force with regards to a civilian that is more than necessary. Excessive force by a law enforcement officers is a violation of a person's rights. Excessive force is not subject to a precise definition, but it is generally beyond the force a reasonable and prudent law enforcement officer would use under the circumstances.

Force should be used in only the minimum amount needed to achieve a legitimate purpose. Police brutality is a direct violation of the laws within the police force. The use of excessive force is also a direct violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S Constitution regarding cruelty and protection of the laws.

Racial profiling refers to the practice followed by law-enforcement officers of using race, national origin, or ethnicity as a salient basis for suspicion of criminal activity. Originally, the term referred to the practice of stopping a a large number of male African-American drivers on the assumption that they had a heightened likelihood of being involved in criminal activity. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the term was frequently used in reference to searching and interrogating Middle Eastern men at airports. This is also termed as ethnic profiling or profiling.

Bureau of Justice definitions on various levels of Use of Force:

Deadly or lethal force       Force that a law enforcement officer uses with the purpose of causing, or that the officer knows to create a substantial risk of causing, death, or serious bodily harm.

Excessive use of force     The application of lawful use of force in too many separate incidents.

Non-deadly or less-lethal force  The level of force required to gain compliance that is not known to or intended to create serious bodily harm or death.

Use of excessive force     The application of force beyond what is reasonably believed to be necessary to gain compliance from a subject in any given incident.

Use of force The amount of effort required by law enforcement to gain compliance from an unwilling subject.

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SAU Reference Librarian

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Stella Herzig
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