In August 2014, the frustration the African American public has had with the police in the United States boiled over into a riot in Ferguson, Missouri. The riot was sparked by the killing of an unarmed African-American teenager by a Caucasian police officer. However, it was really just another incident of violent behavior by the police that has become all too common to communities around the country.
Since August 2014, many American cities have erupted in violence as videos continue to appear of police brutality in progress against seemingly defenseless African-American citizens. This sort of police brutality has started to create a huge divide between different parts of society. But is it bringing about any real change in local, state, or federal laws?
Are Police Brutality Laws Changing
In light of the events since 2014, 24 states have introduced legislation that is aimed at trying to curb police brutality. In New York City, 54 body cameras were put on police officers in two different precincts as a pilot program that the state and city governments are watching closely. In Rialto, California, the use of body cameras has been credited with reducing complaints against police behavior by as much as 88 percent. In some communities, it looks like body cameras are working.
What about the hotbed of this most recent police brutality issue – Ferguson, Missouri? The police unions are very powerful in Ferguson. As a result, the only legislation that has been passed dealt with bringing more equity to the type and amount of traffic tickets issued by city police officers. The issues that sparked the riots have still not been addressed and the violent behavior of police officers in Ferguson still goes on unchecked.
Some States Are Acting Quickly
The states of Ohio and New York saw two incidents of police brutality that polarized the entire country. Both incidents were caught on video, and the governors of both states worked quickly to try and bring about some kind of resolution to the problems that come with police brutality in their state.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law that appoints special prosecutors to cases involving violent behavior by the police. This is a move that many in the African-American community applauded as something that should have happened years ago. Before this law, the district attorney in a given area would investigate cases of police brutality, which would mean that the police were essentially investigating themselves. Now, in New York State, the police are investigated by independent investigators who have no ties to the department.
In Ohio, governor John Kasich created an active panel to develop the state’s first set of standards and guidelines for the use of deadly force by police. It is the first committee of its kind in the state’s history, and it is being given the power to recommend legislation that will be put in front of the state government.
Federal Level Changes
Many cases of police brutality have been tried in federal courts. They have been tried under the notion that the police officer took away the rights of the victim by using excessive and violent behavior. It is a federal law that applies to any action in any city, state, or region of the country. The problem is that the victim’s family must prove that the officer willfully took away the rights of the victim in the act of enforcing the law. Under this guideline, it can be extremely difficult to prosecute any police officer for their actions.
Some groups are recommending that the federal government update the 150-year-old law to say that police officers, can be tried and convicted if it is proven that they used unnecessary and excessive force while doing their jobs. If this law is changed, it could completely alter the way police brutality is tried in courts of law all over the country. But until then, the federal courts are still powerless to help.
Are the police brutality laws changing? It seems that in the states where the police labor unions are not quite as powerful, laws regarding police conduct and the use of body cameras are being passed. But in the areas where police unions are strong, little change is being made. The country has seen that something has to be done to heal a divided nation. Now it is only a matter of waiting for real legislation to get passed that will help to hold the few bad police officers out there committing police brutality crimes accountable, for their actions.