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Police Brutality: The Rodney King Case

Rodney King Case

The case of Rodney King is one of many demonstrations of police brutality in the United States. The incident initiated the movement against the injustice concerning racial inequality in the country, severely impacted the law enforcement system, and left a polarizing effect on American society. This paper will conduct a comprehensive analysis of the incident, explaining it in detail. In addition, a breakdown of points of how the system failed to live up to the public’s expectations will be discussed, as well as the community’s reaction to the verdicts of the Rodney King case.

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Explanation of the Case

The incident of police brutality involving Rodney King happened on March 3rd, 1991, in Los Angeles, California. The patrol tried to pull over the vehicle King was driving while intoxicated, for the traffic violation; however, the man decided to flee from justice. Consequently, police officers began the vehicle pursuit. Melanie Singer, one of the police officers, claimed that King traveled above 80 miles per hour, ignoring road signs (Rossback, 2016). The chase lasted for nearly 8 miles until the drunken driver failed to bypass a truck.

The order of police officers to get out of the car was ignored by King and his friends, which resulted in policemen brutally forcing him out of the vehicle. The resistance during the arrest led to LAPD threatening King with a gun, subduing and cuffing the man eventually. While King continued to resist, one of the officers named Koon fired two shots from the Taser at the victim afterward, brutally hitting him. The atrocity continued, when another officer Laurence Powell struck King in the face with the baton multiple times (Bowling, 2015). In consequence of numerous cruel Taser struck and metal batons beatings, King received a severe physical injury and was also unconscious several times.

The case of Rodney King initiated a public course of the trial, which is the result, acquitted four officers that were responsible for the brutal assault of the African-American man. Such verdict initiated the riots around the United States, after which officers were indicted on federal charges of deprivation of civil rights under the color of law (Bowling, 2015). Three of four police officers were sentenced to two and a half years of prison.

Every Way the System Failed the Public

Inhuman, racist, and brutal actions from the side of LAPD toward Rodney King have shown the public that the law enforcement system is not as just as it is trying to seem. The act of beating a human being is the first and the most upsetting action that made millions of Americans disappointed in the system that ought to protect the citizens and not put them in danger. Over 20 policemen were witnesses of the assaults, in addition to police helicopters flying above the crime scene, yet none of them attempted to stop the brutality of four officers.

The judicial system has also majorly failed the American citizens in their unjust verdicts for the LAPD officers, who were responsible for the cruel beating of King. Initially, four policemen were arrested on the charges of unlawful assault. However, they were acquitted, even after a public trial and a video of the witness filming the police brutality. The public’s disappointment was immense; people coveted justice, which evoked a wave of protests all over the United States. The riot caused the death of 53 people and over 2000 injured (Rossback, 2016). This was the court’s cost to indict federal charges on the guilty of assault police officers, who, as the result, were sentenced to prison for two and a half years, which was under the legal guidelines of the convicted offense. Such a verdict made the public despise the justice system and remain disappointed in the law enforcement department.

Public Reaction to the Trials and the Verdicts

The video of the brutal assault of Rodney King, acquitting of the officers, and racial injustice, all these factors sparked a strong wave of public fury against the law enforcement and judicial system. The trial that every American watched did not satisfy the citizens but instead evoked powerful riots in Los Angeles and around the country. One of the activists of the Rodney King movement spoke out on her reaction to the verdict: “There was ocular proof of what happened. And yet, we saw a verdict that told us we couldn’t trust our lying eyes” (Sastry & Bates, 2017). Many other people experienced similar reactions after hearing the verdict of the trial.

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Hours after Americans found out that the officers were acquitted, the riots began, destroying everything standing in the way. The reaction to the verdict brought violent consequences, especially in South Los Angeles. The movement was not only demanding justice for King but also other African-American citizens that were assaulted or killed by the police and privileged white citizens (Sastry & Bates, 2017). As a result of the riots, more than 50 men were killed, thousands were injured, and damage of billion of dollars was caused.

The case of Rodney King is a prominent example of police brutality’s consequence in the modern world. The incident proves how one instance of biased, racist behavior of the law enforcement system can evoke such a powerful wave of public reaction that can lead to mass destruction. The King incident enlightened people on the abuse and brutality of the police toward African-American and made the movement for racial equality stronger.

The King incident did shed light on the issue of abuse of power and gave credence to the speculation of racial bias.


Bowling, D. (2015). The Rodney King case [Unpublished bachelor’s thesis]. Saint Leo University

Rossback, A. (2016). How much do you remember about the Rodney King beating and riots? The Marshall Project. Web.

Sastry, A., & Bates, K. (2017). When LA erupted in anger: A look back at the Rodney King riots. NPR. Web.

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