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Police Violence and Subterfuge Cases


Police violence and subterfuge are the phenomena that unite the cases of Joy Gardner, who died in custody in 1993 and those of young Mike Brown or middle-aged Eric Garner who both died in 2014 (Erfani-Ghettani 102; Miah 2-3). Both Gardner and Garner died of suffocation because of the actions of the police; Brown was shot, and so was Oliver Grant, who died in 2009 (Miah 2-3; Taylor, 189).

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The fact that all these people were black, unarmed, and at the mercy of police caused the accusations in power abuse and discrimination. Apart from that, in every case, the attempts were made to shift the blame onto the people who were killed. In the case of Brown, sixteen witnesses testified that the man had lifted his arms in surrender, but he has indicted postmortem nonetheless (Miah 2).

In the case of Gardner, the police attempted to prove that the cause of death was a head trauma, which resulted from the behavior of the “most violent woman” (Erfani-Ghettani 108).

The concept of reverse racism is typically raised the defense of the policemen; it is also implied that the killed people do not deserve justice, and they are demonized (Erfani-Ghettani 108-109). Despite these efforts, police violence inevitably causes a negative public reaction that tends to result in the discrediting of the institution (Miah 2-3; Taylor 191-192; Durr 873).

The issue provokes public discussions and conversations that involve academic circles as well. The mentioned cases have become a rather popular topic for discussion while other situations are also used to demonstrate the problem.

In this paper, scholarly articles are going to be analyzed to find the concepts and aspects of the problem that are typically discussed, and the characteristics of the popular conversation, which revolves around the issue, are going to be deduced.

Theoretical Context

Police violence is being discussed by the wide public and the academic societies (Durr 873). The latter, apparently, seeks to explore the phenomenon, including its reasons, consequences, and mechanisms.

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While the reasons for the phenomenon can only be suggested, its mechanisms and consequences are visible. The article of Taylor is meant mostly for anthropologists, and it uses the case of police violence (the death of Oscar Grant in 2009) to test the idea of the discourse of “necropolitics” (189).

The term is used to define a defense mechanism that people use against governmental abuse, and that incorporates the “spectacles” of death, punishment, and mourning, the term “spectacle” presupposing the public character of the said components (Taylor 187-193). Taylor shows the anatomy of public reaction and emphasizes the political function of the “spectacles.”

Evans and Feagin dwell on the consequences of police violence for the discriminated. The authors demonstrate the extent of emotional and cognitive costs (knowing, feeling, resisting, and so on) that the people have to experience when the state institutions, which are supposed to protect them, abuse the power (Evans and Feagin 890-894).

This is the direct result of police violence; however, it is not the only consequence of the problem. The idea that police corruption and violence undermine the confidence in the police is demonstrated by the study of Tankebe, who has carried out a survey in Accra, Ghana. According to Tankebe, the vicarious experience is very effective in discrediting the police (310-312).

The results of police discrediting can also be harmful, especially in case it develops into a stereotype. Knowing that the police tend to mistreat people of color, the latter lose faith in the institution and refuse to cooperate regardless of the situation (Durr 877). As a result, another stereotype can arise: that black people are more prone to crime and are incapable of cooperating or maintaining order (Durr 873).

Joy Gardner case is the one that is used by Erfani-Ghettani to demonstrate how the mass media seems to be sharing and maintaining these stereotypes even on the linguistic level (108-109). In fact, in the case of Mike Brown, not the media, but the prosecution used the words of the police officer who had killed Brown. According to these words, unarmed Brown was demon-like, hulking and aggressive which prompted the officer to shoot him six times (Miah 2-3).

The two stereotypes, according to Durr, could be the reason for the police discrimination as they, in fact, support each other. The author points out that it is unlikely to be the only reason, but it should be taken into account by policy-makers and, in general, the situation requires rectifying (877-878).

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Durr also recalls that the origins of the US police are connected to slave patrols and shows how these double prejudices keep police from performing its duties when black people are concerned (873-877). Similarly, Erfani-Ghettani points out that nothing has changed in the ten years that followed the Gardner case.

The author demonstrates how the deaths of Mikey Powell (2003) and Jean Charles (2005) went unpunished and expects the murder of Mark Duggan (2011) to be treated in a similar way. Evans and Feagin also demonstrate that the police malpractice is still a common occurrence that includes violence and harassment.

Still, the authors also emphasize the fact of resistance: according to them, the black community started to fight this problem since the 1940s and proceeds to do so with more and more whites participating in the struggle (890). While this increases the emotional and cognitive labor for the discriminated, it also presupposes future changes.

The popular conversation revolving around the cases of racial discrimination and police violence appears to be directed at every aspect of the problem. The public appears to be especially concerned about the fact that nothing seems to be changing. It can be demonstrated by the cases of Gardner and Brown: one took place in 1993, the other – in 2014.

In both cases, the killed ones were demonized, and the police refused to admit abusing the power. The work of Durr that is aimed at policy-makers reflects the opinion that the problem can and should be rectified by the government.

This article could reflect the optimist view on the situation. At the same time, Erfani-Ghettani and Evans and Feagin express a rather negative and pessimistic opinion, according to which the situation is not improving. Tankebe demonstrates that the problem exists all over the world, and takes a rather detached position as well as Taylor, who acts primarily as a researcher of human reaction to government abuse.

It is also worth mentioning that most of the authors (with the possible exception of Tankebe and Taylor, although the issue is debatable) fail to suppress their emotions. These are scholarly works, published in scholarly journals, and still these articles are relatively emotional and obviously politically-motivated.

This corresponds to Taylor’s classification of “spectacles”: given the fact that police malpractice is perceived as the abuse of the citizens by the government, public reaction is also politized and can be described as a defense mechanism.

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The reaction of mass media, as has been shown, can be accused of bias. Still, it is bound to shape the opinion of the public at least partially. The issue is obviously ethically controversial: while it is absurd to claim that a person does not deserve justice, the possibility of reverse racism and the understanding of the specifics of the work of the police appear to influence the public opinion, as shown by Erfani-Ghettani (108-109).

The factor that serves to render this understanding irrelevant seems to be concerned the attempts of denying the mistakes of the policemen. The proofs of the policemen’s fault are emphasized by the authors as well as the fact that they are either disregarded or denied by the police and, occasionally, by the court as well (Erfani-Ghettani 108; Miah 2-3).

It can be concluded that not the fact of police violence as such is what ignites the public, but the blatant lies that the police tends to produce afterward. The cases of Eric Garner, Joy Gardner, Mike Brown, and Oliver Grant all serve as a testimony to this issue that can be described as the hypocrisy of the police and that, undoubtedly, serves to discredit the institution.

As a result, all the authors either oppose the police or detach themselves from the situation, not commenting on the actions of the officials. The idea of police malpractice and hypocrisy tends to form corresponding stereotypes among the discriminated, and this problem concerns academics as well.

Durr demonstrates how it serves to decrease the number of people willing to cooperate with the police which, in turn, can result in a violent reaction from the police (877-878). The author does not attempt to justify the said violent reactions. Still, Durr points out that the causes of the issue should be avoided, and the stereotypes appear to be among these causes.

To sum up, the popular conversation concerning police violence revolves around various aspects of the problem, and the question of the future development of the issue is discussed with especial interest, even though contradictory prognoses are made.

Works Cited

Durr, Marlese. “What Is The Difference Between Slave Patrols And Modern Day Policing? Institutional Violence in a Community Of Color.” Critical Sociology 41.6 (2015): 873-879. SAGE Publications. Web.

Erfani-Ghettani, Ryan. “The Defamation of Joy Gardner: Press, Police and Black Deaths in Custody.” Race and Class 56.3 (2014): 102-112. SAGE Publications. Web.

Evans, Louwanda, and Joe Feagin. “The Costs Of Policing Violence: Foregrounding Cognitive And Emotional Labor.” Critical Sociology 41.6 (2015): 887-895. SAGE Publications. Web.

Miah, Malik. “The Racial Underbelly of U.S. Justice: Whose Lives Matter in America?” Against the Current 1 (2015): 2-3. ProQuest. Web.

Tankebe, Justice. “Public Confidence In The Police: Testing The Effects Of Public Experiences Of Police Corruption In Ghana.” British Journal of Criminology 50.2 (2010): 296-319. Oxford University Press. Web.

Taylor, Jack. “‘We Are All Oscar Grant’: Police Brutality, Death, And The Work Of Mourning.” Transform Anthropology 21.2 (2013): 187-197. Wiley-Blackwell. Web.

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