- Alper Yasin Okutan
Rising Police Brutality-Protection or Abuse of Power?
In almost every corner of today’s world, it is not so difficult to find distastes among people about their governments’ policies, their ruling styles, or their way of imposing policies. There is no government in the world that can achieve complete satisfaction among the citizens that they try to convince. Especially with the advancements in technology and mass media, (the social media here plays the leading role), the ability of people to access decisions and intentions of their governments dramatically increased and they are now more aware of decisions. Related to that, their sensitivity to the developments rises as well. So, in every region, we see many people on the streets ‘peacefully’ demonstrating or protesting their governments, but in many cases, they are facing rough intervention, in the name of security. Thus, here we need to examine whether this is the protection or abuse of power?
The first thing we need to mention is the lawful ground for the right to protest. In the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 10 says, ‘everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers’. In the second paragraph of the same article, some restrictions are mentioned that are necessary for a democratic society. In Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it is held that ‘Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference’, but it again carries its duties and responsibilities like respecting the rights of others or protecting national security. So, even though this is a right granted to people, it has its own logical responsibilities. However, the issue of excessive use of force in protests by police forces remains relevant and worth mentioning. The number of people who were shot to death by law enforcement officers is rising day by day everywhere in the world, but the USA takes more attention. ‘The Washington Post is recording every fatal shooting by police officers in the United States since 2015, and there have been more than 5,000 fatal shootings recorded by The Post’. ‘In Rio, 1814 people die at the hands of police in 2019’.
This incredible increase in the number of deaths due to police shootings raised international concern and criticism since it is the obvious violation of people the ‘right to life’. In Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ‘everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person’ is clearly declared, so, unlawful use of force by police can result in people being deprived of their right to life. Thus, the forces can not and should have the right to kill a protestor, or a normal citizen for crime because ‘it is the utmost obligation of state authorities, including police, to respect and protect the right to life.’ Therefore, this is not the duty of the polices to take out the lives of people, but their duty is to make people live by respecting their rights.
Racial difference is a remarkable factor behind a high number of police brutality incidents. Especially in the USA, the high number of police shooting against Black people inflamed huge protests against Trump administration, people heavily demanded the defunding of police. According to the data of The Washington Post, although half of the people shot and killed by police are White, Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. ‘The internalized hatred of a race or perceiving a race of people as inherently violent or dangerous can cause a police officer to use excessive force against an individual of that race’. That’s why additional trainings or courses should be given to police officers about the irrelevance of a race in committing a crime in order to prevent further crimes based on racial preferences.
The law enforcement bodies’ rights to use force are legalized under the countries’ domestic laws. Since there is no general law that determines the conditions that force can be used, each domestic law has its own criteria. Although in some laws the right to use of force granted to police is restricted to some specific occasions, there are also those that do not comply with this example. So, the first thing that can be done to prevent abuse of power is basically to redefine the conditions that police can apply to the use of force in constitutions.
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