According to the Bureau of Justice, there were nearly 5 thousand people killed by the police between 2003 and 2009 globally. While most cases have been registered in poorer parts of the world, police misconduct and police brutality are universal problems known to the developed countries as well. Apart from the 2014 Ferguson shooting in the US, there were incidents in Canada, Israel, Pakistan, Venezuela, and a number of other countries over the last few years, in which people were outraged by the brutality of their law enforcers.
The statistics shows that police officers tend to overuse their privileges all over the world, and the most common forms of misconduct range from violence to sexual harassment, rape and even murder. Let us take Finland, one of the prominent EU members. In this country, where the total number of police officers is less than 8,000, a few dozen cases of excessive use of force happen every year. The most brutal cases of the recent years involved racial or ethnic issues. What is most shocking, the officers who were found guilty were subject to disproportionally light punishment measures. We might observe the similar situation In South Africa, where the number of police brutality cases rose by more than 300%. The saddest part is that, in 2011-2012, only 1% of all cases against the police resulted in prosecutions, while the rest were dismissed.
In May 2015, a case in which a colored man was beaten by the police caused mass demonstrations in the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Several thousands of Ethiopians and their supporters protested against the racial prejudice towards the African-Israelis. The police responded with tear gas, stun grenades, and water cannons. Similar protests that followed a number of race-related police brutality cases took place in Canada. One of the incidents involved last year’s murder of Sammy Yatim in Toronto. While the police officer who shot Mr. Yatim was found and charged, the problem of police violence is not new to Canadians, especially when it comes to racial differences. There have been regular protests since 2010, during which numbers of people have been arrested.
In the late 2013, after the student protests in Ukraine were cleared by the brutal police force, several hundred thousand people went out in the streets in outrage. Just like in Venezuela and Lehore, Pakistan, the nation-wide manifestation turned into bloodshed as the police used force against the citizens. Apart from tear gas, water cannons, and stun grenades, there were cases in which lethal weapons were used against the protestors.
As we might see from these few examples, the problem is not new, and it is not something that exists only in less developed parts of the world, including the US and Europe. Human rights activists and global change lobbyists believe that the very problem of police brutality cannot be resolved until the entire law enforcement system is restructured and reformed locally. Only the proper training of the new-generation officers can change the police’s attitude to their authority and privileges, and re-establish trust among the population. While mass protests can attract attention to this issue, the actions must be facilitated and taken on the governmental level.
- Adams, Kenneth, Geoffrey P. Alpert, Roger G. Dunham, Joel H. Garner, Lawrence A. Greenfield, Mark A. Henriquez, Patrick A. Langan, Christopher D. Maxwell, and Steven K. Smith. Use of Force by Police: Overview of National and Local Data, Research Report, 1999.
- Garner, Joel, John Buchanan, Tom Schade, and John Hepburn. Understanding the Use of Force by and Against the Police, Research in Brief, 1996.
- Kelling, George L. Crime Control, the Police and Culture Wars: Broken Windows and Cultural Pluralism, NIJ Perspectives on Crime and Justice Lecture Series, 1997
- Kelling, George L. “Broken Windows” and Police Discretion, Research Report, 1999.
- Haider, Murtaza. Police Brutality is a Global Phenomenon, Huffington Post, August 20, 2014
- McCauley, Lauren. Protests Go Global as Ethiopians March Against Police Brutality in Tel Aviv, Common Dreams, May 03, 2015
- Smith, David. South Africa Reports of Police Brutality More than Tripled in the Last Decade, the Guardian, August 22, 2013