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Widespread cases of police brutality in the United States pose a serious nationwide social problem that needs to be urgently addressed. This problem regards every American citizen as the list of victims of police brutality includes children, teenagers, students, teachers, the young and the elderly, regardless of their status, profession, sex, or race.
Every year, tens of thousands of Americans report having been verbally abused, intimidated, beaten, arrested on false charges, sexually abused, harassed on the basis of race or national origin by police officers. Hundreds of Americans report cases of their relatives or friends being shot dead or beaten to death by police officers while they offered no resistance. And still, there are much more cases of police brutality that are not reported at all. Victims are often abused when they are already handcuffed or otherwise rendered helpless (Dority "Established: A Pattern of Abuse – Police Brutality in the U.S.").
The bad news is that according to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 2001 and 2007 cases of police brutality increased by twenty-five percent (Johnson "Police Brutality Cases on Rising since 9/11"). Police brutality is an important social issue that all Americans must be aware of as no one in the United States is safe from being brutalized by law enforcement officers nowadays (Roberts "America's Police Brutality Pandemic").
There are several alarming aspects of the problem of police brutality which point out to the need of addressing it without delay. First and foremost, police brutality has a strong impact on ordinary American citizens who fall victim to police violence. Aggressive police officers, after having brutalized innocent citizens or suspects offering no resistance, always arrest them on false charges in order to justify their misconduct. Apart from being psychologically and physically maltreated at home or in a public place, victims have to go through a terrible ordeal of being held in police custody where officers continue to intimidate and abuse them. This may last from a couple of hours to a couple of days during which some victims may die. Another impact of police brutality is that other individuals, who hear of police brutality or happen to be eyewitnesses to it, become so intimidated and feel so unsafe that they will never intervene whenever they witness it again, let alone giving evidence about it to help bring the offenders to justice. There are cases when fearing for their own life, eyewitnesses stand aside while aggressive law enforcement officers abuse other people (Roberts "America's Police Brutality Pandemic").
Another disturbing side of the problem is that in an overwhelming number of cases of police brutality officers get away with committing their crimes. Because of the so-called "code of silence" existing within law enforcement agencies, police officials and officers usually deny allegations of abuses committed by their colleagues. Following this unwritten code, police officers not involved in misconduct are often forced to provide false testimony in order to justify their colleagues' violent behavior or mitigate their guilt. Punishment or other sanctions applied against a small percentage of officers who are found guilty are usually not adequate. And still, a much smaller number of offenders are prosecuted on criminal charges for the crimes they committed. The result is that aggressive police officers are not adequately punished for misconduct and are thus encouraged to continue to abuse others. This is particularly dangerous for society as other law enforcement officers seeing their colleagues' impunity are tempted to use excessive force, too, making our country a more and more unsafe place to live (Roberts "America's Police Brutality Pandemic").
Cases of police brutality sometimes result in a negative impact on the budgets of local communities. A small percentage of victims or their relatives succeed in having their offenders prosecuted. And when judges decide cases in their favor, local authorities are forced to pay them money in damages. The amount of money may range from several hundreds of thousands to several million, which could be better used for other needs of communities (Roberts "America's Police Brutality Pandemic").
One more negative side of the issue is that police brutality, which has been significantly rising across the United States for the last few years, is going to seriously affect the whole society in the foreseeable future. If police brutality and violation of our basic constitutional rights continue to grow, the United States may soon become a police state in which intimidated citizens will no longer be free to agree or disagree with their local, state, and national government authorities. This is particularly true in view of the suggestions made by some of our political leaders who claim that in today's situation when we are at war with global terrorism, some of our rights and liberties must be abandoned (Dority "Established: A Pattern of Abuse – Police Brutality in the U.S.").
Luckily, the negative trend of growing police brutality can still be reversed. For this purpose, the United States law enforcement agencies must be reformed and their officers and officials must be held accountable for their actions to the public. Law enforcement authorities must make clear that no ungrounded violence committed by their officers will be tolerated and that the code of silence must be broken. They must get rid of corrupt officers and also assist in bringing them to justice for the crimes they committed. All cases of police brutality reported by their victims must be fully investigated (Dority "Established: A Pattern of Abuse – Police Brutality in the U.S."). However, these measures are unlikely to change the current situation if local and police authorities are not pressurized by both the victims of police brutality and society in general. We should not stand aside when we happen to witness police brutality, and by testifying against corrupt officers we will contribute to a safer future for us and those we love. We should also force the officials and politicians we elect at the local, state, and national levels to ensure that our constitutional rights are not violated by law enforcement agencies. It is important to understand that the problem of police brutality regards the whole society, that is to say, every one of us, and it depends mostly on our attitude whether it will be solved or the situation will further degenerate.
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