Life + Culture

The 25th Anniversary of the Rodney King Beating

Juan Crutchfield
As personal cameras have become more prolific, catching police brutality on video has tragically become almost commonplace. But the legacy of  these videos can be traced back to a time when such raw evidence was more rare.  On the 25th anniversary of the beating of Rodney KingJuan Crutchfield, a high school student and musician in Columbus, OH, offers these thoughts:

Police brutality is a on ongoing issue in America for the black community. There has been request for change, but has it occurred?

The Rodney King incident between King and the L.A.P.D occurred on March 3, 1991. King was pulled over due to exceeding the speed limit. King was discovered to be under the influence of alcohol. A video of the confrontation between the police and King soon began to spread throughout the country. The case of Rodney King versus the state of California raised awareness about police brutality in all communities in the United States and opened a dialogue about ways to prevent similar events from occurring. But there has not been much success in stopping police brutality within the black community.

Rodney King versus the State of California was a landmark case that displayed police brutality to the world. "About 12:30 A.M., King's Hyundai is spotted speeding on the 210 freeway by two California Highway Patrol officers, Tim and Melanie Singer”. The officers began to chase King at a speed of 110 miles per hour, when the chase ends three additional officers intervene (Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno, and Timothy Wind). A nearby citizen by the name of George Holiday records the police as they strike unarmed, Rodney King over 50 times.

Police brutality was a factor within the black community long before the Rodney King incident, but his case made it a country-wide issue to be addressed. Due to stereotypes and social bias many officers are intimidated by the company of black males. Black males in particular, are caricatured as aggressive and criminal, and police are more likely to view Black men as a threat which justifies the disproportionate use of deadly force.

A still from the video that captured the beating of Rodney KingPolice are trained to see potential threats within communities and stop them before they become an issue. The problem is not that all police are racist or prejudice, the problem is the training they receive to characterize a threat and make an inference based on a stereotype. Since the King case, police brutality became an issue to be recognized. There have been many cases that have followed similar characteristics between police and the black community. There is the Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Henry Louis Gates, and many more.

Robert Staples says that “racial profiling should be viewed as the systemic, historic, and lived experiences of blacks being controlled and punished by the police and a criminal justice system that exercises incredible latitude and bias.” The reason that police brutality is such a controversial issue is not because of the racism within the police force, but because of the racism in the court system. The courts are finding ways to justify the use of excessive force, that sometimes results in death. Black men and women are not gaining access to societal rewards like justice for their loved ones or themselves.

Since Rodney King’s case the trend in police brutality is only getting worst. Police are not only beating or stopping unarmed black men but they are killing them and finding a way to justify it in the courts. Recently, 38% of Whites and 89% of Blacks viewed the criminal justice system as biased against Blacks. Additionally, 8% of Blacks and 56% of Whites saw the criminal justice system as treating Blacks fairly (Chaney and  Robertson).

Rate of law enforcement killings, per million population per year, 1999-2011.
Such a high percentage of blacks that view the justice system as biased against blacks symbolizes the high disdain of police officers for the black community, only 8% of black men and women think that blacks are being treated fairly by the justice system. The majority of whites see black people as being treating fairly simply because they have not experienced or witnessed police brutality toward black men and women in their communities.

Police brutality has brought people together in order to demand change. Since the Rodney King case many movements have rose to end injustice of black men and women. The NPMSRP stands for National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project. The project is used to simply show all communities the statistics behind police brutality and changes that need to occur to stop police brutality. A project like this tackles the legal and political aspect of police brutality.

The government needs to revise the power of the police and create a equal justice system.The justice system has been finding ways to justify police brutality for years. Justice equality is demanded for the black community and it has taken over two decade for them to be heard effectively.
...Read More.