The criminal justice system of the United States comprises of three major components namely courts, corrections and law enforcement. Although there are no external controls in the operations of each of these components, they collectively form a chain that involves investigating suspected criminal activities to criminal punishment administration. The law enforcement which operates through government police agencies is charged with referring the outcome of investigations to courts as well as detaining temporarily suspected law breakers as they await judicial action. In addition, the agencies, at different government levels are also mandated to deter criminal activities and prevent crimes that might be in progress from succeeding. Questions are however raised as to whether the law enforcement agencies operate within the law as they try to maintain law and order and their competency too. This has culminated into different opinions by individuals and groups as to whether to reform policing or to abolish it and come up with a new one.
As has been mentioned earlier, the structure of the police in the United States differs from that one of other industrialized countries in that it is highly fragmented (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2015). This fragmentation has raised concerns about the lack of effort coordination among the agencies, seeing as this has impacted on efficiency and effectiveness in as far as criminal justice and law enforcement is concerned. If the current actions of the police and reluctance of the concerned institutions to indict them are anything to go by, policing does not need reforming but should rather, be abolished and a new one created.
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Police brutality has been the order of the day for the last few years. This is the core reason for my position. The law enforcers we depend on for protection have failed us by turning wild. In 2013, for example, Zimmerman shot dead Trayvon Martin, a black man living in the United States. African Americans took the matter serious after Zimmerman’s acquittal, triggering the Black Lives Matter Movement. The judgment that the officer was not quilty of havinh committed any criminal offense was discriminative, exposing the rot in the much trusted criminal justice system that should accord fair judgment to everyone regardless of race. From this episode, we learn that the current police together with the policing system cannot be trusted. It is for this reason that we should advocate for its complete abolishment with the hope that a new one shall critically examine the outcome of any intended actions for the purpose of unifying the community and the police.
Other injustices committed by police include the killing of Frank Jude, Jr in 2004, 92-year old Kathryn Johnston in 2006, Sean Bell, and the assault and arrest of 12-year-old Dymond Milburn among others. Of concern here, is that all the officers involved in the killings walked free. Where is justice? Are we to trust criminal justice system? Definitely no we need to abolish both the policies and the system that covers them even when they should be charged and indicted. It is only through this that total sanity will be observed with new policies and police officers with up-to-to date training.
Excessive use of force by the police has been witnessed in the United States of America. Cases have been reported in which this unwarranted conduct of the police has led to deaths of several citizens. The shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown and the response by highly militarized police to the reactions of the death of Michael Brown and failure of the grand jury to charge Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting has caused heated debates on the role of the police and the inequalities in the criminal justice system. The need to act has also been made clear by other recent events, for example the decision by the grand jury not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo of New York for killing unarmed black man, Eric Garner even after a tape was released showing his actions. Another officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir in Cleveland, Ohio while he was playing with a toy gun.
The debate revolves around the inequalities in the functioning of our criminal justice system, and majorly focuses on police practices, aggressive policing and use of excessive force, policies on arrest and prosecution, criminal sentence severity and the impact of these policies on the people of color. It is disturbing that the criminal justice system has rigged against these communities of color, and the institutions that are supposed to protect them have consistently failed them, or even target them.
Actions of the police and the policies in place play a significant role in deciding who is to be stopped, searched, arrested and send to the criminal justice system. It is worrying to note that although the United States has less than five percent of the world’s population, it has about twenty five percent of the total world prison population. More disturbing even is the fact that over two million prisoners today are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses while African American are stopped, searched and put behind bars for longer prison terms than whites, even if they are found guilty of committing similar offenses (Burch, 2015), exposing racial discrimination in administering justice.
These and other injustices have seen criticizes with common interest of bringing sanity in the troubled criminal justice system push for reforms in policing. But has it really worked? The answer depends entirely on how one is equipped with information on the current state of our “able” systems, both at the federal government and the states levels. To substantiate this, let’s take an example of Baltimore where riots occurred followed by the criminal charges against some six police officers day later following the death of Freddie Gray. Rawlings- Blake requested that the United States Department of Justice carry out an audit of her police department so that recommendations for reforms are made. How much did her efforts yield? Absolutely not. it is clear that reforms have proved stalled vehicles that cannot be considered for us to travel in as we look for social justices and equality and this is the rationale for my position.
The reason these reforms have not worked is that much of the discussion has been focused on behavior of police officers while ignoring the operational systems which undoubtetly have greater impacts policing outcomes. In as much as we should recognize that there should be a shift in focus from individual police officers to the policing system-the practices, the policies and organizational culture of police, we have a reason to blame the authorities for not taking measures to instill this to the system and actualize it. If the top officials who are charged with the responsibilities of ensuring proper running of the system are not willing to be responsible, then what will make us believe that reforms will ever be achieved? Again, the current police officers have no adequate training to handle the much needed changes in our system.
According to Chaney, & Robertson, (2013), the rate of police brutality and racism is so high in the United States. This followed their examination of the findings that were provided by the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP). The report indicated that fatalities that occur in the hands of the police are four times higher amongst racial minorities than they are for the general public. Also an analysis of the data showed that 77% of respondents perceived law enforcement officers as agents of brutality. There is therefore, enough evidence to back up my position to abolish the policing system and replace it with a new one.
In conclusion, the change in the institutions that protect the rights and administer justice to citizens begins with us. It is time we exercise our rights as envisaged in the constitution to say no to racism and police brutality.
Burch, T. (2015) Skin Color and the Criminal Justice System: Beyond Black ‐ White Disparities in Sentencing. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies , 12 (3), 395-420.
Chaney, C., & Robertson, R. V. (2013) Racism and police brutality in America Journal of African American Studies , 17 (4), 480-505.
Cole, G. F., Smith, C. E., & DeJong, C. (2015) The American system of criminal justice Nelson Education.