Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd…these names, along with others, are forever engraved in people’s memory as those of victims of police brutality. Police brutality is not a recent phenomenon in the United States. It goes back to the American’s early history. African Americans have always been the main target of this violence as they have been consistently portrayed as inherently violent and dangerous criminals. Following the deaths of several African Americans lately, nationwide protests have been swamping the US. One could expect that the government would interfere to actually help reduce police violence, yet the Trump administration has attached little importance to it, or rather, it has minimized it. Does this mean that Trump could be encouraging police brutality?
Since Trump’s administration was set in place, new laws which protect police officers have been passed in the US. These laws were called for owing supposedly to the rise of crime in the US. Yet these executive orders were only meant to empower the police authorities even more and implicitly target people of color . The Presidential Executive Order on Preventing Violence Against Federal State and Law Enforcement Officers is obviously a good example to illustrate how Trump’s administration has attempted to encourage police violence under the guise of law and order. This established order focuses on enhancing already existing and new laws which punish those who try or commit violence against police officers. Undoubtedly, such strategies seem understandable in terms of punishments for people who commit crimes. However, it is interesting to note that there is little proof that such new severe criminal laws actually reinforce law enforcement as Jonathan Blanks, a researcher associate at the conservative Cato Institute, believes. He stated that “keeping law enforcement officers safe is a noble goal. But there is little evidence that new and harsher federal criminal laws will do anything at all to make American police safer”.
Furthermore, federalizing the protection of the police proves that Trump’s administration ignores the real issue which is police brutality against black people. Instead of recognizing racial profiling as a crucial part of the big problem i.e police brutality, the government completely deviates from this fact. According to a new stud
y by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, black people – particularly men – are more likely to get arrested, charged, and killed during a police intervention. It seems that this attempt to establish law and order is a direct divergence from a worse problem which is the struggle the black community faces when it comes to the use of harsh and violent means by police officers. These policies can certainly further criminalize black people as they are pressured by the intolerance of law enforcement officers.
In addition, according to former police officer and assistant law professor at the University of South Carolina Seth Stoughton, there is no need to reinforce the police authority as there is no evidence of any climbing of violence against law enforcement officers. Daunasia Yancey, a Black Lives Matter activist, believes that this presumed violent attitude towards police officers is only a way to protect law enforcement officers from accountability. There is no denying that law enforcement officers need to be questioned and held responsible for any abuse of power towards black people. There should be inquiries and serious investigations to regulate and monitor police officers’ attitude towards black people during their interactions.
Moreover, what happened during the latest peaceful protests illustrates the bad training and brutality of police officers. The stop-and-frisk practices in New York City and other arrest methods are unprofessional that is, police officers are only trained to anticipate danger. One rule is self-protection so if police officers believe their life is in danger, they can use their weapons and therefore shoot. As a result, police officers are stressed while on mission and mistakes are made. People, particularly black people, are killed and the victims are often unarmed. In response to police brutality, Americans have chosen to protest to denounce injustice and be heard by the government. However, according to The Guardian’s article entitled ‘’Nearly 1.000 instances of police brutality recorded in US anti-racism protests’’, more than 950 incidents of police brutality against protesters and civilians happened in 2020 between May and October only. Thus, as protecting police officers remains the first and foremost priority for the US government, victims of police violence as the ones stated above will continue to dramatically grow in number.
That being said, Trump’s rhetoric often consists of xenophobic and racist remarks. His comments on police brutality against Blacks have not proven the opposite. In fact, since he won the US presidential election, African Americans have expressed their concern about the racial tension that tend to occur. In an article published by Ali Younes on 11th Nov 2016 in ALjazeera, Bob Starks, professor emeritus of inner-city studies at North Eastern Illinois University in Chicago, claims that “with Trump in power, the African-American community might witness more police shooting, more incidents of racist attacks against them and an increase in mass incarceration”. Whether or not this is true, Trump’s rhetoric reveals his latent and subtle standpoint. Trump is actually known for his advocacy of police brutality. He even said in a speech, pronounced in July before law enforcement officers in Long Island, New York “please don’t be too nice”. But following the death of George Floyd, one would have expected him to reconsider his position. Has it been the case? Trump was widely criticized for his notorious comments during a CBS News interview in July 2020. When he was asked by the interviewer, Catherine Herridge, why African Americans were still the main target of police violence, he responded by saying that she was asking a « terrible question« . Instead of treating the racially- biased police brutality and its repercussions on a whole community, Trump chose to judge a totally logical question and belittle it. Thus, his rhetoric actually shows that he has no intention to treat this issue from a racial point of view. He worsened the situation when he continued, answering the same question, “and so are White people. So are White people… So are White people. More White people, by the way. More White people”. His repetition of the word “white” serves to shift the focus from the discussed matter, African Americans, to an irrelevant argument. He does not only deviate the attention, but he also manipulates the audience by providing erroneous statistics.A federal study evaluating data on deaths between 2009 and 2012 due to lethal force by law enforcement officers found that a majority of victims were White, but a disproportionate amount were Black, with a fatality rate 2.8 times higher as published on CNN on July 14, 2020 in an article entitled “Trump leans into racist rhetoric and downplays police violence against Black Americans” written by Maegan Vazquez.
Additionally, Trump did not condemn the incident as much as expected, but instead he focused again on disparaging the number of police violence incidents against African Americans saying that “They’re very tiny. I use the word tiny” according to the same source. His linguistic choices reveal his unreadiness to prompt change and address further potential reforms. His rhetoric has not changed from his election until this year’s election. In fact, he built his campaign on an anti-Black Lives Matter sentiment. He described the movement as a “symbol of hate” and violence and an attempt to instill “toxic propaganda” throughout the country “using instances of vandalism and looting as ammunitions for his advertisements” according to The Temple News article “Don’t Fall For Trump’s Rhetoric Against Black Lives Matter” published on 22 September 2020. George Floyd’s death is an “incident” that stirred several demonstrations and unrest to end the racially biased and unjust treatment of the police towards African American. While Trump was supposed to introduce new policies and adopt an adjusted rhetoric, he ended up abandoning African Americans.
Police brutality is still a real issue in the United States and will probably be so for a long time to come. It is essential to understand that police violence has a great impact on the black community in particular because of the racism rooted in American society. The US system must look deeper into ending this growing phenomenon instead of keeping the law in favor of law enforcement officers. it is understandable to protect police officers, however, police brutality should not be a norm the government enhances disregarding its atrocious consequences. It is worth noting that this gap between the police and the community has been reflected in the 2020 election. This tends to show how unsatisfied Americans are with Trump’s administration.
Celia Hocine-Soukaina Ghanimi-Narimene Dhaoui
Blanks, Jonathan. 2017. “Police Executive Order Invites Overfederalization.” Cato Institute. February 10, 2017. https://www.cato.org/blog/police-executive-order-invites-overfederalization.
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CNN, Maegan Vazquez. 2020. “Trump Leans into Racist Rhetoric and Downplays Police Violence against Black Americans.” CNN. July 2020. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/07/14/politics/donald-trump-police-brutality/index.html.
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Venook, Jeremy. 2020. “Trump’s Record on Police Brutality and Peaceful Protests: Making the Problem Worse.” Center for American Progress Action. June 15, 2020. https://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/security/news/2020/06/15/177851/trumps-record-police-brutality-peaceful-protests-making-problem-worse/.