Michael Washington

Police Brutality

Police Brutality is a growing issue in our nation that needs a valid, long-term solution.

Dear Mr. or Ms. President,

There’s a definite problem when the common American can’t name a police brutality victim from the past month, and believe me, it’s not because there are none. When there are so many faces of police brutality and unarmed killings by police officers that the faces start to blur together, there needs to be a change.

One of the biggest problems and causes of these incidents is racial profiling. The way police see a white teenager walking down the street and a black teenager walking down the street should be the same. Racial profiling causes police to be more suspicious, which causes the suspect to become nervous, which causes him to seem more suspicious, which leads to someone being shot.

I’m not trying to ignore what police go through. My uncle was in law enforcement and my family and I would be deeply saddened if anything had happened to him in the line of duty, but it’s a police officer’s job to protect and serve, not to be the judge, jury, and executioner.

Probably one of the most famous police brutality victims (besides Rodney King and Trayvon Martin) is Michael Brown. While walking with his friend Dorian Johnson, they were approached by Officer Darren Wilson who told them to “Get the f*ck on the sidewalk.” (McLaughlin) Johnson responded saying that they were almost home and would be off the street soon. Wilson then pulled over and ultimately attempted to pull Brown into his car. When Brown got free (after being shot during the struggle), he and Johnson ran. Wilson got out of his SUV and pursued Brown, shooting Brown once more in the chase. Brown turned around, put his hands up, and told Wilson he didn’t have any weapons and to stop shooting, just before Wilson fired several more shots into Brown’s torso and head. This shooting sparked outrage throughout the country and led to riots in many major cities throughout the U.S. When a police officer is patrolling a neighborhood, it’s unfair that there are groups of people more likely to get stopped and risk death.

Another example of racial prejudice among law enforcement took place right here in my hometown of Seattle a few years back. John T. Williams, a seventh-generation woodcarver from the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribe was crossing a sidewalk in front of Officer Ian Birk. Birk stopped Williams, who was 10 feet away with something in his hands (Mapes). Birk shot Williams 4 times, killing him. After the incident, it was determined the only items that could be seen as weapons were a 3-inch piece of wood and a small pocket knife, which was folded closed at the time of the shooting. Williams had a hearing problem and it was likely he didn’t hear Birk tell him to stop walking. If police officers are made uncomfortable by a minority, or is automatically more suspicious of them, they shouldn’t be police officers. In addition to this, there should be more consolidation towards the families of the victims, and more extreme punishments for the officers who commit these crimes.

My final example (and in my opinion the most disturbing) is the death of Eric Garner. The incident occurred when Officer Daniel Pantaleo became suspicious of Eric Garner for selling “loosies” (single cigarettes). Pantaleo apprehended Garner and put him in a chokehold. Garner died not long after due to prolonged compression to the neck. While he was being strangled, Garner was reported as saying “I can’t breathe” 11 times (Baker, Goodman, Mueller). This is what’s most frustrating to me. How do you ignore the fact the suspect you have in a chokehold is warning you he can’t breathe, repeatedly? NYPD prohibits the use of chokeholds and after he lost consciousness, none of the officers on scene tried to help him in any way. This is a perfect example of police brutality. I guess I can understand making a mistake or getting “caught up in the moment” when you’re using a gun, but when you’re hands-on, up close and personal, you have to be able to notice something’s wrong.

Police brutality is without a doubt one of the most talked about issues in America today. There are still many ignorant or misinformed people who think it’s just people overreacting or an issue that, since it does not directly affect them, their friends or their family, it isn’t an issue they need to worry about. However, when 20,000 people are killed by police in eighteen months, I would say it’s everyone’s problem. You know there’s something wrong with your law enforcement when there’s so many victims of prejudice, violent beatings, and unarmed killings it becomes hard to name one.


Michael S.

West Seattle High School

3rd Period LA9H

Hopkins Honors Intro to Literature & Composition

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