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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Effective policing, potential brutality, and police response through the Rodney King prism

    There were differences in the state and federal cases involving the police officers charged in the Rodney King incident. The primary difference in the two trials is that the state cases were based upon charges of criminal acts violating the state's legal code. The federal cases were based upon charges of violating civil rights; United States v. Stacey C. Koon, 833 F. Supp. 769 The second difference is that this was a case of double jeopardy. “The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment commands that no person shall "be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb. “(Amar & Marcus, 1995, p. 1).
Individuals police officers can be held responsible for acts of police brutality. Officer must use “objective reasonableness” in their use of force. This standard was set for the use of deadly force, but almost any use of force has a possibility for lethal results. “Civil liability for use of deadly force is based on an objective reasonableness standard.”(“Civil liability for use of deadly force – Part One- General principles and objective reasonableness,” 2007, p. 107)
    There have been broad changes that have taken place in law enforcement since 1991. Community policing and evidence based policing have been attempts at understanding what makes police work more effective. The results of community policing are partly intended to create better relations within the community, and thus to lessen the potential for use of force incidents ( and thus potential brutality incidents as well). The negative changes to the law enforcement community have been driven primarily thorough a news narrative which portrays policemen in a negative light, particularly in editing footage or failing to provide complete coverage of the events being reported upon, as we will discuss shortly in relation to the King case.
    If the law enforcement community seeks to make the criminal justice system more effective, there are two priories for action; first, to confront dishonest news reporting, and secondly, to confront politicians that seek to use such false media narratives to obstruct justice. Chief Gates of the LAPD threw his officers to the wolves despite having access to the full video, which shows King attempt to assault one officer (Youtube, 2015). Gates should have shown that portion of the tape, which the media edited out, at every press conference discussing the event. When Gates refused to defend justice, the line officers of LAPD needed to confront him in turn. As an example of confronting politicians, we can look to the Baltimore riots of 2015, in which the Mayor gave “space to destroy” to the rioters. She should have been arrested immediately upon obstruction of justice, incitement to riot, and malfeasance charges. Policemen can not do their jobs while being lied about in the media or sabotaged by their political “leaders”.
    The issues of race and accusations of brutality in the King case are reflected in today's policing atmosphere. Not many people considered race an issue in the King subdual, at first, including. Even King's own attorney (Linder, 2001, para 13). However, Jacobs describes the media “construction of the event as a crisis” (1996, p. 1247). Sergeant Koon felt like the media had edited the tape as an act of “political bias”(Cannon, 1999, p. 23). Even so, the actions of journalists and politicians do not represent the community at large. South Central wanted police protection; polls showed that the majority of the black and Hispanic residents were supportive of police (Cannon, 1999, p. 17)


Amar, A. R., & Marcus, J. L. (1995). Double Jeopardy Law After Rodney King. Columbia Law Review, 1–59. Retrieved June 9, 2105 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1123126

Cannon, L. (1999). Official negligence: How Rodney King and the riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD. Westview Press.

Civil liability for use of deadly force – Part one - General principles and objective reasonableness. (2007). Americans for Effective Law Enforcement (AELE) Monthly Law Journal.

Jacobs, R. N. (1996). Civil society and crisis: Culture, discourse, and the Rodney King beating. American Journal of Sociology, 101(5), 1238–1272. Retrieved June 5, 2015 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2782354

Linder, D. (2001). The trials of Los Angeles police officers' in connection with the beating of Rodney King. Retrieved June 9, 2015 from

Youtube. (2015). Rodney King beating video full length footage screener. Retrieved June 9, 2015 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb1WywIpUtY#t=17

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