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Murder & Racial Unrest: An Examination of Police Brutality



Image via: Political Outcast

If you’ve ever gotten pulled over by a police officer, then there’s probably a good chance the first thing on your mind was a hefty ticket.

However, for few unlucky individuals, a traffic stop may very well be a life or death situation, especially for those who are African Americans — a new research study concluded. Welcome to the world of police brutality.

Whether it be YouTube, or the clogged television waves of repetitive police corruption and civil unrest, violence perpetrated by officers is a growing issue with no end in sight.

Many civil rights advocates believe that a significant amount of police officers are actively engaging in racially discriminatory behavior that ultimately is leading to the unlawful use of excessive force on African Americans.

Recent research shows that there are both psychological and racial factors that play significant roles in police brutality — roles that have resulted in the death of numerous innocent young civilians.

The Psychological Role



A civilian who wants to wear the uniform proudly and become a police officer must start their journey with a thorough background check and psychological screening. But as some researchers have argued, this may be where the issue of police brutality begins.

In 1994, following the notorious police corruption case of Rodney King, a study was published by the National Institute of Justice Journal, in regards to the role that police psychologists play to ensure that officers are mentally fit for the job.

In general, fundamental duties of police psychologists include evaluation of overall mental health status, stress management, debriefing after traumatic events and forensic hypnosis.

These psychologists are hired by the government to choose the right new candidates, in addition, to help reduce the use of excessive force for officers who have experienced psychological distress while on the job.

Like soldiers in the armed forces, police officers are in constant danger of developing PTSD, among other illnesses, that can impair one’s judgment and reasoning — this is why the role of police psychologists are critical to the matter.

Officers who suffer from personality disorders, such as antisocial, borderline, narcissistic or schizoid, are at higher risk of exhibiting a lack of empathy which can result to abusive tendencies, Scrivner’s study concluded.

Essentially, mental illness would not just put officers at risk of deadly confrontations, but also civilians, particularly African Americans, stigmatized as being dangerous and criminal, studies have shown.

Psychological distress and police brutality are synonymous, and although some scholars may disagree, the new research that has surfaced after the death of innocent civilians like Trayvon Martin is changing the notion of police corruption.

The Racial Factor



As reported by The Washington Post, a research study released in 2016 using simulators confirmed what many have already known: Race matters in police confrontations.

The study, led by Lois James, Stephen James, and Bryan Vila, all researchers from Washington State University, compared their analysis to studies of similar topics dating back as far back as 1974.

In the study, researchers observed neurophysiological reactions, like brain waves, from both police officers during times of deadly confrontations.

Moreover, one of the lead researchers James analyzed 80 patrol officers from Spokane, Washington, almost all of which were white males near the age of 40.

The officers were given oral and battery tests with no mention of any racial components. One of the tests was the Harvard Implicit Association Test, utilized to detect racial bias by linking images of black and white faces with images of guns.

Immediately, researchers noticed that about 96 percent of the nearly all-white officers exhibited a racial bias, with 78 percent linking blacks with guns, and zero percent connecting whites with guns.

Bottom line: The data collected from the study showed that police officers viewed African Americans as a larger threat than their white or Hispanic counterparts.

All in all, the research study from 2016, along with others conducted starting in the 1970s, shows a distinct pattern of racial discrimination and excessive police force among white police officers.

If there is one positive factor in all of this, is that the latest research on police brutality is finally bringing attention to an issue that is long overdue.

Jose Florez is the founder and editor of Mental Daily. His work has appeared in Psychology Today, Glamour, HuffPost, among others. He is a mental health advocate, and currently studying psychology.

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