Police from the around the world are faced by a large variety of situations, which in comparison, presents the opportunity for them to shine—or not. A lot of factors go into how single, grouped, or as a department, they respond to any given situation. Psychological pressures, environment and surroundings, provocations; any of these and more may determine if police uphold the law fairly or resort to abuse of authority.
One of the most infamous accounts of police brutality is the Rodney King beating. In March 3rd of 1991, in Los Angeles, after a high speed chase, police pulled Mr. King out of his car and beat him viciously. Unknown to them, they were videotaped by an amateur cameraman. That tape would spark a three month trial where the four officers charged were acquitted by a mostly white jury, which in turned sparked the riots that would see the infamous beating—just as brutal—of Reginald Denny, a white trucker yanked from his vehicle by black youths. During that time period, the Los Angeles Police Department was embattled with protests and accusations of racism and brutality. The King beating had merely brought things to a boiling point.
Fast forward to the present. Police, foreign and domestic, have been praised or vilified, individually or in groups, in situations large and small. They have saved people, hurt and killed people, responded with restraint as well as excessive force. They are alternately feared and welcomed.
In Alamo Heights, Texas, a student of a Christian college was allegedly pulled over for speeding. After a struggle in which the student supposedly took away the policeman’s baton and hit him with it, he was shot—not just once, but five times. In a statement, the policeman said he warned the student to stop resisting arrest 56 times before the shooting. Friends of the student say this was not the same person. Their friend had made the Dean’s list and was not the type to attack police. So what really happened? Curiously, the patrol car was missing its cam at the time of the incident due to mechanical reasons.
In Belfast, police reopened a case concerning the Kincora Boys Home, where the children there were being sexually abused. Apparently the investigation had been closed by the secret service of Northern Ireland to protect alleged high level perverts. That seems to represent police corruption at the highest levels. Between 1963 and 1968, it was reported that 168 boys between 17 and 18 resided at the home. Three senior staff member of the home were jailed in 1981 for abusing 11 boys but the number was suspected to be much higher. Details surrounding the case and the people involved are much more extensive. The case is mentioned here to illustrate police finally stepping up to the plate to do the right thing.
These and the following comparisons of various police around the world would seem to pose significant evidence of why the act of policing garners such a wide reaction from the public as a whole.
A Kurdish protester in Turkey died from wounds after an intense clash with Turkish police. In the Ukraine, protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square demonstrating against President Viktor F. Yanukovich clashed with police, who brought in heavy equipment. However they pulled back, seemingly exercising restraint in the use of deadly force.
On a lighter note, policewomen in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, have the option to choose to wear an official uniform that includes a hijab, a scarf that covers the head and neck. The intent is to reflect the police department’s interest in an increasingly diverse community, and perhaps entice Muslim women to consider police careers.
This is but a sparse smattering of how police around the world compare to each other, but reveals that their responses are just as divergent as the communities they protect.
By Lee Birdine