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Police Brutality

Within a nation-state rule of law is king. However there is always the chance of regicide. For those who wish to maintain a certain configuration of law and order one needs to have a violent apparatus. Because ultimately we are all human. We are all equal in that no one is so powerful they cannot be killed or harmed by collusion amongst others or by the use force.

The difference between police brutality and the legitimate use of force is very contentious. In the last few years America has seen an increase in civil rights movements that seek to address the continuous killing of people by the police.

killedbypolice.net has kept a record of each time a person is killed by the police in the United States. This is important because until recently the police had not kept any records of who died at their hands. In 2015 alone there have been 663 people killed by police. Whilst some of those deaths may have occurred in extreme circumstances with officers and civilians placed in extreme danger because of an individual we are now seeing how often this is not the case.

Police brutality is another term for institutionalised racism. The vast majority of people killed by the police in America are ethnic minorities at a national level. I say this because in some cases black people are in the majority, however the police force is overwhelmingly white.

Misunderstandings between communities who live and work on racial lines happen at all levels of society. When a person has a monopoly on carrying out legitimate violence (police vs. civilian) the outcome can be deadly.

Criminalising communities based on their ethnicity or religion is a shortcut to police brutality. Despite constitutionally enshrined rights the fact of the matter is that people have differences. Different ways of life are the norm in different parts of the world. Khat is a mild stimulant the gives the consumer a rush similar to coffee the World Health Organisation classes it as less addicting that tobacco or alcohol. Khat is popular among the diaspora from Africa in the United Kingdom. In spite of its non-harmful effects khat was banned by the Home Secretary and made a Class C drug.

The police are but one part of the criminal justice system. By making khat a Class C drug minority communities have been placed under the threat of prosecution. Possession can mean a 2 year sentence and unlimited fine while supplying khat can mean a 14 year sentence.

Police can be brutal in enforcing the laws, but laws can be another form of brutality all to themselves. By banning khat in the UK economies in Africa lost a valuable source of income. Now that their trade is already illegal the temptation for some farmers to grow crops with a greater profit margin, i.e. poppies for opiates, will grow.

Police brutality needs legal reform to curb it. However the legal reform needs to examine unjust laws. Laws that penalise ways of life that are entirely normal and not harmful are at the epicentre of police brutality and set the agenda for police encounters with ethnic minorities.