Police forces around the world exist to preserve order and protect citizens. At times, however, the public and members of the force clash, and the resulting cases of police brutality highlight problems of political expression, corrupt authority, and the essential problem of equipping humans with the capacity to commit violence.
These five cases highlight the issues involved with police brutality in the modern era.
1. South African Dog Attack
Police brutality against protesters and civilians alike was common during the struggles of Apartheid that characterized South African life during the late 1900s. Despite the fact that apartheid rule ended officially in 1994, one specific case of police brutality reveals the underlying racial tension that continued to exist in society.
In 1998, six white South African police officers were sentenced to four and five year jail terms after setting attack dogs on three Mozambican immigrants during a training exercise. Although none of the victims died, the crime was captured on camera and shows the officers shouting racial slurs. After broadcast on national television, the officers pleaded guilty but remained largely remorseless for the crime.
2. Francis McCloskey
Conflict with the police is hardly unheard of in Ireland. Clashes between the IRA and the Royal Irish Constabulary date back to the 1920s, and other cases of violence continued to crop up throughout much of the twentieth century.
McCloskey was a 67 year-old Catholic civilian that was beaten by the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Dungiven, County Derry. McCloskey died from his injuries the next day. His death on July 14th 1969 incited further contention and is counted by many as the first death of The Troubles.
3. Chicago Police-on-Police Violence
Racial conflict in the US is a part of the nation’s history but continues to be a large problem in urban centers like Chicago where the real story is often lost somewhere between the official record and those that feel they have been victimized.
One particularly troubling instance of this is the 2012 sentencing of a black, off-duty police officer to forty years of jail time for firing on police who had pulled him over for driving the wrong way down a one way street in February of 2005.
While the official story is that Howard Morgan fired his weapon first resulting in his attempted murder charge, Morgan’s friends and family hold that he was only defending himself from the four white police officers that shot him a total of 28 times.
4. 2009 G-20 Protests
At large scale political events like the G-20 summit that was held in London in 2009, demonstrations and protesting are to be expected. Consequently, police are trained to respond with a number of crowd control techniques like kettling, where officers force protesters into an area with only one possible exit.
As police were allowing a crowd of protestors outside the Bank of England to exit, Ian Tomlinson was killed after being forced to the ground by police. Caught on amateur video the incident prompted an investigation by Scotland Yard and an inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, though the officer responsible was found not guilty of manslaughter.
5. Greek Riots
Just as amazing as particular instances of police brutality are the responses that they provoke in the public. For many of the past several years, Greece has been in a state of unrest during the global recession resulting in a large number of riots, protests, and clashes with police.
At the locus of many of the protests is the death of 15 year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos who was shot by an officer in Athens on December 6th, 2008. Two years later, two guards were found guilty, but not before civil unrest over the incident resulted in multiple weeks of riots, occupation of Greek universities, and protests of support in about 25 other nations.
Stories like this are sad but occur all too often. While many members of the police forces around the world have only the best interests at heart, these cases demonstrate that that is, unfortunately, not always the case.