By: Ramneet Jande
Across the world law enforcement agencies are created in order to protect their citizens, to keep the peace of communities, and to apprehend criminals to be tried in court. They are an extension of the justice system and citizens trust them to act in their best interest. However for years, countries across the globe have drawn attention to acts of police brutality and excessive violence used on citizens. In the United States, there have been countless instances where the police force have disproportionately used excess force on citizens of color, sometimes fatally.
The US isn’t the only country grappling with this problem. Citizens in Nigeria are also advocating for police reform in their country. The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was created to control a crime surge in 1992 in Nigeria. However, this group soon started targeting and subjecting vulnerable citizens to brutality and was known for blackmailing, kidnapping, and extrajudicial killing amongst other things. Displays of this violence posted on various social media platforms, such as Twitter, created a large movement, titled #endSARS which called for the government to disband the force. In October of 2020, SARS police officer shot a young Nigerian man in front of the Wetland Hotel in Ughelli, Delta State, leading nationwide protests. Soon after, a peaceful #endSARS protest in Lagos, Nigeria sparked outrage when Nigerian soldiers opened fire on the protestors, reminiscent of Black Lives Matter protesters being pelted with rubber bullets and tear gas in the United States. President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria agreed to disband the force but protestors were outraged at the fact that many officers were going to be redeployed.
Police brutality remains an issue in many democracies. In France, police have used excessive forces to crack down on the Yellow Vests protests, a movement pushing for economic equality in the French working class. In Kenya and Nigeria, police have killed up to 30 people when enforcing coronavirus restrictions. According to The Prison Policy Initiative, the U.S. leads most wealthy democracies in police killings with an average of 33.5 killings per 10 million people. To increase the trust within communities of color and the police force, more officers of color were hired. However, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported in 2017 that hiring more Black officers did not help reduce the shooting of African-Americans by police.
So what’s the solution to this?
Dr. Cristina Ortiz, a Pacific professor from the Sociology Department, writes that police misconduct occurs due to lack of education, racism, bias, and lack of exposure. “There needs to be stricter requirements for entering this profession,” she says. “If you give an 18 year-old the type of power that you give a police officer and don’t ever require them to develop a deeper understanding of institutional racism and the power dynamics that exist within our society, then you can’t be surprised when these types of incidents occur.” Ortiz also added that research shows that if a police officer has a college degree they are less likely to use violence because they have better problem-solving skills, have better relationships with the communities they serve, and are better leaders. This is not to say that education will solve the issue entirely, but it can’t hurt,” she added.
Both the Black Lives Matter and #endSARS movement calls for defunding the police. Both movements agree that instead of funding police institution, resources would be better allocated towards important determinants of racial and social class inequality such as education, housing, and healthcare. Ortiz commented that, “Police brutality has occurred for quite some time. It is nothing new to communities of color — especially the Black community — but is now being highlighted due to social media and the fact that everyone is carrying a camera.”