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Rodney King

In: Historical Events

Submitted By mjones90
Words 1956
Pages 8
Case of Rodney King
By:
Donald Gilliam

March 4, 2014
Tim Morris
Criminal Law

Case of Rodney King:

Within today’s society police brutality and racism go hand in hand together, and play a huge part with shaping our society but unfortunately today police brutality is a major concern in the United States. Within many cases, violence is an ongoing battle for millions, and from this stems the many types of violence such as racial discrimination, gang violence and unpredictable outbursts of brutality and from saying that there will always be the cold hard fact that there are some authority figures abusing their power. Cases of police brutality can be traced back to centuries ago, unfortunately when one usually thinks about the given topic, the biggest incident that comes to mind is the Rodney King trial.
Since I will be touching on one of the most controversial cases in police brutality it is safe to say that police brutality is still “one of the most serious human violations in the United States. For years the negative use of force used by police officers and local authority has been of a main concern and a large issue throughout our nation” ("LA riots,"). Everything begins when, police officers abuse the use of force that has been given to them, meaning that it has become a growing concern about the abuse of police officers using unnecessary force. And as people have become more educated and aware of what’s taken place, more people have united. People have filed many complaints against police officers using excessive use of force during an arrest and in many cases we have seen how the police have used excessive and unnecessary force over a civilian, and with witnessing this abusive treatment the media has played a key role in demonstrating the abuse of force used by the police. This has created anger and fear in many individuals and also gives off a bad perception about the police department. “The intentional use of excessive force, usually physical, but potentially also in the form of verbal attacks and psychological intimidation by police officers persists because of overwhelming barriers to accountability”(Linder, 2001). Police brutality can range from the negative treatment of citizen’s by racial profiling due to what race the given person is, to the most extreme and most serious where a death occurs by a police officer. Widespread police brutality exists in all cities and many countries and people usually those of an ethnic background, who have encountered the unjust treatment by police officers often face a variety of hardships in “seeking administrative punishment or criminal prosecution of officers who have committed human rights violations” ("LA riots,"). A national survey was taken by “Seattle Times and states that had seventy percent of all police crimes against the public go unreported (Database of Abusive Police)”. Some different statistics I researched regarding police brutality are that in 2011 there were “3,445 police misconduct reports, 4,778 victims of police brutality, 258 reported deaths due to officers abusing their power and what I found out to be the most shocking is that in 2011, 4,012 officers were charged with a violent crime and only 1 in 3 are convicted”. ("Know your rights," 2013). So, now knowing the background of police brutality, I will start to cover the case of Rodney King and share the facts on what happened and how Mr. King became a spokesman and took to role as being the pivotal character to speak about the unjust treatment of citizens from officers of the law and open the eyes of many Americans that were not aware of the effects and damages that come about with police brutality.
On March 3, 1991, Rodney King, an African American male, had been detected speeding by police while driving down the Altadena highway in the city of Simi Valley, in Ventura County, Los Angeles. King was on parole at the time and under the influence of alcohol, so in an effort to avoid being caught violating parole, he attempted to flee from police resulting in a high speed police chase. The two passengers in the vehicle with King were cooperative when officers had placed them under arrest, however the officers quickly decided that King was uncooperative and resisting arrest. Rodney King was shot twice with a taser gun, placed in handcuffs, kicked and then beat over 56 times with their batons before being taken into custody. King after the beating suffered a variety of injuries, including a fractured cheekbone, 11 broken bones at the base of his skull, and a broken leg. After everything took place it was believed that Rodney King was the victim of police brutality because of his African-American race. Fortunately for Mr. King there was a photographer by the name of George Holliday who was in the right place at the right time and he ended up capturing over two minutes of the beating on video tape from the balcony of his apartment. Due to Mr. Holliday surfacing the videotape of the beating of Rodney King, it was played numerous times worldwide and it became a symbol of police brutality. As a result of the videotaped beating all of the officers were all charged with numerous criminal counts, including the use of excessive force, and filing a false police report. While the trial was being conducted the prosecution team used the amateur videotape beating as the principal source of evidence which exempt King from testifying. On April 29, 1992, the jury, which included ten Caucasian, one Filipino American and one Hispanic, and no African Americans, found the police officers not guilty on ten of the eleven counts and did not come to an agreement on the other count which was the excessive use of force. The acquittals stunned many people across the world that had seen the videotape beating and it drove the Los Angeles African-American community in an outrage due to the fact that they had already felt strongly that the police were guilty of racial profiling and abuse. Immediately following news of the acquittal, thousands of people in the Los Angeles area began rioting.
The L.A. Riots were like a time bomb ready to explode due to the fact that the African American Community had already been through and faced numerous amounts of racial discrimination, profiling, and other injustices from the police department and so the beating of Rodney King was the spark that made the bomb explode. The Los Angeles Riots started in South Central were minorities mostly African Americans began looting stores and burning business. The riots lasted from April 29, 1992 until May 4, 1992 and ended up being one of the biggest riots in history in the United States, which later became known as the “1992 Los Angeles Civil Unrest” and “Rodney King Uprising”. As a result of the riots “53 people died and more than 2,000 people were injured. Material lost was about was about $1 billion dollars and 3,600 fires were set destroying 1,100 buildings. The riots were not just a collection of random acts, people were speaking/ lashing out against police brutality, racial discrimination, racial profiling, oppression, etc. against being held down for so long. The only way they were finally heard was through the extreme acts that came about ” ("La riots,"). After six days, the U.S. Marines, and the National Guard were brought in to restore order, which shows how public perception can influence and have dramatic effects on a reality.
After the riots ceased, due to everything that happened initially with the acquittals, the United States Department of Justice reinstated the investigation and obtained an indictment on violations of civil rights against the four officers. The second trial of Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Briseno began on February 25, 1993 in the Los Angeles courtroom located in Downtown Los Angeles. Unlike the Simi Valley jury, the federal jury was racially mixed. “Although the defenses made a considerable effort to exclude African-Americans, two blacks were seated as jurors, and in addition to a more favorable jury, the prosecution had other advantages in the second trial, which was that the government had the advantage of seeing everything that had gone wrong in the first trial”(Linder, 2001). During the trial through King's testimony, the jurors saw a man who not only seemed to have been in fear of his life throughout the beating but also a man you seemed distraught and so the Los Angeles district attorney charged officers Koon, Powell, Briseno and Wind with use of excessive force. Sergeant Koon, while he did not strike King, only having deployed the Taser, was the supervisory officer at the scene and was charged with, "willfully permitting and failing to take action to stop the unlawful assault”(Linder, 2001). The 4th Amendment is applied to the states by the 14th Amendment. Therefore the police violated Rodney King’s 4th and 14th Amendment rights, and the US Code, specifically 18 USC § 242 which makes it a crime for anybody “under color of law” to deprive somebody of his Constitutional rights because of his race. The US code states “Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both”("18 usc § 242," ). After the jury reached their verdict, they found two of the officers, Koon and Powell guilty and they acquitted Officers Wind and Briseno of all charges and Rodney King won a 3.8 million dollar settlement from the City of Los Angeles.
All in all safety is the top priority in today’s society. The police officers are to protect and serve the public and communities with their best interest at heart. But when there are officers that abuse the power they are given it becomes a problem. To this day police brutality is still a ongoing battle with people of ethnic backgrounds, but thanks to Mr. King it was his beating that made America focus on the presence of profiling and police brutality that continue to oppress citizens in America. Rodney King’s case opened the eyes of many Americans that were unknowingly aware that such a problem with officers of the law happen and continue to happen unless we as people make a stand and unite. So I end with King’s famous simple saying that touched many people’s hearts on what took place that night on March 3, 1991 “Can’t We All Just Get Along”.

Citation: * Know your rights. (2013, March 08). Retrieved from http://thinkingaboutphilosophy.blogspot.com/2013/03/know-your-rights-police-brutality.html

* 18 usc § 242 - deprivation of rights under color of law. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/242

* Linder, D. (2001). The trials of los angeles police officers' in connection with the beating of rodney king . Retrieved from http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/lapd/lapdaccount.html

* La riots. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.southcentralhistory.com/la-riots.php…...

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