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Police Brutality Through the Media Lens

Recently, incidents of police officers shooting and killing African-Americans have gained more attention in the media.

A new study shows a relationship between racial bias and the police use of excessive force against people of color. The study found that police are more likely to use handcuffs, draw their weapons, and use pepper spray or their baton when dealing with people of color.

New technology such as body cameras and smartphones mean more and more officer-involved shootings are being recorded and posted on social media by witnesses. Although police brutality is not a new phenomenon, the coverage by both professional and citizen journalists has made it more prominent. Some hope this coverage will help lessen the violence, but others in the African-American community question the effectiveness of body cams.

“I don’t think it’ll make a difference,” screenwriter and actor Kyle Smith said. “Cops are killing innocent blacks on camera, and getting away with it.”

The Washington Post reports that 991 people were shot by police officers in 2015, but according to data collected by an Ohio researcher, only 26 officers have been convicted of murder or manslaughter.

“As of right now [the new technology] is not working, because even when they’re catching these assassinations and murders on camera, nothing is happening to the cops,” CSUN Africana Studies Professor Aimee Glocke said.

The problem now may be whether or not the media are accurately reporting and portraying these situations, and whether their coverage could actually be helping to perpetuate the violence.

In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting, #BlackLivesMatter arose as a popular hashtag on Twitter to protest the violence that plagued the African American community. Soon the hashtag evolved into an organization geared toward ending the injustice of police brutality. But the attacks on the community have not stopped, and some feel the community and individuals continue to be targeted due to racism and unconscious bias.

“My interaction with the police has absolutely 100 percent always been different from my peers around me,” CSUN’s Black Student Union President Robert T. Wilson III said. “Personally, it would be nice to not have to feel scared; it would be nice to not feel nervous when interacting with the police, and I could be held accountable [only] for the things I do, or the things I do not do.”

The shootings of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012, and Michael Brown in Missouri in 2014, generated an emotional response because they were young men, both under the age of 18.

“I’m a black mother of a 33-year-old black male and I’m constantly holding my breath,” CSUN Africana Studies Professor Monica Turner said. “There’re no words to describe that kind of torment: when you think about a child that you have loved and nurtured and cared for, [and] someone shooting them down like an animal in cold blood. There’s nothing to describe what that feels like. I really feel terrorized.”

Many politicians and law enforcement experts are calling for a closer examination of police training methods.

“’Just being black’: most police officers will say that’s a reason for excessive force,” Glocke said. “I know there’s a standard, and there’s supposed to be this whole judgement of when you use force, [but] many police officers don’t care. They will shoot first, and ask questions later.”

To view the complete interview with Robert Wilson III, President of the Black Student Union at CSUN, please click here.

Moderator: Thomas Gallegos

Anchor: Ke-Alani Sarmiento

Producer: Alicia Dieguez

Social Media Editors: Nick Torres and Jackie Wawee

Reporters: Alicia Dieguez, Thomas Gallegos, Susana Guzman, Ebony Hardiman, Ke-Alani Sarmiento, Nick Torres and Jackie Wawee

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