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Related Categories: North Bay / Marin | Education & Student Activism | Police State & Prisons
Analysis of Police Brutality if Seen at Sonoma State
by Amanda Zuidema et al
Friday Dec 8th, 2017 6:53 PM
Research on if Sonoma State students experience police brutality
Analysis of Police Brutality if Seen at Sonoma State
Sonoma State University
Fall 2017

Talia Brainard
Amanda Zuidema
Johanna Garcia
Aiham Abdallah
Katharine Sheppard


Table of Contents
Abstract 3
Keywords 3
Introduction 4
Literature Review 4
Methods 11
Methodology 12
Results/Analysis 12
Conclusion 13
Appendix 14
Graphs 18


Abstract

In the past few years and beyond that, the police have been known to cause a stir with individuals and communities regarding incidents and police force. These incidents have pushed people to question our police force and demand accountability for their actions, that they claim to be for “personal safety”. The goal of this research paper is to define police brutality and make connections between different policies, such as zero-tolerance and profiling. Another goal of this research paper is to discover if police brutality exists in Sonoma County, more specifically Rohnert Park, Cotati and the Sonoma State Campus. In order to research this we will be conducting a random survey, targeting a large sum of Sonoma State University students. The surveys offer students the opportunity to provide their personal experience of police brutality, if having had any, with the police in any of the locations we are studying. At the end of the survey, students are able to provide their name, phone number and email if they wish to continue their discussion about their experience in an in-depth interview. With the survey and in-depth interviews, as researchers we will be able to see if police brutality exists on our Sonoma State campus, and find if college students have a more negative interaction or not. With this study we look for police accountability as well as regarding incidents publicly known and well-known, and see if the police are committing “justifiable” killings, or if the police are only protecting their own. With this research, we look to police to take accountability for their actions and help to improve the police force, and stop unnecessary police brutality.

In this research paper, the purpose is to find a correlation between Sonoma State University students and the police in the community that surrounds them, that being positive, negative or neutral. However, more specifically, we aim to find if police brutality exists on the Sonoma State campus. To find this we ask, “What are Sonoma State students experiencing with community police and is it positive or negative?” As researchers, and students ourselves, we find this topic of police brutality to be an epidemic not only in our community, but throughout the country as well. Therefore, this is a relevant and pressing issue that we have come to be curious about. Scholarly literatures have made a point to express how young adults are more exposed to police brutality, and consequently experiencing police brutality themselves. We see incidents occurring regarding police brutality quite often, most highlighted in newspapers, such as the local newspaper in Sonoma County, The Press Democrat. Studies have shown that young adults experience more of this issue compared to other age groups, for example the elderly, and for this reason we studied the students at Sonoma State University.

Police Brutality

This particular chapter of “Police Brutality” discusses how police perform and serve different functions in our society and how they must make their decisions based on their discretion. To the public, law enforcement, specifically the police, are public figures and considered the most visible component of the criminal justice system that ultimately represents the United States. However, with the public appearance comes consequences and bad decisions that cannot be unseen. The most well known example would have to be police brutality; this issue is nothing new to our country, or any country for that matter. This article uses empirical and anecdotal evidence to support that the police philosophy is to “shoot first and ask questions later”. Police Brutality is defined as the unlawful use of physical force by officers in the performance of their lawful duties, but the line between acceptable force and brutality can be unclear. The examples they use consist of the Rodney King beating where a police officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was investigated by the FBI for using a taser stun gun five times on a handcuffed man during an arrest for marijuana possession. Another example used was from Bay City, Michigan where police brutality resulted in the death of a 15-year-old. Within this article, it is expressed heavily that excessive physical force usually does not turn into deadly force, however, it does not justify that deadly force can still be excluded from an officer.

Racism and Police Brutality in America

This article on “Racism and Police Brutality in America” touches on the subject of change in police brutality and racism. This article will consist of showing what has changed in the nation’s police departments since the Rodney king Beating that has occurred over 21 years ago. The study in the article will examine the findings provided by the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP). The goal of this study is to examine how the public generally perceives the police and how race and racism shape this discourse. This question is answered in the article through examining narratives provided by 36 contributors to the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project. There were two questions that have played an enormous role finding the answer in this study. The first being What do findings from the NPMSRP suggest about the rate of police brutality in America? The second question being How do individuals perceive the police department, and what implications do these perceptions hold for Black men in America? A common theme that has showed in this article is that deadly force from the hands of police officers are much higher than they are perceived by the general public. Through analysis of this study, the data revealed that people perceive members of law enforcement in these following ways contempt for law enforcement, suspicion of law enforcement, law enforcement as agents of brutality, and respect for law enforcement.

Police and Law Enforcement – Accountability

This article of “Police and Law Enforcement – Accountability” defines what accountability towards police officers mean. Accountability is defined in this article as the means by which police officers and the agencies they represent are held responsible for promoting social order, reducing crime, and treating each individual fairly and within the limits of the law. The public rely on police to make the right decisions under pressured circumstances. Accountability is important because it promoted a sense of faith towards the larger image of our criminal justice system. The reason police should be accountable for their actions at all times is because accountability serves as the first line of defense for the good of the public.

Police and Law Enforcement Profiling

In this article of “Police and Law Enforcement Profiling” shows how race based policing occurs. Race based policing also known as racial profiling occurs when a police officer makes a law enforcing decision based on the person they are targeting race or ethnicity. A public interest issue today is the concern of race as a significant factor for why a police officer may stop someone. The growing public perception in this article is that police officers act inappropriately to certain races because of the stereotypes they believe.

Police and Law Enforcement - Zero-Tolerance Policing

This article “Police and Law Enforcement - Zero-Tolerance Policing” is about the controversial policing style that is Zero-tolerance policing (ZTP). ZTP is a negative form of policing that usually is a form of strict punishment with intent to eliminate undesirable conduct. ZTP policies do not allow officers to use discretion when creating a punishment and instead the punishment is predetermined for the crime committed regardless of the individual’s offense. ZTP purpose in federal policies were created during the war on drugs lead by the Reagan administration.

The issue that is discussed of ZTP in this article is that zero tolerance policing creates strict enforcement especially for petty crimes. ZTP process gives police full authority to interrogate the suspect, arrest the suspect and then find a severe punishment for the suspect.

The article, “ No Charges in Shooting of 13-Year-Old Andy Lopez” informs the public that the sheriff deputy who shot a thirteen-year-old on October 22, 2013, in Santa Rosa will not be charged. .Sonoma County District Attorney, Jill Ravitch, announced the decision not to file criminal charges because the “implication of lethal force was a reasonable response under the circumstances according to all of the evidence reviewed”. The Lopez family responded to the announcement with a statement saying that is impossible to accept Ravitch’s conclusion that Gelhaus, the sheriff who shot Andy, was acting in an act of honest and reasonable threat. The Lopez family informs the public that they will continue fighting for justice.

The article “Rohnert Park Officer Caught on Video Pulling Gun on Civilian Cleared of Wrongdoing” talks about how the officer was excused for drawing his gun on a civilian. The civilian was apparently hiding from the officer and the officer’s response was apparently justified because he felt that the civilian was acting suspicious and thought that he was hiding something in his pocket. One of the underlying themes from the articles that we have examined thus far is the aggressive nature of the police officers’ reactions. Many of the articles point to the fact that the officers went over the necessary precautions given the situation that they were in and as a result either killed a civilian or injured them.

The next article is “Law Enforcement Related Deaths in the US: Justifiable Homicides and the Impacts on Families.” It touches upon 14 cases in which families lost a loved one to a law enforcement related death. The article pointed out that police officers are often punished or made fun of for not using enough force. As a result, this creates some resistances between the police officers and the citizens of the community because the officers don’t want to have a reputation for being passive. Some of the highlighted cases explained that men were shot up to thirteen times by an officer.The families who lost a loved one were resentful of the police and the media because the media seemed to always misconstrue the truth and take the side of the police officer. Similar to the other articles we have examined, this article encourages a shift in police training because their current aggressive nature is contributing to at least 1,500 deaths per year by law enforcement. Another pattern amongst the articles is that they highlight that the police officers who are thought to have overstepped the boundaries are usually cleared of any wrongdoing because of their status as a prominent authority figure. The articles talk about how the media plays a crucial role in clearing the reputations of police officers who have crossed the line.

“Anything Can Happen with Police Around: Urban Youth Evaluate Strategies of Surveillance in Public Places” focuses on in depth telephone interviews that were conducted with 36 youth who have experienced serious interactions with police, guards, or educators. They found that many urban youth express feeling betrayed by authority figures, especially amongst young men of color. Males from racial minority groups experience the most negativity and abuse from the police. Additionally, many young women reported feeling sexually harassed by police officers. This article also emphasizes the importance of changing the police culture and training in order to restore citizens’ faith in their work. This article connects to the other literature because they illuminate the fact that males and racial minorities experience the most harassment and violence from police officers.

The article “Attitudes Toward the Police: The Significance of Race and Other Factors Among College Students” examines the factors of race, gender, prior police encounter, and more to study the attitudes of college students toward the police. The study concluded that minority racial groups continue to record less favorable evaluations of the police than white people. It also pointed out that males tend to have more negative perceptions of police than females do. Due to the fact that males and racial minorities experience the most violence and harassment from police officers, their attitude towards the police tend to be more negative compared to other groups of people. The literature regarding this information begs the question of why this trend of police brutality is directed more often than not towards males and racial minorities. It also provokes people to think about what police departments need to change in order to improve police culture and rebuild the relationships between civilians and police officers in America.

In the article, “Perceived roles of campus Police” the campus police are often see as a different officer than just a regular officer. The campus police officers are often more aware of race and gender. They go through specific training to be able to work well with students and make them feel safe while they are living on campus, and while they are learning on campus. Sometimes people say that the campus police are seen as a “necessary evil or that they are making the campus greater”. Usually the campus police may be more lenient because they are on your side and they are trying to keep you safe. Campus police have a big responsibility because they are in charge of keeping the whole campus safe and everyone who attends the campus. There were previous debates as to weather campus police should be able to carry a weapon. Just like any other officer they should because, if they do not carry a weapon then they have to wait for a outside police department before they can respond to a scene. The most common incidents that campus police faces are drugs, alcohol abuse, sexual assaults, thefts, domestic violence and homicides. Campus police are seen as very important and they are trained to go to other things that are happening in the area.

The article. “Sonoma County Lives 2000-2014",names six-nine people who have died at the hands of Sonoma County law enforcement. There are both male and females on this list and range from teenagers to older adults. Some of the deaths occurred in jail, car chase, or during arrest.
A common thread in these articles is that race and gender play a big role in those who experience police brutality. Majority of the victims who are either injured or killed from an officer crossing the line are from marginalized backgrounds. In particular we noticed that African American and Latino men showed up most frequently in the literature as the victims of police brutality. Additionally, many of these articles point out that the officers who were accused of police brutality were let off the hook and not held accountable for their actions because of their respected status as a police officer. This is a major problem that needs to continue to be addressed and these articles are a call to action for people to be aware of the issue in order to change police culture.
Methods

Our first research method that we did was a nine question survey. The questions included demographics such as age, gender, and what year they were at Sonoma State. We asked if the surveyor had ever had an interaction with the police and also what department they may have made contact with. We asked if the experience was positive or negative. We also asked if they would ever call the police voluntarily. All of our questions led up to understanding if they thought police brutality was seen here at sonoma State and if they have faced it. After we got the results from our surveys we began to set up interviews.

Interview list:

Interviewee 1 - Caucasian - Female - 21 years old - 4th year at SSU

Interviewee 2 - Latina - Female - 21 years old - 4th year at SSU

Interviewee 3 - Latino - Male - 21 years old - 4th year at SSU

Interviewee 4 - Caucasian - Female - 24 years old - 3rd year at SSU

Interviewee 5 - Latina - Female - 20 years old - 3rd year at SSU

Interviewee 6 - Asian American - Male- 21 years old - 4th year at SSU

Interviewee 7 - Asian American - Male- 20 years old- 3rd Year at SSU

Interviewee 8 - Male - 21 years old - 2nd year at SSU

Interviewee 9 - Male - 23 years old - 5th year at SSU

Interviewee 10 - Male - 21 years old - 4th year at SSU

Methodology

We picked our interviewees based on their experience whether it was positive or negative, and also if they put their name down that they wanted to be interviewed. All of the people that we interviewed were students at sonoma state. We did it this way because we wanted to put a target on college students because in the media younger people are the ones that are being involved with more police brutality.

Results/Analysis

Our findings suggest that Police Brutality is not really present at Sonoma State. Almost half of the people who took the survey had no experiences with police officers. The other participants have had mostly neutral or positive experiences. However, there were some negative experiences. Most people who reported having a negative experience was because the police officer gave them a ticket or the officer had a bad attitude. Through the surveys and interviews, we have come to the conclusion that police brutality is not an issue at Sonoma State. However, it does seem that police department in Rohnert Park, Cotati, and at Sonoma State have a bad attitude when pulling students over or dealing with students. Sonoma State University is predominantly a Caucasian campus with more female than male students and this is very important to note for this study. Most of the police brutality seen is towards Male African Americans and Hispanics.

Although police brutality doesn’t seem to be present at Sonoma State there have been many police brutality cases noted in Sonoma County. Sonoma State is a University with predominantly Caucasian females. Most of the participants in our research were Caucasian females. It is very important that these variables are looked at because most of the people who experience police brutality are Male Hispanics and African Americans.Another important thing to note is that many students who participated in the survey hadn’t had any interaction with the police department. If we were to conduct this research project again I think it would be best to survey the same number of African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Caucasians ect. It would be interesting to look for patterns or differences between the different ethnicities and their interaction with the police department.

Conclusion

In summary, the data that we collected from the surveys and interviews revealed that males are more likely to have a negative experience with the police compared to females. Additionally, African American or Latino men are more susceptible to having negative interactions with the police. While this study adds to the continuously growing research on the topic of police brutality, the next step is for our society to take action towards solving this epidemic of police brutality. People in every community across the nation must speak up about police brutality if we want to make the changes that are necessary to improve police culture.

It is important to note that our group was affected by many factors while conducting our study on police brutality this semester. Firstly, our group is made up of five people while the other groups in our class have at least six or seven people per group. Having a smaller group forced our group members to have a heavier workload throughout the semester compared to the other groups. Furthermore, the Sonoma County fires that occurred in October personally affected each of us and many of us were displaced from our homes near campus and forced to retreat back home for the week and a half that school was cancelled for.

Appendix
Survey

We are conducting a survey for our Sociology Investigative course to see how students feel about police in our community. We are collecting data to write a research paper on police brutality among Sonoma State students, and as a result to see if police brutality does exist on our campus. Any and all answers provided will be confidential and anonymous. Thank you for your time! If any concerns or questions, please contact Professor Peter Phillips in the Sociology Department at Sonoma State University.

1. How old are you? _________

2. Do you identify as
· Male
· Female
· Other ______________________

3. What is your ethnicity?
· White
· African American
· Hispanic
· Asian American
· Pacific Islander
· Native American
· Other __________________________

4. How long have you attended college at Sonoma State ? ____________

5. Have you ever had an interaction with the police while you have been in college?
Yes or No

6. What police department did you come in contact with?
· Sonoma State police Department
· Rohnert Park Police Department
· Sonoma county Police Department
· Santa Rosa Police Department
· I don’t remember
· Other _______________
7. If so, was it a positive or negative experience ? Explain why it was Positive and why it was Negative.
______________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________
8. Would you ever call the police voluntarily ? Yes or No

If no why not ? ______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
9. If willing, can we contact you to do an interview? If so, please leave your contact information either via phone or email, and we would be more than happy to contact you and meet for an interview.

Name**: __________________________

Phone contact: ______________________

Email: ___________________________________

**If you do not feel comfortable providing your name, please feel free to put down a pseudonym, or in other words a fake name.
Interview Questions:
1. You mentioned on the survey that you had a (positive/negative) experience with the police, what happened?
2. Did the police hurt you or harass you in any way?
3. Did the police do anything without your consent?
4. Do you think your race had anything to do with how the police officer treated you and why?
5. What police department did you have an interaction with and how did you know it was them?
6. Besides your own experience with the police what interactions have you seen involving the police?
7. Tell me about your thoughts on police brutality. Do you think that it exists? Do you think it exists here in sonoma county? Explain.
8. Since the fire has happened has your view of the police changed positively, negatively, or stayed neutral and why?