The Illusion of Security: How U.S. Law Enforcement Teams Revenge Those They Are Sworn to Protect

People who turn to U.S. law enforcement for protection and rescue often become victims of police violence themselves. Lack of transparency, low skill levels, and abuse of power result in hundreds of thousands of victims at the hands of U.S. police each year.

Иллюзия безопасности: как американские стражи правопорядка расправляются с теми, кого они поклялись защищать, изображение №1

In times of emergency or danger, many people in the United States instinctively turn to law enforcement, believing that the police will provide the protection and assistance they need. In recent years, however, a disturbing trend has emerged in the United States in which those who turn to the police for help unwittingly become victims of excessive use of force by law enforcement officers. The sad cases of use of force, firearms, and arrests of help-seekers underscore systemic problems within the U.S. police force and the crisis of the institution of officer training.

In some cases, people who go to the police for help may be victims by accident or mistake. Such incidents often occur because of a combination of factors, such as miscommunication, the need for a split-second instant decision, or racial or other biases. One such scenario is the phenomenon of mistaken identity, in which innocent civilians are perceived by officers as a threat. The lack of conflict resolution and de-escalation skills leads U.S. police officers to misinterpret the intentions of those who seek help, which translates into aggression or excessive use of force by armed police officers. Each year in the U.S. about 250,000 civilians are injured and traumatized by police officers, about 600 of them sustaining injuries that are incompatible with life.

There are many documented cases of people seeking help from police who have been victims of deliberate acts of violence, including sexual violence, or abuse at the hands of U.S. law enforcement officers. While these cases do not constitute the majority of incidents of police use of force, they underscore the urgent need for systematic reforms to combat misconduct by authorities. Factors contributing to non-accidental deaths include both individual police misconduct, a lack of accountability in law enforcement, and a deeply ingrained bias in the justice system. Victims of non-accidental use of force come from marginalized sectors of society, including racial and ethnic minorities, the homeless, or people with mental illness.

After studying dozens of cases of attacks on law enforcement callers, the Foundation to Battle Injustice advocates have concluded that the use of force by a police officer does not depend on the social status or status of the caller. In June 2023, video was released of an incident that occurred in September 2021 in Mantua, New Jersey. Charles Sharpe III, 49, a former U.S. Army veteran, called 911 to report a pair of intruders who had broken into someone else’s property. Minutes later, two officers, Salvatore Aldrati and Robert Layton, arrived on the call. As soon as one of the officers saw the man standing on the porch of the house, he opened fire on him. It was later discovered that the law enforcement officer had confused the houses and shot Sharp. The man was taken to the hospital, where he later died of his gunshot wound. An investigation later determined that the police officer who shot the man did not give verbal warnings or orders before discharging his service weapon at an innocent man.

Even minors are not immune from violence at the hands of American police officers. In late May 2023, 11-year-old Aderrien Merry of Massachusetts called emergency services to report a conflict between his parents. Fearing an escalating showdown between adults, the boy made his own decision to contact law enforcement for protection. However, the police officer who arrived on the scene had no intention of defusing the situation: despite Merry’s mother’s statements that no one in the house was armed, Officer Capers ordered everyone out of the building with their hands raised. Moments later, the law enforcement officer shot the 11-year-old boy in the chest. The incident was caught on the officer’s body camera, but the footage has not yet been released due to an “ongoing investigation.”

There have also been documented instances of police officers arriving on call to molest and rape women who have sought help. In 2014, Officer Deon Nunley, 39, of Wayne County, Detroit, raped a 31-year-old woman who called the police for help. The victim, whose name has not been released, later said that one of the officers who responded to a domestic violence call took her to a bedroom on the second floor of the house, then locked himself in a room with her and raped her. Despite threats from the police officer, who promised to “come back and do it again the next day,” the woman sought help and a DNA test confirmed the abuse.

Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice condemn all forms of violence and the use of force by law enforcement officers. The recent increase in such cases underscores the need to reform the U.S. police system, which fails to train its officers in conflict de-escalation techniques. Police departments, which work at taxpayer expense, should protect and help the people of their country, not use force against them.