Why Does Police Brutality Happen?

Police brutality occurs for several reasons, including a lack of accountability in police departments, racial disparity between police and communities, and a lack of training. You might need to know more about police brutality, such as “What is police brutality?” and “Why does police brutality happen?” Here, you’ll learn more about this issue and why it occurs in Illinois.

Police Brutality Statistics in Illinois

So, what is police brutality, exactly? Generally, police brutality involves an excessive use of force or abuse of power on the part of police officers, resulting in physical injury or distress to civilians during detention or arrest.

The different types of police brutality can include physical violence in the use of excessive force, unlawful search and seizure, discrimination and racial profiling, false arrest and imprisonment, or harassment and intimidation. In extreme cases, lethal force could result in an individual’s death.

There are some facts about police brutality that recent statistics show, which highlight the prevalence of this issue in Illinois and the U.S. For instance, according to data from the University of Illinois Chicago:

  • Law enforcement is responsible for 10 to 20 civilian deaths in Illinois every year.
  • 600 to 900 serious injuries in Illinois result from interactions with law enforcement.
  • 74 to 140 Illinois civilians have died because of police interactions since 2016.
  • An average of 750 people need professional medical care in a clinical environment because of injuries sustained in police interactions.
  • Despite only comprising 6.6% of the Illinois population, African-American men account for 53.3% of all deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers.

These and other statistics reveal how serious police brutality remains and the need for police reform in Illinois and beyond.

What Is the Police Disciplinary Process in Illinois?

When police brutality occurs in Illinois, police officers may face repercussions through disciplinary action via the officers’ police department.

While the “Use of Force Continuum” provides some guidance around acceptable uses of force in different situations, this model doesn’t necessarily prevent officers from exerting excessive force in many situations. In the event of any form of police brutality, you have the ability to file a complaint with an Illinois State Police employee or an Illinois State Police district headquarters.

The method of disciplinary action will differ depending on the department. For example, if you experience misconduct or police brutality from officers with the Illinois State Police, you would file a citizen complaint, which will begin an internal investigation within the department. Following an internal investigation, the Citizen Complaint Procedure would involve an independent investigation by the Division of Internal Investigation, which could lead the offending officer to face criminal charges.

Lack of Accountability and Transparency

In a case of police brutality, officers may not face consequences due to a lack of accountability and transparency among police departments. When departments fail to hold officers accountable for brutality or misconduct, this dismissal can lead to repeat incidents. Officers who don’t face any criminal charges or other disciplinary action for their misdeeds may feel encouraged to continue their behavior, which can cause more harm to others and the surrounding community.

Militarization of Police in Illinois

One recent change that can lead to increased instances of police brutality is the acquisition of military equipment among police departments in Illinois.

Acquisition of Military-Grade Equipment

Recently, police departments have begun to acquire more military-grade weapons and other equipment from the Department of Defense (DOD) to improve their ability to intervene during protests. This level of militarization has taken place since the 1990s, but Illinois law enforcement agencies continue to receive surplus military supplies from the DOD, with agencies specifically acquiring more equipment in 2010 and 2023.

While many of these items in recent years present “low risk” of violence, according to the Defense Logistics Agency, the general supply of military-grade equipment provides law enforcement agencies with the means to increase the likelihood of lethal force and serious injury.

Is There a Relationship Between Militarization and Increased Use of Force Incidents?

People may question whether there’s a link between militarization among police and an increased use of force.

In recent years, studies have taken place to determine whether there’s a connection between militarization and an increase in use of force incidents. One such study from the University of Cincinnati in 2017 concluded that agencies using military equipment are far more likely to engage in deadly use of force than those without it.

Another study from the University of Utah published in Political Research Quarterly found a link between militarization and an increase in the use of lethal force, following an analysis of over 11,000 observations from 2014 to 2016.

While it’s not entirely conclusive how militarization impacts police brutality and police killings, data shows that agencies using this type of equipment tend to use more force than necessary in certain situations.

Lack of Training and De-escalation Techniques

One factor that contributes to instances of police violence is a general lack of training for officers. Police officers must learn the appropriate use of force in various circumstances and how to safely de-escalate situations when interacting with the public.

While Illinois requires a certain level of training for police officers around de-escalation techniques, multiple states across the country don’t have any requirements in place. Even with training programs, Illinois sees a troubling amount of police brutality, especially in the Chicagoland area.

What Are the Current Training Requirements for Illinois Police Officers?

All Illinois police officers must undergo basic law enforcement training (BLE) before they can become officers.

At this time, officers have the option of attending either part-time or full-time training. Part-time training entails individually paced training online along with in-person training that takes place on the weekends. Meanwhile, full-time training requires 580 to 620 hours of instruction. Generally, officers making the transition from another type of career tend to take part-time training.

Also, as of 2021, police reform training is in place to provide law enforcement officers in Illinois with additional training for de-escalation. At this time, police officers must satisfactorily complete training every year or even more frequently around the topics of law updates, emergency medical responses, crisis intervention, and officer wellness and mental health.

Additionally, the recent police reform updates require mandatory training every three years, and it will consist of a minimum of 30 hours of training, including a blend of role playing and hands-on training. Part of this program entails six hours of instruction on proper use of force, including de-escalation in an effort to reduce or eliminate the need for force.

Comprehensive Training Programs

In basic training, law enforcement officers in Illinois must also complete a 16-week comprehensive training course with the Illinois State Police Academy, which translates to 640 hours.

What to Do After a Police Brutality Incident

In the event of police brutality, victims should seek immediate medical attention. Under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, individuals have the right to receive medical attention if needed, even while in police custody. Violation of this right could contribute to police brutality cases if officers refuse an individual to seek medical care, even if the use of force is necessary.

In addition, it’s important to maintain as much documentation as possible to support a police brutality claim. Documentation to collect and organize could include:

  • Medical records
  • The name and badge number of the offending police officer(s)
  • The police department that employed the offending officer(s)
  • Witness information, including their name, phone numbers, and other contact details
  • The location and time of the injury
  • Photos or video footage of the police brutality incident and any injuries sustained

In addition to physical injuries, police brutality and abuse of power can lead to emotional distress and trauma that affects victims for many years, culminating in numerous compensable damages. After seeking medical attention and collecting available evidence, reach out to a police brutality lawyer. An attorney with experience in these matters can help you build a case and seek justice and compensation for your suffering.

Taking action against offending officers will also help ensure that departments and governments hold them accountable for their actions, which can help prevent future incidents and keep them from escaping the consequences of their actions.

Determining Why Police Brutality Happens and How to End It

Police brutality can result from numerous factors, including a lack of accountability and transparency among police departments, increased militarization, and inadequate training, among other causes. Identifying these causes and addressing them may help reduce the number of instances of police brutality in Illinois and across the U.S.

Additionally, victims taking action following instances of brutality can help see to it that officers face justice and that departments apply appropriate disciplinary action to minimize the risk of future offenses and stop police brutality

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
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