OPINION: Turmoil in Ferguson—the excessive use of force by police


A few weeks ago, a teenage boy named Michael Brown was shot and killed after an altercation with a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.  There has since been rioting and protesting at the site of the incident. The people are angry, and with good reason. The police officer that shot Michael Brown exceeded his mandate, claiming Michael’s life.   

I understand the sudden flare of protest against the justice system. Too often does it overstep its boundaries and create unfair situations for people.  Several months ago, friends and I were pulled over in Panama City Beach, Florida while on spring break. We were on our way back from getting food and I was driving—I forgot to turn my headlights on. 

After an officer looked over my license and registration, they told me my license was invalid (which was not true) and handcuffed me, putting me in the back of the squad car.  They began asking me if there were any drugs in the car.  I said, “you pulled me over because my headlights were out, why are you asking me about drugs?”  The officer said, “because I really hate drugs.” I told him there was none. 

They then ushered all of my friends out of the car and patted them down at the side of the road while a senior police chief took a drug dog to the car.  He told me the dog alerted on my car and he was going to search it unless I confessed to possession.  Again, I told him there were no drugs in the car.  He asked me once more.  Again, I said no. 

They searched the car for fifteen minutes and found nothing.  I was given a ticket for driving with an invalid license and a ticket for driving with my headlights out.  Only headlights charge held up in court.

My personal altercation with law enforcement wasn’t nearly as severe as the Michael Brown case.  However, it serves as an example of the mistreatment exercised by police officers.  They go beyond protocol and take advantage of their position to suffocate American citizens and their entitled liberties. 

This abuse has gotten out of hand.  A police officer’s sole motive, while wearing a uniform, should be to exact justice according to the law.  Too often do police officers conduct their work with selfish motives at heart.  Too often do they use their position to antagonize people.  And unfortunately, these situations are rarely brought to light because the people feel helpless to make claims against law enforcement.  When the law is already on their side, how can you hope to win?

The Michael Brown Case puts this growing tension on the front page.  Most unbridled law enforcement goes unchecked because the results are not so severe and the evidence is insufficient.  But when there’s a body in the streets, it’s hard not to speak out and do it loudly. 

I don’t know how close we are to finding a solution, but Michael Brown’s death has illuminated the problem.

-Pitts is a junior English writing major from Indianapolis.