In 1991, a videotape taken by a bystander of a man being beaten up by four armed policemen - three of whom were white and one, Latin American -- was given prominent airtime in news and public information shows all over the United States. The footage showed officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) violently striking one Rodney King with a baton until he could no longer stand up and using an electroshock weapon on his person.
More than fifty people lost their lives in the three-day frenzy of violence. The main cause of furor was the belief that the police violence was racially-motivated and the ferocity of the attack would not have happened if Rodney King were white.
As unfortunate as the outcome was, the incident could be said to be a good learning tool in that it invites us to revisit the issue of police brutality and the question of whether or not such brutality by law enforcement officers made while in the line of duty actually result in effective law enforcement. And if it were so - i.e., if apprehension of criminals was actually more certain if the police engage in strong-arm tactics - is this enough reason to bend or relax human rights standards in the Constitution and in various human rights instruments
Legal systems in the civilized world - whether in civil or common law jurisdictions -- have, at least in theory, given primacy to the rights of the accused, understanding that ambiguity should be resolved in his or her favor. ...