Police brutality

Police brutality or police violence is an umbrella term to describe any unjustified or intentional harassment, verbal assault, physical/mental injury, property damage, or death suffered due to interaction with the police.[1] Police brutality is one of several forms of police misconduct which involves undue violence by police members. Police brutality is an extreme form of police violence involving physical harm or death to a person or animal. Widespread police brutality exists in many countries and territories, even those that prosecute it. Although illegal, it can be performed under the color of law.[2]


The term "police brutality" was in use in the American press as early as 1872, when the Chicago Tribune[3] reported on the beating of a civilian under arrest at the Harrison Street Police Station.

The origin of 'modern' policing based on the authority of the nation state is commonly traced back to developments in 17th and 18th century France, with modern police departments being established in most nations by the 19th and early 20th centuries. Cases of police brutality appear to have been frequent then, with "the routine bludgeoning of citizens by patrolmen armed with nightsticks or blackjacks."[4] Early large-scale incidents of brutality occurred during labor strikes, such as the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, the Pullman Strike of 1894, the Lawrence textile strike of 1912, the Ludlow massacre of 1914, the Steel strike of 1919, and the Hanapepe massacre of 1924.

Portions of the populations may perceive the police to be oppressors. In addition, there is a perception that victims of police brutality often belong to relatively powerless groups, such as minorities, the disabled, the young, and the poor.[5]

Hubert Locke writes,

When used in print or as the battle cry in a black power rally, police brutality can by implication cover a number of practices, from calling a citizen by his or her first name to a death by a policeman's bullet. What the average citizen thinks of when he hears the term, however, is something midway between these two occurrences, something more akin to what the police profession knows as "alley court"—the wanton vicious beating of a person in custody, usually while handcuffed, and usually taking place somewhere between the scene of the arrest and the station house.[6]

In March 1991, members of the Los Angeles Police Department harshly beat an African American suspect, Rodney King, while a white civilian videotaped the incident, leading to extensive media coverage and criminal charges against several of the officers involved. In April 1992, hours after the four police officers involved were acquitted at trial, the Los Angeles riots of 1992 commenced, causing 53 deaths, 2,383 injuries, more than 7,000 fires, damage to 3,100 businesses, and nearly $1 billion in financial losses. After facing federal trial, two of the four officers were convicted and received 32-month prison sentences. The case was widely seen as a key factor in the reform of the Los Angeles Police Department.

According to data released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2011), between 2003 and 2009 at least 4,813 people died in the process of being arrested by local police. Of the deaths classified as law enforcement homicides, 2,876 deaths occurred of which 1,643 or 57.1% of the people who died were "people of color".[7]



In Vienna there tends to be an association made between Vienna's drug problem and the city's African migrants. This has led to the existence of negative cultural stereotypes which have then led to the racial profiling of African migrants, due to the negative associations with their ethnicity.[8]

There have been a number of highly publicised incidents in Austria where police have either tortured, publicly humiliated, or violently beaten people - in some cases to the point of death. The most notorious of these incidents occurred in the late 1990s, however recent reports in 2015 show that police are still treating civilians in this way.


  • 24 April 1996: Mr Jevremovic, a Serbian Romani man, tried to pay a friend's parking fine and was harassed by police for it. He escaped, and later a large group of police came into his home without a warrant, and violently beat him and his wife before taking them both into custody. They were fined without reason.[9]
  • May 1996: Marcus Omofuma, an Illegal Nigerian immigrant, was being deported from Vienna when the officers taped him to his chair 'like a mummy' and stuck tape over his mouth. He suffocated whilst in police custody.[10]
  • November 1998: Dr. C, a black Austrian citizen, was stopped by police after reversing his car into a one-way street and asked, "Why are you driving the wrong way, nigger?". He was beaten unconscious and handcuffed. Police continued beating him after he regained consciousness. After he was arrested, he spent 11 days in hospital recovering.[10]
  • 28 July 2015: A 27-year-old man, suspected of being a pickpocket, was handcuffed and violently thrown to the ground whilst under police custody. Police said that the man had been injured whilst 'pressing his head against the wall.' Video evidence showed him being passive and compliant prior to the altercation.[11][12]
  • 1 January 2015: A middle-aged woman was beaten and taken into custody after refusing a breathalyser test while walking home at night. She suffered a fractured coccyx and severe bruising to her head and knees. She filed a complaint and only after she found CCTV footage was the case reexamined by the prosecutor.[13]

Police accountability

There has been a notable lack of commitment to addressing the violation of civilians' rights in Austria, with Amnesty International reporting that in 1998/1999 very few people who committed a violation of human rights were brought to justice. This was worsened by the fact that many people who made a complaint against police were brought up on counter-charges such as resisting arrest, defamation and assault.[10] In 2014–2015, there were 250 accusations of police misconduct made against officers in Vienna, and not a single person was charged - however 1,329 people were charged with 'civil disorder' in a similar time period.[13] The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT)'s 2014 report included a number of complaints of police using excessive force with detainees and psychiatric patients. The culture of excusing police officers for their misconduct has continued well into the present day, and any complaints of mistreatment are often met with inadequate investigations and judicial proceedings.[14][15]

Actions to combat

Austria has legislation in place which makes hate speech against anyone's race, religion, nationality or ethnicity illegal.[16] Laws like this, which discourage discrimination, are able to help with altering public perceptions of different ethnic and cultural groups and subsequently reducing the number of racially motivated incidents of police brutality. Along with these efforts, Austria has a number of NGOs who are trying to implement programs which encourage positive cross-cultural relations, and more targeted programs such as racial sensitivity training for police. The Austrian police are also trying to find their own ways to prevent police brutality and to make the prosecution of police misconduct a smoother process.[16]

Starting in January 2016, Austrian police forces will be trialling the use of body cameras, which will be used to film their interactions with civilians.[17] The hope is that this will make the prosecution of any officers who are excessively violent or forceful a lot easier as there will be solid evidence, and also that it will deter officers from behaving violently in the first place, as they will know they are being monitored. It is unsure how long the trial will last, however as of July 2016 it is still ongoing.

Incidents of police brutality seem to still be occurring at a consistent rate, however it is yet to be seen whether the trial of body cameras will make a difference to the number of incidents occurring or to the number of police who are prosecuted for misconduct. Additionally, there needs to be more work done by the government to break down negative social stereotypes that can lead to prejudice, racial profiling and the kind of aggressive hatred which is the driving force behind many instances of police brutality - the involvement of NGOs is valuable however the Austrian government needs to take a strong stance against abuse of power by police in order for real change to happen. One way to do this, as suggested by Amnesty International Austria, would be to disband the Bereitschaftspolizei, Vienna's riot police, as these officers have frequently been involved with human rights violations and situations of police brutality.[13] Amnesty also suggest that Austria should adopt a National Action Plan against Racism (as is required by the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action) - something which they have previously refused to do.[18]


Many have been viciously beaten by police in Bangladesh. Various protesters were beaten with bats and sticks while protesting to insult of Islam.[19]

Recently, a young man named Shamim Reja was killed by police in Sonargaon police station. The victim’s father claimed that his son was brutally tortured in the police station as the police wanted 6 lakh taka (BDT 600,000). Police investigated this and found the officer in charge Arup Torofar and SI Paltu Ghush and ASP Uttam Prashad guilty as charged.[20]

In Shahbag, Bangladesh on January 26, 2017, hundreds of protestors of Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company were taken into custody under extreme force by police officers. The protestors were violently mistreated. They were also struck by police officers, and had a water cannon, tear gas, and baton charges used on them.[21]


Previously a three tier system, Belgian law enforcement now consists of two police forces operating on a federal and local level. While the two services remain independent, they integrate for purposes of recruitment and common training. This structural reform occurred in 2001 following a national parliamentary report into a series of paedophile murders which proved police negligence and severely diminished public confidence. Currently, approximately 33,000 local police and 900 civilians work across 196 regional police forces.[22]

The United Nations (UN) Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990) are replicated in Belgian law through The Criminal Code and the Police Functions Act.[22] These principles dictate that use of force should be proportionate, appropriate, reported and delivered in a timely manner. However, the UN Human Rights Committee reported complaints of ill-treatment against both property and person by police escalated between 2005 and 2011, most commonly involving assault against persons no longer posing danger.[23] Not only this, but Belgian judicial authorities failed to notify national police watchdog, Committee P, of resulting criminal convictions against police. This is a direct breach of Belgian judicial procedure, as well as a failure to comply with Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[23][24]

An extreme instance in January 2010 led to the death of Jonathan Jacob in Mortsel. The 26-year-old man was apprehended by local Mortsel police behaving strangely under the influence of amphetamines. Footage depicting how eight officers belonging to Antwerp police's Special Intervention Unit restrained and beat Jacob after he had been injected with a sedative has sparked public outrage. Jacob died from internal bleeding following the incident, but police claim they didn't make any mistakes and "acted carefully, respecting the necessary precautions".[25]

In 2013, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) convicted Belgium of human rights violations in a reverse judgement on the treatment of two brothers in custody who had been slapped. The Grand Chamber voiced its concern that, "A slap inflicted by a law-enforcement officer on an individual who is entirely under his control constitutes a serious attack on the individual's dignity".[26]

With cases such as these being downplayed by Belgian courts, the Belgian League of Human Rights (LDH) strive to fight police abuse through the Observatory of Police Violence (OBSPOL).[27] Operating since 2013, OBSPOL collect testimonies on its website and create a safe space for victims of police brutality by informing them of their rights and strongly advocating to adapt public policy for victim protection.[26][27]


The Police in Brazil has a history of violence against the lower classes, which dates back to the nineteenth century, when it served primarily as an instrument of control over the mass of slaves.[28][29] Later with the abolition of slavery, in a largely rural country, the police forces came under strong influence of local large landowners known as 'colonels'.[30]

Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, the country experienced a strong urbanization, while over its last military dictatorship, its police forces came under the responsibility of state governments, experiencing a strong process of militarization.[31][32]

The continuous militarist approach in dealing with social issues, gradually led the country to record violence levels and in 2015 Brazil have more violent deaths than Syrian Civil War,[33] with most people fearing the police.[34] In this context, amidst an environment entangled by corruption, Brazilian police have its routine selective brutality matching a traditional impunity.[35][36][37]

More than 6,160 people were killed by the Brazilian police in 2018.[38]


There have been a number of high-profile cases of alleged police brutality, including 2010 G-20 Toronto summit protests,[39] the 2012 Quebec student protests,[40] the Robert Dziekański Taser incident, and the shooting of Sammy Yatim. The recent public incidents in which police judgments or actions have been called into question have raised concerns about police accountability and governance.[41]

On March 16, 2014, 300 people were arrested in Montreal during a protest against police brutality.[42]


In the recent years, Chile's police force Carabineros de Chile has been under investigation because of various cases of power abuse and police brutality, especially towards students that participate in riots for better education, and the indigenous people Mapuche, where there have been countless cases of violence to this group, guilting them for committing crimes. It was later discovered that some Carabineros officers were responsible for this crimes, to then blame Mapuches for the various incidents

One of the most recent cases involving Mapuche kill spree was Camilo Catrillanca's death. First reports of his death came from Carabineros itself, saying that Camilo was shooting at a police officer along other people after an investigation of 3 stolen cars, in which Camilo was a supposed suspect of involvement in this robbery. Carabinero's special forces Comando Jungla have been in the Araucanía Region on a mission of finding terrorists, and one of them was finding the robbers of the three cars. After finding Camilo "attacking" policemen with a gun in an attempt of escaping, was shot and killed by a headshot. It was later discovered that this wasn't what happened after one of the partners of the police officer that killed Camilo showed the video of the policeman killing him while he was driving a tractor. It was then asked to Carabineros why he didn't have a recording of him being shot at by Camilo. The institution responded, saying that he destroyed the SD card because it had private photos and videos with his wife. Most people were not satisfied with the answer and everyone knew it was a lie to cover what really happened. The policeman was later discharged and prosecuted.[43]


The Constitution of Croatia prohibits torture, mistreatment and cruel and degrading punishment under Article 17, and accords arrested and convicted persons humane treatment under Article 25.[44] Croatia has a centralised police force under the command of the Ministry of the Interior, with approximately 20,000 police officers.[45]

From 1991 to 1995, the Croatian police were a militarised force, charged with the role of defending the country during the secession from Yugoslavia, in addition to their regular police tasks.[46] Military training taught police officers to use firearms before exhausting other procedures, which has affected the philosophy and behaviour of police officers in using excessive force.[47] Significant developments have been made to achieve democratic policing in a modern, professional force that is also accountable to the public.[47] However, citizen complaints of violent police behaviour suggest that the militarisation of the police force in the early 1990s continues to influence the level of force accepted as legitimate and reasonable by Croatian police officers.[46]

On numerous occasions the European Court of Human Rights has found that Croatian police authorities have failed to fulfil their obligations under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by failing to carry out effective investigations to protect its citizens, and tourists, from violent attacks.[48] In 2009, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a judgement condemning Croatian police authorities for failing to take any steps to bring perpetrators of a violent attack on a Croatian citizen to justice by ignoring requests to conduct an investigation.[49]

The Croatian police have a history of discriminatory abuse and failing to recognise violence against the ethnic minority Romani population living in Croatia. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance has noted that Croatian police abuse against minority groups including Roma people are continually reported.[50] There is an ongoing reluctance by police authorities to take violence against Roma seriously.[48] Police investigations into black market selling in Croatia have been excessively violent towards Romani vendors, with reports of physical violence and abusive racism being directed at Roma.[51] Romani Women's Association, "Better Future", reported in 2002 that police had beaten a pregnant Romani woman who attempted to evade arrest for black market selling.[51]

Croatian police violence has been used to intimidate refugees travelling from Serbia into Croatia.[52] This has included segregation of nationalities, with Syrian, Iraqi and Afghani nationals gaining entry to Croatia as refugees much more easily than other nationalities.[52] An unaccompanied sixteen-year-old from Morocco recounted his experience in attempting to gain asylum in Croatia after lying about being a Syrian national: "We had to get into a police car…They told us this is Slovenia, but then it was Serbia…One of my friends tried to run away, but the Croatian police caught [sic] him and beat him."[52] Police beatings are illustrative of the systemic discriminatory violence that exists within the Croatian police force.


Denmark currently has a police force consisting of approximately 11,000 officers.[53] These officers serve with the Danish National Police, in the 12 police districts and in the two Danish overseas territories. The Danish Independent Police Complaints Authority (Den Uafhængige Politiklagemyndighed) (the Authority) handles the investigation of police misconduct allegations.[54] Annual statistics released by the Authority reveal a reduction in the number of complaints against police during the period from 2012 until 2015.[55] For example, in 2012, the Authority received a total of 726 conduct complaints from across Denmark. However, in 2015, this number had fallen to 509. This represents approximately 0.05 complaints per officer. A majority of complaints extend from general misconduct, such as traffic violations and unprofessional behaviour (e.g. swearing).[56]

However, the 2015 Annual Report does identify some instances where the Police of Denmark have used excessive force.[56] For example, the Authority is currently investigating a complaint made about alleged violence against an arrested person in Christianshavn on 15 March 2016.[57] Another open investigation relates to the alleged use of force against a 16-year-old boy on 28 June 2016.[58] This has resulted in charges being laid against the two offending police officers from the Sydsjællands- and Lolland-Falster police department. Furthermore, although examples of police brutality are not common, highly publicised incidents have been reported.


In 2002, 21 year-old Jens Arne Orskov Mathiason died while in police custody and on the way to prison.[59] The incident raised concerns over the behaviour of the officers involved, the thoroughness of the subsequent investigation and the willingness of the Director of Public Prosecutions' to hold the officers accountable for their alleged failings. As a result, Amnesty International has called for the establishment of new mechanisms to investigate human rights violations and to enforce compliance with obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.[60]

In January 2016, another man died in police custody after being arrested by seven officers from the Copenhagen Police.[61]

In August 2009, police in Copenhagen were heavily criticised for their response to an attempt to dislodge Iraqi refugees who were living in a city church.[62] Amateur video allegedly showed the police using violence against the refugees and their supporters. Between 12,000 and 20,000 people subsequently protested against these actions.[62]

In 2012, the Danish Court of Appeal held that the Danish Police had violated Article 3 (against abusive treatment and torture) and Articles 5, 10 and 11 (dealing with the right to liberty, the right to information about the accusation and the freedom of peaceful assembly) of the European Convention of Human Rights, when, in 2009, they had made mass arrests during protests at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.[63]

In April 2016, video emerged of officers hitting people with batons and violently detaining a man, despite onlookers saying he couldn't breathe.[64]


In order to ensure that police are well trained and to mitigate the risk of police brutality, police recruits undergo approximately three years of training. Firstly, at the National Police College, recruits learn about police theory, the Road Traffic Act, criminal law, physical training, other legislation, first aid, radio communication, securing evidence, identifying drugs, preventing crime, management, human rights and cultural sociology to name a few.[65] After this three-year probationary and training period, recruits are promoted to the position of police constable. By comparison, US police academies only provide an average of 19 weeks of classroom instruction.[66] This lengthy training in Denmark increases the ability of police to effectively de-escalate conflicts and enact their duties professionally and responsibly.

Furthermore, in order to keep police officers accountable and to ensure that they perform their duties in compliance with Danish, European and international laws, the Independent Police Complaints Authority has the power to handle investigations of criminal cases against police officers and decide complaints of police misconduct.[54] This body is independent of both the police and prosecutors. By way of example, police:

...may use force only if necessary and justified and only by such means and to such extent as are reasonable relative to the interest which the police seek to protect. Any assessment of the justifiability of such force must also take into account whether the use of force involves any risk of bodily harm to third parties.

Act on Police Activities (2004), [67]

Therefore, police in Denmark are held to high standards and will face consequences if they breach their obligations. This encourages compliance. Victims of police misconduct are encouraged to lodge a report with the Authority.[68]


The Estonian Police force ended in 1940 when they lost their independence to the Soviet Union. The Police Act which was passed in 1990, set out the dissolution of the Russian Military and re-established the formation of the Estonian Police.[69] In 2010, the Public Order Police, Police Board, Central Criminal Police, Border Guard, Citizenship and Migration Board merged into one.[70] Hence forming The Police and Border Guard Board. It is the currently the largest state agency in Estonia, with more than 5000 people in employment. The main objectives for this organisation is to maintain security and public order, crime prevention, detection and investigation, securing the European Union (EU) border, citizenship and identity documentation administration.

According to the Estonian Ministry of Justice, crime figures have dropped by 10% since 2013 to 2015.[71] Those who find themselves detained by the police should comply with their instructions. Those who experience a language barrier are allowed to "request the presence of an interpreter and should not sign any documents or reports until they are confident that the documents contents are consistent with the details of the incident or the victim's statement"[71]

Incidents of police abuse are very rare, however if it is witnessed, report it to the Office of Procurator General of Estonia. Although uncommon, powers are sometimes abused and hence this leads to brutality from police officers. An example of this, is the riots that took place in 2007.

Case example

The controversy and riots, more commonly referred to as the 'Bronze Night' that surrounded Estonia in April 2007 when the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn was relocated. The Government wanted to relocate the statue and rebury the associated remains near the Tallinn Military Cemetery; however, this led to massive uproar and protests. Historically in Estonia this Bronze Soldier served as a symbol of Soviet occupation and repression.[72] Furthermore, to its current Russian citizens residing, it also represented Soviet's victory over Germany in World War II and their claim to equal rights in Estonia. During the riots, one Russian rioter was killed and many other protesters were arrested. Due to the overcrowded detention centres many of the detainees were taken to cargo terminals in Tallinn's seaport. Andrei Zarenkov who was the chairman of the Constitution Party stated "people were forced to squat for hours or lie on the concrete floor with their hands tied behind their backs. The police used plastics handcuffs which caused great pain. The police selectively beat the detainees including women and teenagers. We have pictures of a toilet which is stained with blood of the injured"[73]

The police department denied all claims made against them. On the 22nd of May 2007, the Office of Procurator General of Estonia received more than fifty complaints on the police brutality that occurred during Bronze Night and hence opened seven criminal cases against them. In November 2007, the United Nations Committee Against Torture expressed concern over the excessive use of force and brutality by law enforcement personnel with regards to the Bronze night incident.[74] The Council of Europe published in its report, that those detained were not granted all the fundamental safeguards. This includes the right to access a doctor, a lawyer and to inform a relative or a third party of their arrest. Furthermore, it was later discovered that accused were only allowed to contact someone and be assisted by a lawyer when brought before a judge and a number of detainees were denied access to a doctor whilst in police custody even though they displayed visible injuries.[75]

Moving forward

The use of excessive force can be seen as "legal boundaries/ duty" in the eyes of policing agencies. Police misconduct is regarded as illegal in many countries; it can be hidden when performed under the 'colour of law'[76]

Although police brutality is fairly uncommon in Estonia, it is vital that the Police and Border Guard Board to keep the fundamental safeguards in check and not breach these rights, regardless of the situation.


The policing structure of nineteenth century France has been linked to the outcomes of France's reorganisation during 1789–1799 which were France's time of revolution.[77] Throughout France's history, there has been a wide array of instances of violent enforcement stemming from issues around racial and geographic differences.[78] Further, there have been reports conducted by the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International concerning human rights violations by France including physical and psychological abuse as a result of excessive force towards Muslims when undertaking house raids.[79]

France's police ombudsman is currently dealing with 48 judicial inquiries into police brutality against its citizens, in which 1,000 individuals have been arrested, within a three-month period.[80] Further, there have been a number of high profile cases of alleged police brutality which have gained significant media attention, including, the death of Lamine Dieng on 17 June 2007 who died after suffocating in a police van while he was constrained.[81] The investigation of Lamine's death is ongoing, and grey areas around police accountability have come to light, including questions over how his body was covered in bruises and whether or not carotid restraint was used against him. Carotid restraint is a form of restriction, which compresses one or both carotid arteries, and is used by police enforcement to control dangerous individuals[82] The European Court of Human Rights has condemned France in 1998 for their apparent use of carotid constriction.[81] This same method of restraint was seen to be used against Hakim Sjimi who died of positional asphyxia as a result of overwhelming pressure being placed on his chest and neck by police.[83]

Moreover, recent protests over disputed labor laws have brought to light the extreme nature of police brutality in France, as many videos have surfaced in the media depicting police using disproportionate force on protesters. French officials have forced these aggressive videos to be destroyed, as they demonstrated the unnecessary forced nature of individuals in Frances police department.[84]

Ultimately, as a result of the increased number of cases of police brutality in French communities, a group has formed called the Collective of Stolen Lives who represent families of those who have been affected by police brutality. This group strongly demand the government to act against police brutality and to reduce racism present across the police force in France.[81]

In 2018, an amnesty international 's report(14.12.2018) alerted about police brutality during the yellow vests movement.[85]


Historically, anti-communist police brutality was commonplace during the 1920s and 1930s – in the wake of the Finnish Civil War. Some local sections of the secret police (Etsivä Keskuspoliisi) routinely beat up arrested communists.

As of 2006, there were 7700 police officers in Finland.[86] That police force was shown to be more law-abiding than firemen.[86] However, it was revealed there are a few dozen cases each year in which police officers are convicted of crimes committed while on duty, 5 to 10 percent of the hundreds of such crimes prosecuted annually – the number of such crimes being shown to increase yearly.[86] Police officers are most often suspected of traffic related crimes (endangering road safety, vehicular collisions etc.) which constitute approximately 50% of all cases. These types of cases were also the most likely to be dismissed before proceeding to the prosecutor for consideration.[86] Second most numerous category is the use of force, approximately 20%, which proceed to the prosecutor without a fail apart from few off-duty petty assaults. In Finland, a petty assault could mean a slap on the cheek.[86]

In 2006, a 51-year-old police constable attracted a 16-year-old girl to his house by showing her his badge, where he got her drunk and raped her twice. The constable was fired and sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence.[87] In 2007, an Iranian-born immigrant, Rasoul Pourak, was beaten in a cell at Pasila Police Station, Helsinki. The ill-treatment caused Pourak bruises all over his body, an open wound over his eyebrow, and a fractured skull. In addition, facial bones were broken and the victim was left permanently damaged. One guard participating in the assault was sentenced to an 80-day suspended prison sentence.[88][89] In 2010, two police officers assaulted a man in a wheelchair in connection with an arrest. The police twisted the man's hands and pushed him backward causing him to break a femur.[90] In 2013, two policemen were sentenced to 35 day fines for assault and breach of duty in connection with stamping on a man's head onto the asphalt thrice. According to the police, the man of Romani descent resisted, yet according to eyewitnesses, the man did not resist. The event was captured in surveillance video, which was stored but accidentally destroyed according to a third officer present.[91][92] However the third officer, having seen the surveillance footage, testified that the video didn't show any resistance on the part of the Romani, but also that the assault happened out of view from the camera.[91]


Whilst Germany may be sensitive towards its history in implementing policing practices, this has not appeared to stop international bodies from identifying a clear pattern of police ill-treatment to foreigners and members of ethnic minorities.[93] Every year, around 2,000 complaints of police brutality are reported, with the figure most likely being a less than accurate representation given that not every incident is reported.[94] As high profile cases like the Cologne New Year's Eve incident become more prevalent, racist and xenophobic attitudes have been reflected in instances of police brutality.[95] Whilst this incident occurred in 2014, high profile cases of police brutality have been reported to occur as far back as the 1990s.

History of Police Brutality:

28 May 1999: Sudanese national Aamir Ageeb died of asphyxia during his forced deportation from Frankfurt. Prior to departure, Ageeb was forcibly restrained by tape and rope. During take-off, police officers allegedly forced his head and upper body between his knees.[93]

8 December 2000: Josef Hoss was accused by his neighbour (a serving police officer) of harbouring firearms, which resulted in him being ambushed near his home, beaten and handcuffed. He woke up in the police station with a cloth bag over his head and had sustained multiple injuries that would prevent him from working and being able to financially support his family. No firearms were found upon investigation.[93]

May 2002: Prior to his death, Stephan Neisius has spent 13 days in hospital on life support, after being repeatedly kicked and hit by a group of police officers as he lay handcuffed on the floor of a police station in the city. Although the Cologne District Court convicted all six police officers of bodily harm resulting in death, none of the accused served prison sentences.[93]

2012: After a fight with her boyfriend got out of hand, Teresa Z. called the police but was quickly arrested. Whilst in detention, she was punched by police officer Frank W. and left with a broken nose and eye socket. Frank W. spent ten months in jail and was forced to pay a fine of 3,000 euros.[94]

As law enforcement is vested solely with the states of Germany, each state's police force (or 'Land' police) follows a different system of law. Accordingly, there is an absence of a federal comprehensive register, compiling and publishing regular, uniform and comprehensive figures on complaints about police ill-treatment.[93] Even though Germany is bound to obligate its many international treaties and conventions, Amnesty International (2002) highlights the authorities failure to protect a range of human rights as guaranteed by international human rights law and standards.[93] Additionally, a study conducted in 2019 about police brutality in Germany found that illegitimate police brutality lead to complaints in only 9% and to trials in only 13% of the cases. The study was conducted by the Ruhr-University of Bochum and was the biggest study ever to be conducted on police brutality in Germany. The study found that the low number of complaints was likely due to low expectations of success.[96] Furthermore, most German states do not require their police force to wear anonymous identification, making it difficult for victims to lodge complaints against individuals.[97][98] Watchdog organizations have also criticized the lack of independent institutions for investigations into police violence.[99][100]

Despite this objective lack of accountability for policing practice, levels of trust in police remain amongst the highest in the EU, only behind Scandinavian countries and Switzerland.[101] This allows Germany to maintain one of the lowest levels of public order and safety spending in the EU, at 1.5 percent of gross domestic profit, as compared to the EU average of 1.8 percent.[102] As a result, Germany has a police force of only 300 officers per 100,000 of its population. These numbers are only less in Scandinavian countries and the UK,[103] highlighting that despite these instances of police brutality, Germany is attempting to build the impression of having a more laissez-faire approach to policing. Additionally, German police officers rarely use their guns, as there have only been 8 fatalities in the past two years and only 109 deaths by service weapons since 1998.[104]


The Greek Police, known officially as the Hellenic Police, assumed their current structure in 1984. This structure was the result of the merging of the Gendarmerie (Chorofylaki) and the Urban Police Forces (Astynomia Poleon).[105] Composed of central and regional departments, the Hellenic Police have a relatively long history of police brutality. One of the first documented dates back to 1976, within which 16-year-old activist Sideris Isidoropoulos was killed by police while he put up campaign posters on a public building. Only a few years later and 1980 saw the death of 20-year-old protester Stamatina Kanelopoulou at the hands of the Greek police. Kanelopoulou was beaten to death by members of the police force during a demonstration to commemorate the 1973 uprising against the military junta. It is still common for protesters to commemorate the 1973 uprising, and protests are still rife with police brutality around the time of this event today, over three decades after Kanelopoulou's death.[106]


The level and severity of police brutality in Greece over the last few years has been quite alarming and surprising. Due to recent financial crisis many austerity measures have been put in place, meaning that many individuals and families are struggling to survive. Greek citizens have opposed these austerity measures from the beginning, showing their disapproval with strikes and demonstrations. In response, police brutality has increased significantly, with consistent reports on the use of tear gas, severe injuries inflicted by police force, and unjustified detention of protesters.[106]

In 2013 Greek police allegedly tortured four young men believed to be suspected of bank-robbery following their arrest. It was alleged that the men were hooked and severely beaten in detention. The media published photos of the men, all with severe bruising, yet in the police released digitally manipulated photos of the four to make it appear that they lacked any injuries. The Greek minister of citizen protection - Nikos Dendias - protected the police, claiming that the police needed to use Photoshop to ensure the suspects were recognisable.[106] In October 2012 15 anti-fascists protesters were arrested in Athens when they clashed with supporters of the fascist party 'Golden Dawn.' Victims claimed they were tortured during detention at the Attica General Police Directorate, stating that police officers slapped them, spat on them, burnt their arms with cigarette lighters and kept them awake with torches and lasers. Again, Nikos Dendias responded by accusing the British newspaper that published the details of these crimes of lying. It was proven by forensic examination that the torture had in fact taken place. The two Greek journalists who commented on the Guardian report the next day were fired.[106]

Recent instances

Police brutality on Greece today predominantly manifests itself in the form of unjustified and extreme physical violence towards protesters and journalists. Amnesty International highlights that the continued targeting of journalists is very concerning as it infringes on the right to freedom of expression. According to a recent Amnesty International report there have been multiple instances in which police have used excessive brutal force, have misused less-lethal weapons against protesters, have attacked journalists, and have subjected bystanders to ill treatment, particularly over the course of the anniversary of the 1973 student uprising against the Military Junta, as mentioned previously, which took place on November 17, 2014.[107] Allegations against police have emerged specifically in relation to their use of brutal force, completely unprovoked, towards journalists documenting the demonstration, and against many students who partook in a peaceful protest. Allegedly police sprayed protesters with chemical irritants from close range – in one instance a 17-year-old girl with asthma had been treated in hospital after this attack and when she informed police of her condition they merely laughed.[107]

Video footage confirms that just days prior, on November 13, 2014, riot police began to strike students who attempted to run away from the grounds of the Athens Polytechnic. Media reports suggest that around 40 protesters had to seek subsequent medical attention to injuries sustained from brutal police beatings.[107] Amnesty international also calls for action on prosecuting those who are behind these inhumane acts, stating that within the Greek police there is a culture of "abuse and impunity" which remains as authorities have taken very little action to address the crux of the problem.[107]

A German exchange student said he was beaten randomly by riot police in the Exarheia district, his only reason for being there that he had accompanied other students to eat. The student gives a horrifying description of the violence he endured, he cowered in a corner when he saw police because a few weeks before he had witnessed police beating a man they had arrested. He claims that upon spotting him, about six police officers started beating him with their batons, and when they left they were replaced by another group of police.[107] The student was unarmed and posed no threat but the police were ruthlessly brutal in their actions. It has been indicated that riot police left beaten and gravely individuals without any medical assistance. Amnesty International urges Greece to effectively and promptly investigate these crimes against civilians, which clearly violate human rights, and hold perpetrators accountable.[107]


May 2011, student Yannis Kafkas, suffered an almost fatal head injury after a police officer hit him with a fire extinguisher the riot police carry around. Kafkas spent 20 days in intensive care.[106]

June 2011, Manolis Kipraios, journalist, was covering protests against austerity measures when a member of the riot police fired a stun grenade against him. He now suffers from permanent hearing loss.[106]

February 2012, photojournalist Marios Lolos had to have surgery following being beaten in the head by police at a protest. The day before this attack another journalist Rena Maniou was reportedly severely beaten by security forces. Dimitris Trimis, the head of The Greek Journalist Association (ESEA) broke his arm after he was violently pushed and kicked by police.[106]

There have been some instances where protesters have been used as human shields – a photo of a female protester in handcuffs ahead of policeman as people threw rocks at the police has gained considerable media attention.[106]

None of the above cases of police brutality resulted in any prosecution of police force members, this severe lack of accountability and punishment for this type of crime is a major issue for human rights activists currently. One case which sparked nationwide riots was that of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, who was shot dead by a police officer in December 2008 during demonstrations in Athens. In this case, unlike the majority of cases, the police officer responsible was convicted of murder.[106]

Hong Kong

During the 2014 Hong Kong protests, there had been numerous instances of police brutality. Seven police officers had been caught on video kicking and beating a prominent political activist who was already handcuffed.[108] There had also been more than hundreds of incidents of police beating passers-by with batons. Pictures on local TV and social media show demonstrators being dragged behind police lines, circled by police officers so that onlookers' views were blocked, and in some cases re-emerging with visible injuries. The officer involved, retired police officer Frankly Chu King-wai, was sentenced to three months in prison for causing serious body harm.[109][110]

During the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests which have gained unprecedentedly extensive international coverage,[111][112][113][114] complaints of police brutality have seen its record-high.

Cases which have caused outrage include the police's mauling and intentional head-shooting of protesters by rubber bullets[115][116][117] and rapid tear-gassing of a completely surrounded crowd.[118] Numerous were critically wounded. Many Hong Kong citizens accuse the police of attempting to murder protestors to deter the people from exercising their freedom of expression.

The Amnesty International rarely released a report on 21 June 2019 denouncing the role of the Hong Kong police in the June 12 protest that ended up in bloodshed.[119]

A number of street conflicts continued in Hong Kong throughout July 2019. Instances of police striking journalists with batons to obstruct their live reporting have been well-filmed.[120][121]

On the night of 31 August 2019, more than 200 riot police entered the Prince Edward MTR Station to carry out operations. They repeatedly attacked suspects in a train compartment on the Tsuen Wan Line with batons and pepper spray. Many suspects sustained head injuries.[122][123][124][125] Until November 2019, several alleged cases of sexual violence and 'made-disappearing', 'falling-buildiing' have been revealed directly withinto Hong Kong police brutality, and ostensibly massive attacks on campus and street have been also occurring with the concurrent deterioration.[126][127][128][129][130][131]


In 2008 when Hungary signed the Schengen Agreement, its two law enforcement bodies, the Police (Rendőrség) and the Border Guards merged. Border Guards became police officers. The police force in Hungary consists of the National Bureau of Investigation and the Operational police, these bodies dealing with investigating severe crimes and dealing with riots, respectively. In addition to these, Terrorelhárítási Központ, a police force with jurisdiction in all of Hungary deals mainly with counter-terrorism. 44,923 employees make up the Rendőrség force in Hungary. Brutality and corruption exist within Rendőrség.[132]

The 1998 Human Rights Watch World Report revealed that the Roma minority in Hungary were continually discriminated against.[133] This discrimination was also evident in the police force, with reports of police mistreatment and brutality on the minority group.

The 2006 protests in Hungary demonstrate the brutal and disproportionate measures police may use, especially evident in these protests was police brutality on non-violent civilians. The protests were in response to Prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány's speech where he said that the Socialist Party lied their way into office. Furthermore, his speech revealed that in the four years he was in office, his party had not done anything of great importance.

Police threw gas grenades and used rubber bullets to shoot protesters. Picked and tackled by the police, protesters and non-violent civilians just passing by were injured by the police. Police broke the fingers of a handcuffed man, raided restaurants and bars to find radical demonstrators. Police brutality ranged from offensive language to physically attacking protesters. Reports show that brutality extended to bypassers, tourists, news reporters and paramedics.[134]


Rather than acting reactively, Hungary should work to improve their police training programs and work to provide ongoing training and assessments to ensure that police officers in the Rendőrség, are competent and fair in their ethical judgements when it comes to proportionality of a crime or situation and the use of force. The requirements to become a police officer in Hungary are: high school education, pass matriculation exam, and two years of police academy.[135] Compared to other countries around the world, the two-year program is shorter than Denmark (3-year program), and longer than Australia (33-week program) and the United States (18 weeks).[136][137] The current two-year program is quite lengthy, however time isn't the issue. Most of what the Hungarian police academy teaches is academic theory; there is not much on practice.[135] If practical work was given more attention in the Hungarian police academy, it is likely that the number of police brutality incidents will decrease.


On January 23, 2017, a pro-jallikattu silent protest in Tamil Nadu turned violent. The National Human Rights Commission took note of reports that police used violent methods, including beatings and the damaging of private property, without prior warnings, to disperse of the protesters in Chennai. There were widespread social media reports of police setting vehicles on fire.[138][139][140] The "Lathi Charge" very well known in India which are an excessive use of force done by police during mass protests or riot are also considered as brutality done by law enforcement officials.


Islamic extremists in Indonesia have been targeted by police as terrorists in the country. Police may either capture or kill dissidents. Cases of police corruption with hidden bank accounts and retaliation against journalists who attempt to uncover these cases have occurred such as in June 2012, when Indonesian magazine Tempo had journalist activists beaten by police. Separately, on August 31, 2013 police officers in Central Sulawesi province fired into a crowd of people protesting the death of a local man in police custody. Five people were killed and 34 injured. History of violence goes back to the military-backed Suharto regime (1967–1998), from which Suharto seized power during an anti-Communist purge.[141]

Criminal investigations into human rights violations by the police are rare, punishments light and Indonesia has no independent national body to deal effectively with public complaints. Amnesty International has called on Indonesia to review police tactics during arrests and public order policing, to ensure that they meet international standards.[142]


Northern Ireland (UK)

The legacy of police brutality has long plagued Northern Ireland, due to unsavoury police procedures used during the Troubles to obtain admissions of guilt. The Troubles in Northern Ireland lasted from 1968 until 2007, and was essentially was a civil war between those who wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom (unionists/loyalists, who are mostly Protestants) and those who didn't (Irish nationalists/republicans, who are mostly Catholics). During this time as many as 50,000 people were physically maimed or injured, a portion of which was done by the Northern Ireland Police (Royal Ulster Constabulary).[143] Instances of Northern Irish Police brutality were confirmed by the decision in 1978 of the European Court of Human Rights, which concluded that five interrogation techniques used by the Police which included wall standing, deprivation of food, drink or sleep, subjection to noise and forcing detainees to remain in the same position for hours were instances of cruel and degrading treatment.[144] It was not until 2010 however that such brutality was recognized by domestic courts, where 113 people came forward to have their application heard, some of whom were minors.

At present Northern Ireland still faces policing issues, though not to the extent of the Troubles. There are concerns about harassment by police of children aged 14–18 in low socio-economic areas of Northern Ireland which has led to a deep level of mistrust between the youth and the police.[145] Further, Catholics in Northern Ireland find that they are treated differently by police due to the police force being largely Protestant. 48% of Catholics that were surveyed in Northern Ireland reported harassment by the police. Instances of harassment include police officials spitting on individuals or enforcing laws in a discriminatory fashion, for example only to those who are Catholic.[146] The Northern Ireland Police force has moved away from police brutality given the focus on accountability for the past and the significant decrease in the use of the baton amongst police members (guns are rarely used)[147] however harassment continues to be a key issue for Northern Ireland.

Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland's police force is called the Garda Síochána (Garda) and employs around 14,500 staff.[148] Ireland's criminal laws allow 'reasonable force' to be used by the police with regard to all the circumstances, which eludes to officers actions being proportionate in the circumstances. Excessive use of force is unlawful however s76(7) of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 allows the following considerations when deciding on what force is reasonable. A person acting for a legitimate purpose may not be able to weigh up the exact necessary action at the time or may act instinctively but honestly – in these instances the use of force may be considered reasonable.[149]

This is acknowledged by the Garda, who state; 'Unfortunately, even in the most civilised democratic jurisdictions, tragedies resulting from police use of force will continue to devastate families and communities.'[150]

The use of force by Irish Police officers has been of international concern, where the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture reported on this issue in the Republic three times in the space of a decade. Incidents that prompted this concern centred around the death of John Carty, a man suffering from mental illness who was shot by police, the prosecution of seven Garda police members due to assaults on protesters in 2002 and in 2005, a fifteen year old boy died after spending time in Garda custody. Given this state of events the Garda engaged independent Human Rights experts to conduct a review of the force, who found numerous deficiencies. The government responded by implementing new procedures based on this report. These include a new complaints procedure available against the Garda (Ombudsman Commission), disciplinary procedures and whistle-blowing protections.[151]


When addressing police brutality in Latvia, it is important to look at the history of the country and how this affects its police and brutality towards the population. Latvia became an independent Republic in 1918 and attempted to develop an effective and accepted police force, moving away from the untrusted Russian Tsarist Administration. Despite positive post-independence aims to reform the police system and to maintain public order and security, the Latvian police were underfunded and under-resourced. The National Militia was created in response, being a voluntary force for the protection of public order.[152] Policing during this period was quite successful, being assimilated to what is today referred to as community policing.

From 1940 to 1991, Latvia was occupied by Soviet Union, and all previous regulations and practices were over-ruled by the Communist Regime.[153] Due to Soviet ideals on policing whereby criminals were the enemy, a high level of institutional secrecy existed and meant that there was no independent review of policing. More significantly, the approach of community policing was replaced with a militarised authority based on Marxist power ideologies. During this time, a clear imbalance existed between police actions and the rights of citizens. Despite lack of statistics, it is clear that police brutality was a major issue. This is illustrated by the case where former head of police Alfons Noviks was sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide against the Latvian people during this period.[154]

In 1991, independence of the state of Latvia was again restored, which saw another change in the police system with the implementation of the Law on Police on June 5. This saw the restructuring of police forces into separate State, Security and Local Government levels. The Law on Police 1991 reiterated ethical requirements, whereby police officers were prohibited from performing or supporting acts relating to "torture or other cruel, inhuman or demeaning treatment or punishment". However, despite these reforms, issues regarding police brutality arose in light of the Russian population remaining in Latvia. In 1998, police forces were accused of dispersing a rally of predominately Russian pensioners through the use of excessive force and brutality.[155] This hostility towards Russians remained in the proceeding years, and despite lack of official statistics, police brutality continued to be an issue after the independence of Latvia.

In 2005, the Latvian Center for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies (LCHRES) found a number of instances of brutality and "severe abuse" within police authorities, especially of persons in custody.[156] Reports have shown high levels of corruption within Latvian law enforcement authorities, with 42 members convicted of corruption offences between 2003 and 2004.[157] For the Latvian community, this means that should an incident of police brutality occur, they may not have an independent body to report to nor is it guaranteed to be handled impartially without corruption.

Latvian prisons illustrate cases where police batons were used to inflict serious harm to inmates, including causing broken ribs, which often were not medically assessed for up to two days. To address levels of police brutality, LCHRES conducted a study whereby it set up an anonymous hotline.[158] During this four-day study, LCHRES received almost 300 calls and written complaints regarding police brutality and misconduct. This identifies fundamental flaws in the Latvian police authorities.

Since joining the European Union in 2004, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has assessed the Latvian criminal justice system a number of times. Whilst the CPT gives appropriate authorities recommendations for improvements such as a review board for ill-treatment, they found that in 2011, Latvian authorities had not enacted any of their 2007 recommendations.[159] Furthermore, their 2011 report outlined a number of cases of police brutality within the prison system, with ill-treatment allegations such as punching, kicking and a few cases of misuse of police batons and excessively tight handcuffing. This was alleged to occur mostly at the time of apprehension or during their time at the police station (including during questioning).

Despite the flaws within the Latvian Police system, CPT has found that the number of allegations for ill-treatment are decreasing over the years. The Latvian Police force operates under the Professional Ethics and Conduct Code of the State Police Personnel, which states "A Police officer shall use force, special facilities or weapon only in the cases stipulated by due course of law and to attain a legal aim.[160] The use of spontaneous or ill-intentioned force, special facilities or weapon shall not be justified." This identifies that the authorities are conscious of police brutality, and given more time, it is likely that the figures will continue to decrease.


The Luxembourg Police force has 1,603 officers and is known as the 'Grand Ducal Police'. The Grand Ducal Police is the primary law enforcement agency in Luxembourg and has been operating since January 1, 2000, when the Grand Ducal Gendarmerie (previous Luxembourg military) merged with the police force.[161] Due to Luxembourg's relatively small population of approximately 500, 000 people the Grand Ducal Police are in charge of several duties that are often separated jurisdictions such as; Border Control and Internal Military operations.[162]

Police brutality is not perceived to be a serious threat to society in Luxembourg. The European Union's 2014 Anti-Corruption report placed Luxembourg, along with Denmark and Finland, as having the lowest experiences of Police brutality within the European Union.[163] Due to many positive characteristics of their society, such as freedom of media, the encouragement of public participation in the legal system and transparency mechanisms, the public also have great trust in the Grand Ducal police force.

Laws in Luxembourg specifically distinguish between coercion and force in the 1973 Act on Regulating the Use of Force.[164] This Act regulates the use of police weapons and specific technical means of physical force used by police. However, this act does not cover other forms of physical coercion by police officers such as the use of handcuffs as these are seen as basic police measures that do not require specific legislation. The officer must be legitimately executing his duty and his actions and must be compatible under the principles of proportionality, subsidiarity, reasonability and measure in order to use force.[164] To ensure the Grand Ducal Police do not engage in police brutality numerous safeguards and prevention methods are implemented. The police inspector (which is the term for an everyday officer) must undergo legal and tactical training lasting an intensive 26 months followed by further training at an allocated police station.[162] By way of comparison, the Victoria Police Academy only provides 33 weeks of tactical and legal training.[165] The 2015 Human Right Report on Government practices by the United States indicated no cases of police brutality in Luxembourg. This report suggests the Grand Ducal Police have effective mechanisms in place to investigate and punish potential abuse and corruption.

Although police brutality is almost nonexistent in Luxembourg, there are effective procedures in place for the investigation and punishment of any potential misconduct by the Grand Ducal Police.


Malta's Police Force (MPF) is one of the oldest in Europe, with the Maltese government taking over the force in 1921, following the grant of self-governance. Currently, there are approximately 1,900 members in the Force.[166]

Under the Police Act of 1961, Part V deals with the use of force, whereby "police officers may use such moderate and proportionate force as may be necessary…" (Article 96.),[167] however, according to Article 100., "It shall be considered as an offence against discipline if a police officer uses force for considerations extraneous to those permitted by law and the circumstances of the case".[167] As such, Malta does recognize the illegality of police brutality and can prosecute offending officials on these grounds.

Malta is expected to abide by the 2001 European Code of Ethics being a member of the European Union, whereby "The police may use force only when strictly necessary and only to the extent required to obtain a legitimate objective."[168]

Similarly, the Council of Europe (of which Malta is a member) follows the five principles developed by the European Court of Human Rights, whereby definition 16 states that police officers "may use reasonable force when lawfully exercising powers".[169]

In 2008, Lawrence Gonzi (The Minister for Justice and Home Affairs) called upon Mr Martin Scicluna, a former civil servant and currently expert on security issues at the Prime Minister's Office, to conduct an independent inquiry into the 24 March 2008 police brutality incident. the inquiry required the investigation of "allegations of beatings carried out on detainees at Safi Detention Centre by members of the Detention Service on 24 March 2008 and to make any recommendations necessary in the light of [his] findings".[170] Following the results of the inquiry of Mr. Scicluna, made public by the Maltese Government, it was concluded that "excessive force was used by Detention Service Personnel".[170]

Mr Scicluna made recommendations that "appropriate [action] should be taken to reprimand the Detention Service officers involved in this operation and the relevant Senior NCOs for the acts of 25 excessive force used by some personnel in their charge".[170] Simultaneously, Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici has said "95 percent of the members of the police force were doing their duties, but the remainder needed to be addressed",[171] leading to the establishment of the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) to "maintain and safeguard the integrity of the Malta Police Force through an internal system of investigation that is objective, fair, equitable, impartial and just",[172] where complaints or allegations on the use of force can be monitored and responded to.

Although Malta has attempted to tackle the police brutality through the implementation of independent systems such as the IAU, the US Department of State 2010 report on Malta's human rights found that "authorities detained irregular immigrants under harsh conditions for up to 18 months during the review of their protected status."[173] In addition, the 2013 US Department of State report found that although there were no government reports of the use of brutality in detention centers, on December 2, 2013, media reported the sentencing of two former prison guards to five years prison and another two guards to three months prison after finding them guilty of beating an escaped prisoner in 2008, illustrating the gradual development of the IAU in limiting the use of police brutality.[174]

Following the implementation of the IAU, The Human Rights Committee has raised questions on the use of force by state officials with respect to the countering of detention center riots, where police have been accused of punching and striking detainees. An enquiry was consequently conducted in 2011 and 2012 following riots, resulting in criminal action against the law enforcement officials responsible.[175] In addition, Giacomo Santini and Tina Acketoft (The Chairs of the Migration and Equality Committees of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) expressed "grave concern at an increasing number of incidents of state violence against migrants and refugees". They have called upon Maltese authorities to conduct a rapid investigation emphasising the need to stamp out violence against migrants and refugees, whether by state actors or by individuals.[176]

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in relation to the conditions of migrants in detention, recommended that the "State party take appropriate measures to improve detention conditions and refrain from resorting to excessive use of force to counter riots by immigrants in detention centers, and also to avoid such riot".[177]

List of alleged cases

Date Persons Involved Description Resolve
October 2014 David Calleja[178] "Ta' Xbiex resident David Calleja, a financial advisor, had been driving in the Sliema Strand when he was stopped by police, who deemed him to be driving recklessly.

The Malta Police Force issued a statement detailing what had happened, in which it claimed that Mr Calleja acted aggressively, refused to take a breathalyser test, ignored police orders and used foul language.

He was subsequently arrested and taken to a police squad car, but according to the police statement, he kicked the driver, tried to escape and banged his head repeatedly against the car window. The police added that he even spit blood at police officers and bit a constable's arm, tearing off part of his skin.

When asked to state his client's plea, Dr Abela declared "absolutely not guilty," before accusing the police of grossly distorting the truth.

Mr Calleja's nose was bandaged, and Dr Abela presented a medical certificate showing that it had been broken as evidence. The lawyer also presented his client's blood-stained clothes – prosecuting inspector Jason Sultana originally objected, but relented after Dr Abela said that this objection was due to the fact that the clothes helped confirm the injuries Mr Calleja sustained."[178]

"Magistrate Marse-Ann Farrugia ultimately granted bail against a €10,000 personal guarantee, with Mr Calleja's father acting as his guarantor."[178]
January 2015 Not mentioned "The Commissioner of Police has referred a complaint of police brutality to the Duty Magistrate after a parent wrote to him saying his son was beaten while in police custody.

The man said his son was in a bar in Paceville when police went up to him because he was smoking. The man claimed that the police roughly manhandled his son, handcuffed him and threw him into a van where he was beaten up and suffered from lacerations to the head as well as bruised ribs and muscles."[179]

Ongoing inquiry[179]
March 2015 Mifsud Grech "The police were called in and the customer left the restaurant as soon as he was ordered to. However, once on the pavement, he and two policemen, who in the meantime had been joined by others from the nearby station, were involved in what witnesses called a "commotion".

The customer ended up on the ground beneath a number of officers who were trying to arrest him.

He was subsequently charged with threatening the two officers while carrying out their duties, breaching the peace and refusing to give his particulars. He was cleared of the charges."[180]

"In handing down judgment, Magistrate Depasquale said the court was "convinced" that the incident had not happened in the way that the police had alleged. He further noted that the police "may have used excessive force"."[180]
May 2015 Jean Paul Aquilina, 24 year old Mosta man Jean Paul Aquilina, was accused of assaulting policemen after he was pulled over for dangerous driving, has struggled to explain how Aquilina suffered severe facial bruising and scratches to his body during the course of his arrest.[181] Not mentioned
February 2016 20-year-old Lee Michael Robertson from Xemxija[182] "Robertson had been attacked whilst at the bar, and had injured his hand. He rushed to the police station, she said, but once he arrived he had been told to clear out of the station and wipe the blood off his hand before going back in.

In the ensuing verbal exchange the officer, Defence lawyer Rachel Tua said, made offensive remarks about the accused's father. Robertson was then allegedly thrown to the ground by the officer, who slammed the man's head on the ground, the lawyer said, also claiming that the accused had his injured arm cruelly twisted while he was being handcuffed. She denied the prosecution's assertion that Robertson had assaulted police, adding that his friends had witnessed the incident and would be summoned to testify. Tua told magistrate Vella that the police refused to allow Robertson to speak to her during his arrest, instead holding him overnight and taking a statement the next morning – with the police officer who allegedly delivered the beating present in the interrogation room. The police had not even told him why he was being arrested, she said."[182]

"The court ruled that the arrest was not illegal and granted Robertson bail against a personal deposit of €1,200 and a personal guarantee of €8,000, also ordering him to sign a bail book once a week and observe a curfew".[182]

Middle East

Police brutality was a major drive behind 2011 Egyptian revolution;[183] the incident of Khaled Said's death and other stories, yet very little has changed since. One of the "demands" around which people decided to take it to the streets in Egypt is "purging the Ministry of Interior" for its brutality and torture practices.

The GCC states have seen many cases of brutality, some even involving senior figures. For example, Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan a UAE sheikh, was involved in the torture of many business associates and he often recorded some of the abuse. Sheikh Issa was eventually arrested but a court found him not guilty and released him.[184] Amnesty International has also reported that a UAE worker was subjected to a wide array of torture methods during his time in jail, including beatings and sleep deprivation.[185] Authorities in Saudi Arabia have also been filmed lashing civilians for different reasons.[186]


The Netherlands is signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights[187] detailing the limits and responsibilities of police powers, and as such demonstrates a public commitment to the restricted legal use of police powers. These powers include the use of reasonable force to enable the effective discharge of duties, with the stipulation force be used proportionately and only as a last resort[187]

The police force of the Netherlands is divided into 25 regional forces and one central force. A Regional Police Board, made up of local mayors and the chief public prosecutor, heads each regional force, with a chief officer placed in charge of police operations. Police accountability procedures include the mandatory reporting of any incident during the discharge of duty that requires the use of force. The Rijksrecherche is the national agency responsible for the investigation of serious breaches of police conduct resulting in death or injury. In 2007 the Rijksrecherche conducted 67 inquiries related to police officers, 21 of which were for shooting incidents.[188]

While Dutch society has a history of support for liberal values, it has not been immune to what can be regarded as a broader international trend toward the practice of racial profiling and increased levels of police violence towards racial minorities. Suspicion and mistrust of some racial groups is evident, and is perpetuated by police attitudes at all levels of command.[189] This trend in police behaviour has drawn comment from Amnesty International, which in a 2015 report describes Dutch law enforcement officers as having a tendency to correlate suspicious criminal behaviour with specific ethnic characteristics, most notably those typical of persons of Moroccan heritage.[190] Current political discourse in the Netherlands often supports the notion of inferiority of some cultures and is evidenced by the growth in support for far right political ideologies in recent decades.[189]

Instances highlighting the convergence of racial profiling and the use of police force came to the forefront of public attention in the Netherlands in June 2015 with the death of Aruban man Mitch Henriquez. Henriquez died of asphyxiation while in police custody after claiming to have a firearm and being arrested at a music festival in The Hague. The first anniversary of his death in June this year provided a catalyst for protest against police brutality in The Hague, an area with a significant proportion of residents of non-European back-ground. Eleven protesters were arrested for failing to comply with instructions from the Mayor to limit protest to certain areas of the city, leading to some protesters to claim authorities were attempting to criminalize the right to peaceful protest. The five officers alleged to be involved in Mitch Hendriquezs' death have been suspended but are yet to be charged.[191]


Pakistan's law enforcement is divided into multiple tiers including forces under provincial and federal government control. The law strictly prohibits any physical abuse of suspected or convicted criminals, however, due to certain training lacks, there have been reported instances of suspected police brutality. Reported cases are often investigated by police authorities as well as civil courts leading to mixed outcomes. RECENT CASES A recent case includes the purported extra judicial killing of a man named Naqeebullah by an ex-officer named "Rao Anwar". Taking notice of the matter, the Supreme Court issued arrest and detention warrants in the case to arrest the accused.

People's Republic of China

Politically motivated riots and protests have occurred historically in China, notably with the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Within the past decade, groups such as Falun Gong have protested party measures and been broken up by riot police. Chinese dissidents have been able to arrange effective mobilization through use of social media and informal communication like Twitter and its Chinese counterparts Weibo or microblogs.[192]

Foreign journalists from Switzerland have reported cases of police harassment. Media suppression has increased in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. Plainclothes policemen are often deployed during demonstrations to suppress violence. Censorship is often maintained as a measure to maintain political stability in China. Web activists can be charged by the police for using false identities to surf the Internet. After arrests, homes of the arrested individual are often searched for incriminating evidence such as computers, hard drives, and flash drives.[193]


The Polish police force aims to 'serve and protect the people, and to maintain public order and security'.[194] Polish laws prohibit torture or degrading treatment and set out punishment for police officers including demotion and removal from the police force.[195]


A key factor influencing the levels of police brutality in Poland has been the move from a communist state to a democracy. It is argued that Poland's transition has resulted in a more transparent system, decreasing levels of police brutality.[196] Although police brutality exists within Poland cases are much more likely to be handled by the criminal justice system with a greater chance for resolution through the courts.[196]

This change can also be seen through the increased trust within the Polish police. While there are still instances of police brutality, trust in the police has steadily increased in Poland from 62% - 75% between 2002 and 2008.[197] This statistic demonstrates the improvement in trust between the police and general public.

Although there is a more open police force within Poland, many organizations still hold issues with police brutality within Poland. The 2013 United States Department of State report on Poland raised several issues of police brutality.[195] The report cited a case of police officers using violence to gain a confession for armed robbery in 2012.[195] However, it also noted that these police officers were eventually indicted for police brutality.[195]

Issues with sports fans

In recent years one of the main sources of controversy amongst Polish police brutality has been in the use of rubber bullets to disperse crowd trouble at sporting events.

In 1998, major riots occurred when a young basketball fan was killed by the police. In 2004, a man was killed and a woman injured in a riot when Polish police accidentally shot live ammunition instead of rubber bullets into the crowd after an association football game.[198] Another set of riots occurred in 2015 in response to a pitch invasion during a football match. Although rubber bullets were used, one man was hit on the neck and later died at the hospital.[199] A former Polish police officer justified this use of weapons as a means to combat football hooliganism.[199] Protesters have characterized the detainment of sports fans protesting against the government as unfair and undemocratic.[200]

Issues with Roma

The Polish police also have a history of police brutality within the Roma community.[201] There are multiple cases of police beatings and other discriminatory acts against Roma from Polish police.[201] The European Roma Rights Centre also argues that police investigations into police brutality cases are very rare with systematic police brutality against the Roma minority.[201]

One particular case of police brutality against Roma occurred in 1998 when the police took four Roma men to a field and beat them.[202] Whilst the men that were beaten were charged with vulgar words and behavior in public this police brutality resulted in broken bones and hospitalisation. This incident demonstrates the need for further procedures in order to stop police brutality against Roma and the continued need for police checks to stop police misconduct.[202]


Portugal is ranked the fourth most heavily policed country in the world.[203] The police force is divided into five main organisations, with the Polícia de Segurança Pública (PSP) having the most prominent urban presence.[204] The PSP has a diverse range of duties and responsibilities, which include protecting the rights of citizens and ensuring democratic legality.

The use of weapons by Portuguese police is permitted only when:

…absolutely necessary and when less dangerous means have proved ineffective, and provided that their use is proportionate to the circumstances

Decreto-Lei No. 457/99 Art. 2(1), [205]

This is severely restrictive. By way of example, police will not be permitted to use their firearms when an offender is running away.[206]

Portugal has recently been criticised for the excessive use of force by police. High profile incidents at football matches, as well as reports of racially motivated force used against minority communities, have highlighted the issue of police brutality in Portugal.

Football hooliganism

Portuguese police have adopted an aggressive position in combating football hooliganism. Despite appearing disproportionate, the police view the heavy-handed nature of their tactics as a necessary and successful approach towards community protection and maintaining social order.

In 2015, a viral video depicted a Benfica fan being heavily beaten in front of his two children outside a football stadium. The footage, filmed by a local television station, shows Jose Magalhaes leaving the football match early with his children and elderly father before being confronted by police officers.[207] Although the family appeared calm, Magalhaes was tackled to the ground by police and repeatedly hit with a metal baton, whilst his father was punched in the face twice.[208] More police rushed to the scene to shield the obviously distraught children, aged nine and thirteen.

A statement released by the PSP acknowledged the controversial incident and announced that an investigation was launched against the officer responsible for initiating the attack.[209] Subsequently, the officer was suspended for 90 days by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.[210]

The statement also defended the policing of the large crowds in the aftermath of the football match. Riot police had clashed with supporters the following day in Lisbon as fans celebrated Benfica's title victory. The harsh approach was described as proportionate and necessary to prevent social disorder from escalating.[209]

In a similar incident in 2016, another football club, Sporting Lisbon, complained about 'barbaric' police assaulting their fans.[211]


There have also been suggestions of institutionalised racism within the Portuguese police force, with activists claiming that discrimination is the deep-rooted cause of police brutality in Portugal.[212] In its 2015/2016 annual report on Portugal, Amnesty International condemned the excessive force used by police against migrant and minority communities.[213]

Despite a good record in migrant integration, historical parallels can be drawn with Portugal's colonial past and modern police racism.[214] According to activists, police have killed 14 young black men since 2001, however, no police officer has been held responsible for the deaths.[212]

Racially influenced police actions are illustrated by the violence in Cova de Moura, a low socio-economic area housing a significant migrant population. Notably, during an incident in February 2015, a young man named Bruno was aggressively searched and physically abused.[212] When bystanders protested the excessive force, police responded by firing shotguns loaded with rubber bullets at the witnesses.[212]

On the same day, two human rights workers and five youth entered the Alfragide police station requesting information on Bruno's situation. Upon arrival, the group was allegedly attacked by police officers shouting racist slurs.[212] The policemen dragged and kept the young men in the police station, where they detained them for two days, mistreated and mocked them.[215]

Eventually 17 police officers from the Alfragide police station went to trial on a variety of charges, including physical aggression, torture, document forging and aggravated kidnapping.[216] As of October 2018, the trial was ongoing, with victims being heard in court.[217]

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has expressed concerns about police mistreatment of minorities in Portugal in all of its reports on the country.[218] In its fifth country report of 2018, ECRI mentions the Alfragide case in connection to the failure of IGAI (Inspeção-Geral da Administração Interna) or officers upper in the chain of command to stop the abuses.[219] Currently, IGAI is the body responsible for scrutinizing police activities in the country, but it is part of the Ministry of the Interior, the same way Police forces are.[220] In its 2018 report, ECRI recommends that such work be carried out by the country's Ombudsman, an equality body, or by a new and (entirely) independent body that can be created for that purpose.[219]

Portuguese people of Roma ethnicity have also been victims of police harassment and brutality in the country. There are several examples that have been publicized by the media. One such case is from 2007 and involved a Roma man and his son. The two walked to the Nelas police station, in Porto, to get some information, but the police allegedly ended up abusing them. Two officers were convicted in 2011 for physically assaulting the father.[221]

An example of police brutality during raids of Roma camps or neighbourhoods, is the night raid of a Roma camp site by the GNR (Guarda Nacional Republicana), in Cabanelas, Vila Verde, in 2012. Some of the people living in the camp, including children and women, were reportedly attacked by GNR officers. The six Roma detained in the violent operation allege that they were later tortured and humiliated in the GNR station of Amares; the GNR denied the accusations, while SOS Racismo promised to file a complaint against this force.[222] A last remnant of overt institutional racism, in Portugal, is article 81 of GNR's regulation law, which provides for an increased policing of nomadic people - who, in general, are known to be mostly Roma; the regulation's constitutionality was unsuccessfully challenged in the 1980s.[223]


Russian protests have gained media attention with the reelection of Vladimir Putin in 2012. Attention has been given to incidence of violence via posting videos online. President Dmitry Medvedev has initiated reforms of the police force, in an attempt to minimize the violence by firing the Moscow police chief and centralizing police powers. Police divisions in Russia are often based on loyalty systems that favor bureaucratic power among political elites. Phone tapping and business raids are common practice in the country, and often fail to give due process to citizens. Proper investigations of police officials still remains lacking by western standards.[224]

In 2012, Russia's top investigative agency investigated charges that four police officers had tortured detainees under custody. Human rights activists claim that Russian police use torture techniques to extract false confessions from detainees. Police regulations require quotas of officers for solved crimes, a practice that encourages false arrests to meet their numbers.[225]


Police brutality in Slovakia is systematic and widely documented, but is almost exclusively brought about against the Romani minority. The nation state itself has particularly racist attitudes toward the Romani minority, dating back prior to the split of Czechoslovakia. In fact, it is widely known that the government undertook, and still undertakes forced sterilisation of Romani women, and continues to segregate the Romani into walled-off settlements.[226] This discrimination has undoubtedly filtered down to the police force. Excessive use of force against the Romani minority by police has been publicly criticised by the United Nations.[227] The police force has been repeatedly condemned by a number of organisations for lengthy pre-trial detention, and its treatment of suspects in custody.[228]

In 2001, a 51-year-old Romani man died as a result of abuse in police custody at the hands of the Mayor of Magnezitovce and his police officer son. The victim, Mr Sendrei, was allegedly chained to a radiator and fatally beaten, after being forcefully removed from his home.[229] Whilst the mayor's son was immediately removed from the police force, and the mayor suspended from his position, he was reinstated just 4 months later. In response to this incident the minister for internal affairs attempted to establish new measures to prevent police brutality including mandatory psychological testing for law enforcement and better training around effective use of coercion.

However, police brutality toward the Roma minority remains a serious issue.

Graphic video footage shot by law enforcement officers in 2009 shows 6 Romani boys aged between 6-16 being forced to strip naked, kiss, and slap each other. It is alleged that the boys were then set upon by police dogs, with at least two sustaining serious injury. Officers attempted to justify their behaviour on the grounds that the boys were suspected of theft against an elderly citizen. However, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by police, regardless of whether a crime has been suspected or committed, is prohibited under international law.[230]

The 10 law enforcement officers involved have since been acquitted after the judge ruled the video inadmissible in court as it was obtained illegally. As the footage was the main piece of evidentiary support for the crime, without it a conviction was not achieved.[231]

Human rights watchdog's have raised concerns around police selectivity in making recordings of raids after a raid in the settlement of Vrbica in 2015 as they claim to have not thought the settlement would be problematic. This raid saw 15 men seriously injured.[232]

It is often the experience of the Roma that on pressing charges in relation to police brutality, a counter- charge is often threatened by law enforcement, in an attempt to pressure the alleged victim into dropping the charges, which is particularly effective as the attitude toward the roma in Slovakia is so entrenched that lawyers are often reluctant to represent Romani victims.[233]


While Slovenia is a fairly peaceful country, it is not without its faults. Minority groups in Slovenia, particularly the Roma and any residents from former Yugoslav republics face discrimination and sometimes brutality by Slovenian police.[234] The Roma, in particular, are targets because of how stereotyped they are as an inherently criminal population.[235] The Roma often live in illegal settlements in very low socio-economic conditions, which contributes to their discrimination and their reputation as criminals.[235] The Roma are one of the ethnic minorities from former Yugoslavic states known as 'the erased' who, after Slovenia's declaration of independence in 1991, lost all legal status, social, civil and political rights.[236] This made them particularly vulnerable to police brutality. Their rights have still not been fully restored.[236] Due to their lack of rights and legal status, it is difficult to hold police accountable for offences committed against them.

The police have been known to occasionally use excessive force against detainees in prisons, as well as foreigners and other minority groups, although no police officer has ever been arrested or charged.[235][236] This made them particularly vulnerable to police brutality. Their rights have still not been fully restored.[236] Due to their lack of rights and legal status, it is difficult to hold police accountable for offences committed against them.[235][236] It is argued that authorities turn a blind eye to any allegations that arise because often the victims are from ethnic minorities, and there is a culture of racism amongst parts of the police force.[235] When investigations are made, they are often ineffective. Several cases have been brought before the European Court concerning people who have died in police custody because Slovenian Police used excessive force and failed to properly investigate it. Most of these cases are still pending and there has yet to be an outcome.[237]

The worst case of police brutality was the November 2012 protests. Political dissatisfaction spurred a series of protests in Maribor, Slovenia. For the most part, the protests were peaceful.[238] The crowds were chanting and non-violently, and for about two hours on 26 November 2012 (also known as, "the second Maribor uprising") they remained that way.[238] However, crowds moved towards an area with a heavy police presence and that's when the violence started.[239] Police used excessive force to disperse the crowds, including tear gas, dragging and beating protesters, police dogs and even mounted police who indiscriminately charged into the crowd.[239] Civilians, violent and non-violent protesters, and journalists alike were all targeted.[239] Authorities attempted to justify the use of force by claiming protesters were violent and the use of force was necessary, not excessive. Slovenian media sources reported that the protest only turned violent after the police started using force.[239][240] This level of violence was unprecedented and entirely unexpected in Slovenia.[241]

Since 2003, Slovenian authorities have attempted to rectify this discrimination by introducing a two-day training programme on policing in a multi-ethnic community.[242] The programme involved teaching police about Roma culture and their language which served to break down some of the stereotypes that caused tension.[242] The Roma were made aware of their rights, and the police were educated about national and international standards regarding treatment of minorities.[242] The programme involved teaching police about Roma culture and their language which served to break down some of the stereotypes that caused tension.[242] It also helped to build trust between the Roma community and police.[242] Tensions still exist between the two groups, especially concerning police who have not participated in this programme, however they have been greatly reduced.[242]

South Africa

Reports of police brutality skyrocketed by over 300% in just a decade, with only one in 100 leading to a conviction. There were also 720 deaths in police custody due to police action in 2011/2012.[243]

In 2015, due to the police committing crimes such as rape, torture and murder, the cost of civil liabilities claims were so great that there was concern the costs would strain the South African Police Service national budget.[244]


Spanish police have developed a global reputation for brutality after images of clashes between demonstrators and police were spread on social networks and international news 2011 and 2012.[245] Two notable demonstrations are those that occurred in Barcelona on 27 May 2011, and in Madrid on 25 September 2012. Video footage made available online shows the use of force by police against peaceful demonstrators on both occasions. Images show officers using hand-held batons to repeatedly hit peaceful demonstrators, some of them in the face and neck, and the injuries caused. Police also used rubber bullets and pepper spray.[246]

However, in spite of public outrage the Spanish government has made no attempt to reform policing and police mistreatment of the public. On the contrary, in July 2016 new reforms to the law on Public Security and the Criminal Code came into force which limit the right to freedom of assembly and give police officers the broad discretion to fine people who show a 'lack of respect' towards them.[246] The Law on Public Security also includes an offence of spreading images of police officers in certain cases. The UN Human Rights Commission has expressed concern at the impact this legislation could have on human rights and police accountability.[246] Fines for insulting a police officer can be up to €600 euros, and as much as €30,000 for spreading damaging photos of police officers.[247] Amnesty International identifies three main areas of concern about police action during demonstrations and assemblies: excessive use of force and inappropriate use of riot equipment, excessive use of force when arresting demonstrators, and ill-treatment of detainees in police custody.[246]

The 2014 report of Torture in the Spanish State found at least 941 people were tortured by law enforcement in 2014- both in the context of demonstrations and other public situations and in police stations and prisons.[248] 'The practice of torture is an everyday reality in Spain' claims Jorge del Cura, a spokesman for the Committee for the Prevention of Torture which collected 6621 complaints between 2004 and 2014. 'Day after day we receive information from people who have suffered all kinds of abuse and torture from stress positions, to push-ups, rape or physical assault.'[249] There were only 752 convictions of police for mistreatment during this 10-year period. Pau Perez, an advisor to the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture notes that of the torture allegations made against police 50% were from people belonging to social movements and 40% were from immigrants- indicating these are the two groups who suffer most from police brutality.[250]

Amnesty International and ACODI (Acción Contra la Discriminación) have both called out Spain for racial profiling and ethnic discrimination.[251][252] ACODI documented 612 cases of racial discrimination in a single year, emphasising that many of these did not lead to official complaints because victims fear police retaliation or believe their complaints will be ignored.[252] This belief is not unfounded; in 2005 Beauty Solomon, an African American immigrant working as a prostitute, filed two criminal complaints against Spanish policemen for repeated harassment and physical assault. In spite of eyewitness testimony and medical reports confirming her injuries the Spanish Courts dismissed her claims on the grounds of insufficient evidence.[252] Solomon then took her case to the European Court of Human Rights, who unanimously ruled in her favour that Spain had violated Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention of Human Rights. They also condemned Spain for failing to investigate both Solomon's assault and other racist and sexist acts of violence by police officers.[252][253]

Solomon's case is one of hundreds of similar cases in the ACODI report. Under Spanish law the police can check the identity of anyone in a public space when there is a security concern; however African and Latin American immigrant are most frequently targeted, and often without a legitimate security concern. "People who do not 'look Spanish' can be stopped by police as often as four times a day," said Izza Leghtas, an Amnesty International researcher.[251]


Since the REVA (Legally Certain and Efficient Enforcement) project has been applied in Sweden in an attempt to deport illegal immigrants, it has exposed the brutal and illegal methods used by police. They harass and racially profile non-white Swedes who often live in segregated suburbs. The marginalised such as the poor, homeless, people of colour, users of illicit drugs and the mentally ill are facing Sweden as a Police State. This has resulted in social disobedience with ordinary people in Sweden updating others on Twitter and Facebook on the whereabouts of police.[254]


In 2013 police shot a man in his own home in front of his wife in a town called Husby. The police said the man had been wielding and threatening them with a machete. The Stockholm riots, where more than 100 cars were torched, were set off after the Husby shooting. When the police showed up they had stones thrown at them. People said the police called them 'monkeys' and used batons against them in the clash.[255]

Also in 2013 a Swede of African origin was refused entry into a local club in Malmö for wearing traditional African clothes. The police picked him up and in the process of his arrest his arm was broken and he was locked in a cell for nearly six hours with no medical aid. Socially excluded groups have been targeted and the result of police investigations often mean the police officers are not deemed at fault.[256]

The common denominator for people on a special police list is being or married to a Romani person. A register of 4029 Romani people is kept by police. The police say the document is a register of criminal people and their associates used for fighting crime in Skåne County despite people being on it that have no connection with Skåne or any association with criminal people.[254]

Police target apparent ethnicity at Stockholm subways for ID-checks to see if they are illegal migrants. The police say they are 'following orders', the 'rule of law' and 'democratic process'.[254]

In February 2016, in Malmö, a nine-year-old was accused of not paying for a railway ticket. The police asked the security guards to stop the child. One guard tackled him to the ground and sat on him. He then pushed the child's face into the pavement hard and covered his mouth. The child can be heard screaming and gasping on the video that has gone viral on the internet. The police then put him in handcuffs.[257]


Turkey has a history of police brutality, including (particularly between 1977 and 2002) the use of torture. Police brutality featuring excessive use of tear gas (including targeting protesters with tear gas canisters),[258] pepper spray and water cannon as well as physical violence against protesters has been seen, for example, in the suppression of Kurdish protests and May Day demonstrations. The 2013 protests in Turkey were in response to the brutal police suppression of an environmentalist sit-in protesting the removal of Taksim Gezi Park.

In 2012 a number of officials received prison sentences for their role in the death in custody of political activist Engin Çeber.

The European Court of Human Rights has noted the failure of the Turkish investigating authorities to carry out effective investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement personnel during demonstrations.[259]

United Kingdom

In 2015 the United Kingdom employed approximately 126,818 police officers in the 43 police forces of England, Wales and the British Transport Police, the lowest number since March 2002.[260]

Legislation and treaties

The Criminal Law Act 1967, Common Law and the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) set out the law and acceptable use of force in the UK. The use of unnecessary physical force is in principle an infringement of ECHR Article 3.[261] The use of force should be 'reasonable' in the circumstances. Physical force is appropriate if:

  • it is absolutely necessary for a purpose permitted by law, and
  • the amount of force used is reasonable and proportionate

This requires a consideration of the degree of force used. Any excessive use of force by a police officer is unlawful and an officer could thus be prosecuted under criminal law.

Findings and statistics

Since 2004/05, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have published complaint statistics reports for England and Wales. In the 2014/15 annual report, the IPCC reported that there were 17 deaths in or following police custody and only one fatal police shooting in the last 3 years.[262] These figures were more than doubled when the IPCC was first erected. The annual report for 2015/16 is due to be published on the 26th of July 2016. A total of 37, 105 complaints were recorded in 2014/15, marking a 6% increase to the previous year, and a 62% overall increase since 2004/05.[263] Allegations of 'neglect or failure in duty' accounted for 34% of all allegations recorded whilst 'other assault' and 'oppressive conduct' or harassment made up only 8% and 6% respectively.[263]

Public dissatisfaction and discrimination

Despite an average reduction in deaths in custody since 2004, a 2014 Public Confidence Survey revealed that public satisfaction following contact with the police was falling and that there was a greater willingness to complain.[263] The Metropolitan Police, who operate in some of the most ethnically diverse parts of the UK, received the greatest number of complaints in 2014/15 with 6,828. However, young people and people from black or minority ethic groups were much less likely to come forward with complaints.[263]

Whilst instances of police brutality in the UK is comparatively less than its US counterparts, there are nonetheless high profile incidents that have received wide media coverage. As of 2016, more than 140 people from black or other minority ethnic groups have died under police custody from 1990. The use of excessive force has been used on an array of demographics of British citizens, however police brutality against ethnic and minority groups often attract wide media coverage. Whilst some have argued that this is discriminatory or evidence of institutional racism, others have asserted that it is largely due to over-policing in areas that are perceived as high-risk areas such as Northumberland or Bedfordshire.


In May 2013, 21-year-old Julian Cole was arrested outside a nightclub in Bedford by six police officers. The altercation left Mr Cole in a vegetative state due to a severed spinal cord. Expert evidence indicated that Mr Cole was struck with considerable force on his neck whilst his head was pulled back.[264] Despite calls by the IPCC to suspend the officers, Bedfordshire chief constable Colette Paul refused to place the six police officers on restricted duties despite being under criminal investigation.[265] The Bedfordshire police deny allegations that the use of excessive force on the unarmed 5 ft 5in student was race-related.

On 20 February 2014, Bedfordshire Police Constables Christopher Thomas and Christopher Pitts, chased Faruk Ali before allegedly knocking him over and punching him in the face outside his family home. Mr Ali was described an autistic man who had the mental age of a five-year-old.[266] The police officers who were accused of laughing throughout the ordeal, were cleared of misconduct in public office by the Aylesbury Crown Court. Following an investigation by the IPCC, the officers were sacked following breaches of standards of professional conduct including standards of honesty, integrity, authority, equality and diversity.[266]

On 13 July 2016, 18-year-old Mzee Mohammed died in police custody after being detained by Merseyside police at a Liverpool shopping centre. Officers were called to the scene after Mzee was allegedly behaving aggressive and erratic whilst arming himself with a knife. After successfully detaining Mzee, the police called an ambulance after Mzee suffered a "medical episode" and was pronounced dead.[267] Video evidence has surfaced showing Mohammed surrounded by officers and paramedics, seemingly fully unconscious whilst being placed face down with his hands handcuffed behind his back. Questions remain about how appropriate medical condition could have been administered given how the handcuffs would restrict breathing.[267] Mzee Mohammed is the 21st black person to die in police custody in six years.[268]

United States

In the United States, major political and social movements have involved excessive force by police, including the civil rights movement of the 1960s, anti-war demonstrations, the War on Drugs, and the Global War on Terrorism. In 2014, the UN Committee against Torture condemned police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement in the US, and highlighted the "frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals."[269] According to a 2016 report by the United Nations' Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, "contemporary police killings and the trauma that they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching."[270]

Seven members of the United States Maryland military police were convicted for the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse incidents in Iraq.[271] Detainees were abused within the prison by being forced to jump on their naked feet, being videotaped in sexually exploited positions, having chains around their neck for photos, and being kept naked for days.[271]

The United States has developed a notorious reputation for cases of police brutality, having reported far more incidents of killings by police officers than the rest of the Western world.[272][273] U.S. Police Killed 1,093 people in 2016 and 1,146 people in 2015.[274] Mass shootings have killed 339 people since 2015, where as police shootings over the same time span claimed the lives of 4,355 people.[275] According to an FBI homicide report from 2012, while blacks represent 13% of the US population, they amounted for 31% of those killed by police.[276]


Police officers are legally permitted to use force, and their superiors — and the public — expect them to do so. According to Jerome Herbert Skolnick, in dealing largely with disorderly elements of the society, some people working in law enforcement may gradually develop an attitude or sense of authority over society, particularly under traditional reaction-based policing models; in some cases the police believe that they are above the law.[277]

There are many reasons as to why police officers can sometimes be excessively aggressive. It is thought that psychopathy makes some officers more susceptible to the use of excessive force than others. In one study, police psychologists were surveyed on officers who had used excessive force. The information obtained allowed the researchers to develop five unique types of officers, only one of which was similar to the bad apple stereotype. These include personality disorders, previous traumatic job-related experience, young inexperienced or authoritarian officers; officers who learn inappropriate patrol styles, and officers with personal problems. Schrivers categorizes groups of officers, separating the group that most likely use excessive force.[278] However, this "bad apple paradigm" is considered by some to be an "easy way out". A broad report commissioned by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the causes of misconduct in policing calls it "a simplistic explanation that permits the organization and senior management to blame corruption on individuals and individual faults – behavioural, psychological, background factors, and so on, rather than addressing systemic factors."[279] The report goes on to discuss the systemic factors, which include:

  • Pressures to conform to certain aspects of "police culture", such as the Blue Code of Silence, which can "sustain an oppositional criminal subculture protecting the interests of police who violate the law"[280] and a "'we-they' perspective in which outsiders are viewed with suspicion or distrust"[279]
  • Command and control structures with a rigid hierarchical foundation ("results indicate that the more rigid the authoritarian hierarchy, the lower the scores on a measure of ethical decision-making" concludes one study reviewed in the report);[281] and
  • Deficiencies in internal accountability mechanisms (including internal investigation processes).[279]

Police use of force is not kept in check in many jurisdictions by the issuance of a use of force continuum.[282] A use of force continuum sets levels of force considered appropriate in direct response to a victims behavior. This power is granted by the government, with few if any limits set out in statutory law as well as common law.

Violence used by police can be excessive despite being lawful, especially in the context of political repression. Indeed, "police brutality" is often used to refer to violence used by the police to achieve politically desirable ends (terrorism) and, therefore, when none should be used at all according to widely held values and cultural norms in the society (rather than to refer to excessive violence used where at least some may be considered justifiable).

Studies show that there are officers who believe the legal system they serve is failing and that it is their duty to pick up the slack. This is known as "vigilantism", where the officer involved may think the suspect deserves more punishment than what they may have to serve under the court system.[283]

During high-speed pursuits of suspects, officers can become angry and filled with adrenaline, which can affect their judgment when they finally assault the victim. The resulting loss of judgment and heightened emotional state can result in inappropriate use of force. The effect is colloquially known as "high-speed pursuit syndrome."[284]

Effects of Police brutality in America

Police brutality is the misuse of power by police force to intentionally harm individuals. The excessive force imposed by police officers has grown dramatically over the past decade, causing social misinterpretations of the role that police officers play in the community.

In 2015, the percentage of people who have confidence in the police hit its lowest since 1993 at 52 percent.[285] Of this 52 percent democrats saw the biggest drop in confidence. Democrats' confidence in police dropped 13 percentage points over the last two years compared with 2012–2013, a larger change than for any other subgroup. Over the same period, Independents' and Republicans' confidence in police has not changed. As a result, Democrats (42%) now have less confidence in police than independents (51%) and remain much less confident than Republicans (69%).[285] Most importantly however is the number of Black people that have lost trust in the police over the last two years: Black people's confidence in police has averaged 30 percent, well below the national average of 53% and much lower than for any other subgroup. Black people's confidence is down six points from 2012 to 2013, similar to the four-point drop among all Americans.[285]

The same study found that the number of White people who identify as democrat have lost the same amount of confidence in the police as Black people, as White Democrats' confidence declined 11 points over the last two years, similar to the 14-point decline among non-White Democrats the sample sizes are not large enough to break out Black Democrats separately, but the limited data suggest their confidence declined no more than that of White Democrats.[285] This decreased confidence in police officers is harming relations and affecting how many people deal with and respond to police which in turn leads to more hostility from police in the United States. This has also lead to many cities making police wear body armor and cameras on them at all times. [286]

The repercussions of police officers’ “excessive force“ of those who find themselves in confrontation with authorities are non-existent. Authorities have legal right over how the respond and treat suspects, police officers may justifiably escalate the use of force with mere commands… but commands from who? Therefore, police officers receive little to no punishment for willingly and forcefully hurting civilians.[287]

Hands Up Don’t Shoot

The Constitution states that police officers are legally allowed to shoot in the instance that they feel the need to protect their lives or an innocent life or to prevent the suspect from escaping and posing a dangerous threat to the of bystanders in society. The Supreme Court Decision of Tennessee v. Garner made it possible to shoot a fleeing suspect ONLY if they may cause harm to innocent people so that authorities are not just shoot every suspect that tries to escape.

In the United States there are one hundred sixty million more Caucasian people than there are Black people.[288] However, being thirteen percent of the country's population, Black people are twenty four percent of the number of people killed by cops as of 2015.[288] Due to the increased rate of the number of Black people killed by the police there has been an increased distrust of the police in the United States.  

Society would like to believe that police officers and protectors are not biased towards the victims of police brutality, we hope that everything law enforcement does is to better protect us. As history repeats and more and more Black Americans lose their lives, this gives reason to believe that different geographic locations carry different political and social views, therefore police officers are biased towards those they decide to abuse, instead of allowing the justice system to properly serve justice.


Lorie Fridell, Associate Professor of criminology at University of South Florida states that "racial profiling was the number one issue facing police [in the 1990s].” Which leads her to understand two things: “bias in policing was not just a few officers in a few departments and, overwhelmingly, the police in this country are well-intentioned.” The country as a whole sets stereotypes as well as biases against Black Americans which inevitably leads to social misinterpretation of the safety of Americans when a Black person is present.[289]

An experiment done in 2014 conducted on White undergraduate female students suggests that there is a higher degree of fear of racial minorities which gives reason for authorities to believe racial minorities are dangerous, hence so many shootings of minorities. The experiment exemplifies the dehumanization and lack of empathetic concern for minorities displayed by citizen of racial majority.[290]

Incidents resulting in high profile deaths of innocent Black men such like Eric Garner in New York City, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore shows the Black community that they can no longer trust the police force. As a result of this lack of trust in police officers, the Black society have formulated many social organizations; founded in 2013, the Black Lives Matter Movement made a social impact on the world in a response the violent and systematic racism that Black people still face by police officers.

While the Justice Department reported that Cleveland police officers used “excessive deadly force, including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons; unnecessary, excessive, and retaliatory force, including Tasers, chemical sprays, and their fists” on the victim, there was no real repercussions from their actions.[291]

Black Americans V. US Police Department

Another report released concerning the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, the Justice Department admits to the pattern of racial bias of the Police Department in Ferguson. The department argues that it is typically an effort to ticket as many low-income Black residents as possible in an attempt to raise local budget revenue through fines and court fees. The Justice Department explains, police encounters could get downright abusive when the person being questioned by the police officers gets disrespectful or challenges their authority.

In addition, The Department of Justice released a statement that confronts police officers’ susceptibility to implicit bias: One of the things they looked at is what they called threat perception failure. The officer believed that the person was armed and it turned out not to be the case. And these failures were more likely to occur when the subject was Black.


In the United States in the late 2010s there has been a increase in the number of police brutality cases. The number of deaths caused by a police officer have slightly increased from 397 to 426 deaths in the last reporting year which was 2013.[292]

In addition, In a study done by Research Triangle Institute in 2015, Arrest Related Deaths were ranked higher than Supplementary Homicide Reports in US deaths by approximately 4%. Police officers are killing more citizens at a higher rate than citizens are killing each other.

A study conducted by the police violence tracking website fatalencounters.org shows the records of over 26,000 people killed by police across the US since 2000, at an average of over 1300 people per year until 2019.[293]

In the year of 2017 there were 1,147 deaths accounted for by police, 13 of which police officers were charged with a crime. 640 of the deaths caused by police officers that year, were responses to non-violent offenses and no crime was reported. 149 people killed by the police were unarmed.[294]

Also, studies have shown that "Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police in the United States than White people. More unarmed Black people were killed by police than unarmed White people last year,” give. the fact that only 14% of the population are Black people.[289]

Global prevalence

  • The Amnesty International 2007 report on human rights also documents widespread police misconduct in many other countries, especially countries with authoritarian regimes.[295]
  • In the UK, the reports into the death of New Zealand teacher and anti-racism campaigner Blair Peach in 1979 was published on the Metropolitan Police website on 27 April 2010. The conclusion was that Blair Peach was killed by a police officer, but that the other police officers in the same unit had refused to cooperate with the inquiry by lying to investigators, making it impossible to identify the actual killer.
  • In the UK, Ian Tomlinson was filmed by an American tourist apparently being hit with a baton and then pushed to the floor, as he walked home from work during the 2009 G-20 London summit protests. Tomlinson then collapsed and died. Although he was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, the officer who allegedly assaulted Tomlinson was released without charge. He was later dismissed for gross misconduct.[296]
  • In Serbia, police brutality occurred in numerous cases during protests against Slobodan Milošević, and has also been recorded during protests against governments since Milošević lost power. The most recent case was recorded in July 2010, when five people, including two girls, were arrested, handcuffed and then beaten with clubs and otherwise mistreated for one hour. Security camera recordings of the beating were obtained by the media, causing public outrage.[297][298] The police officials, including Ivica Dačić, the Serbian minister of internal affairs, denied this sequence of events and accused the victims "to have attacked the police officers first". He also publicly stated that "police isn't here to beat up citizens", but that it is known "what one is going to get when attacking the police".[299]
  • Some recent episodes of police brutality in India include the Rajan case, the death of Udayakumar,[300] and of Sampath.[301]
  • Police violence episodes against peaceful demonstrators appeared during the 2011 Spanish protests.[302][303][304] Furthermore, on August 4, 2011, Gorka Ramos, a journalist of Lainformacion was beaten by police and arrested while covering 15-M protests near the Interior Ministry in Madrid.[305][306][307][308][309] A freelance photographer, Daniel Nuevo, was beaten by police while covering demonstrations against Pope's visit in August 2011.[310][311]
  • In Brazil, incidents of police violence have been very well reported and Brazil has one of the highest prevalence of police brutality in the world.
  • South Africa since the apartheid period till present has had incidents of police brutality, though police violence is not as prevalent as during the apartheid years.


In England and Wales, an independent organization known as the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigates reports of police misconduct. They automatically investigate any deaths caused by, or thought to be caused by, police action.

A similar body operates in Scotland, known as the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner. In Northern Ireland the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has a similar role to that of the IPCC and PIRC.

In Africa, there exists two such bodies, one in South Africa and another one in Kenya known as the Independent Policing Oversight Authority.

In the United States, police are increasingly using police body-worn cameras during this Age of Ferguson. Since Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri, the US Department of Justice has made a call to action for police departments across the nation to implement body-worn cameras into their departments so further investigation will be possible.[312]

How it is measured

Police brutality is measured based on the accounts of people who have experienced or seen it, as well as the juries who are present for trials involving police brutality cases. This is because there is no way to quantify the use of excessive force for any particular situation. Back in 1985 only one out of five people thought that police brutality was a serious problem. Police brutality is relative to a situation, it depends on if the suspected person(s) is(are) resisting. Out of the people who were surveyed about their account with the police brutality in 2008, only about 12% felt as if they had been resisting.[313] Although police force itself cannot be quantified, the opinion of brutality among various races, genders, and ages can. African Americans, women, and younger people are more likely to have negative opinions about police than Caucasians, men, and middle-aged to elderly individuals.[314]

Independent oversight

Various community groups have criticized police brutality. These groups often stress the need for oversight by independent civilian review boards and other methods of ensuring accountability for police action.

Umbrella organizations and justice committees (often named after a deceased individual or those victimized by police violence) usually engage in a solidarity of those affected. Amnesty International is another organization active in the issue of police brutality. Amnesty International, also known as AI, is a non-governmental organization focused on human rights with over 3 million members and supporters around the world. The stated objective of the organization is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."

Tools used by these groups include video recordings, which are sometimes broadcast using websites such as YouTube.[315]

Civilians have begun independent projects to monitor police activity in an effort to reduce violence and misconduct. These are often called "Cop Watch" programs.[316]

Proper supervision by competent police supervisors and administration can reduce police misconduct.

See also

US specific


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Further reading

  • della Porta, D., A. Peterson and H. Reiter, eds. (2006). The Policing of Transnational Protest. Aldershot, Ashgate.
  • della Porta, D. and H. Reiter (1998). Policing Protest: The Control of Mass Demonstrations in Western Democracies. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.
  • Donner, F. J. 1990. Protectors of Privilege: Red Squads and Police Repression in Urban America. Berkeley, University of California Press.
  • Earl, Jennifer S. and Sarah A. Soule. 2006. "Seeing Blue: A Police-Centered Explanation of Protest Policing." Mobilization 11(2): 145–164.
  • McPhail, Clark, David Schweingruber, and John D. McCarthy (1998). "Protest Policing in the United States, 1960–1995." pp. 49–69 in Policing Protest: The Control of Mass Demonstrations in Western Democracies, edited by D. della Porta and H. Reiter. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Oliver, P. (2008). "Repression and Crime Control: Why Social Movements Scholars Should Pay Attention to Mass Incarceration Rates as a Form of Repression" Mobilization 13(1): 1–24.
  • Ross, J.I. (2000). Making News of Police Violence: A Comparative Study of Toronto and New York City, Westport, CT: Praeger.
  • Zwerman G, Steinhoff P. (2005). "When activists ask for trouble: state-dissident interactions and the new left cycle of resistance in the United States and Japan." In Repression and Mobilization, ed. C. Davenport, H. Johnston, C. Mueller, pp. 85–107. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
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