Police brutality is a term that is often thrown around whenever a police officer commits a biased action against a citizen, especially a citizen of color. But it is an inappropriate word to use when discussing problems of race and racism and the police.
It is biased against law enforcement, vague, and loaded; it’s an overgeneralization. The term “police brutality” cannot even be defined: The term could be used in an incident when an officer uses a slur against a person of color, or it could be used when an officer shoots someone in a supposedly-racially-motivated incident.
This is not helpful to the conversation. When we as a country discuss these issues, we must try our best to remove our own biases from the conversation. Instead of using the term “police brutality,” I recommend describing the actual incident; call it as you see it.
Saying something like “The officer used undue force,” for example, is better than saying that the officer’s actions were an example of “police brutality.” Saying that the officer used “undue force” or a racial slur gives me a better picture as to what happened in the incident, while “police brutality,” on the other hand presents the public with a fuzzy, ill-defined picture; this does not benefit anyone.
Proponents of the belief of systemic racism may say that “police brutality” is the right term to use because it points out flaws in the police as an institution, but that is biased in itself.
Police are human beings, too, and are, like everyone else, flawed. Some forms of law enforcement may very well be in need of reform, but as long as the term “police brutality” is being used, these arguments will continue to vilify the police, who have a place in the conversation, and policy goals will go nowhere.