With police brutality as a hot topic in today’s news, it might seem like police brutality is an alarming new trend in the United States. The truth, however, is that it is probably as the organization itself. It definitely dates back to the 1960s when Doctor Martin Luther King Junior complained about police brutality. Knowing more of the history of police brutality may help you take action if you see it in your neighborhood.

Civil Rights Movement

The Birmingham Campaign of 1963-1964 and the Selma to Montgomery Marches were filled with police brutality. In fact, the Black Panthers party was formed as a result of police brutality. The FBI’s COINTELPRO program was organized so that undercover agents attacked event organizers. In 1969, the FBI Raid in Chicago resulted in the death of Mark Clark and Fred Hampton at the hands of the FBI. Doctor Martin Luther King is quoted as saying, “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality."

The Vietnam War Protest

Protests over the Vietnam War were in full swing when the 1968 Democratic National Convention occurred in Chicago. Protesters who thought that the war should be brought to an end immediately clashed with 1,000 Secret Service agents, 7,500 Illinois National Guardsman and 11,900 police officers over the course of five days while the convention was going on. The protesters were especially angry because their requests to stage a protest in Lincoln Park were denied. The media captured lots of police violence on tape as the protesters tried to make their way to the site of the Democratic Convention. Over 119 protesters, and 100 police officers were hurt. Finally, eight people were arrested, and they became dubbed as the Chicago 8; also arrested were eight police officers.

Rodney King Incident

Fast-forward to 1992, and police brutality rose to a new height in Los Angeles. The brutal arrest of Rodney King erupted for five days onto the streets of Los Angeles after four police officers brutally pulled King from his car, and beat him brutally, following a high-speed chase. The whole event was caught on tape by a bystander finding its way into almost every living room in America. While there is evidence to suggest that more than 12 cops were involved, four cops were ultimately found guilty of the brutal attack.


Police brutality is not new, but there will be fewer incidents if citizens take a stand and hold officers responsible in court. Police departments have varying mottos across the country, but perhaps the Los Angeles Police Department’s motto states their purpose best: “To Protect and to Serve.” By speaking out, we can help keep such mottos honest.