Racism in Police
The issue of racism in police is increasingly because a topic of debate across the United States. Racism in police can be described as a set of attitudes, convictions, and undertakings that are employed in the justification of inferiorly or superiorly treating racial groups by the law enforcement officers. Racism entails a group of individuals who have been made superior or inferior by the actual or assumed physical attributes such as the color of the skin, texture of the hair, shape of the eyes and other characteristics chosen in a subjective manner. The ethnic communities in the United States that are majorly linked to racism in police are Latino Americans and African Americans (Solis, Portillos, & Brunson, 2009). The majority of states and cities have chosen to evaluate racism in police with respect to the way race and ethnic background might be a matter of consideration in police stops and other acts within their jurisdictions. The pronouncement regarding studies on racial profiling by the law enforcement officers and other public representatives characteristically encompasses a defiance of the existence of the problem and the recognition that it may be worthless to address racism in police.
The law enforcement agents and their unions might gladly permit the political requirement for studies on racism in police on condition that such researches will not be utilized in monitoring and reprimanding individual officials. Some officers may have a feeling that their reliability is being questioned, their application of judgment restricted, and that their capacity to combat crime is being corroded. On the contrary, undertaking such studies offers hope to the ethnic minority groups affected that assistance could eventually come about. The aim of this research paper is to discuss major central impressions, problems, and difficulties entailed in racism in police. It is expected that this study will be helpful to lawmakers and other public stakeholders who could be deliberating of financing or undertaking a similar study, or who might require comprehending or thoroughly assessing the findings in an attempt to address the problem.
Concerns Relating to Racism in Police
Racial profiling is greatly evident in racism in police. Racial profiling denotes the police progression of observing some attributes as pointers of criminal conduct (King, Messner, & Baller, 2009). Profiling is supposedly a law enforcement operation all through the United States, having developed with the integration of social science theory and arithmetical tactic into police officers’ crime resolving and crime avoidance policies. The term racism in police/police racism is a considerably new expression; hence, there it is yet to have an apparent accord on its implication. The discourse regarding racism in police is usually very confusing and contentious. In the existing literature, there seems to be at least two evidently noticeable descriptions of the term, a narrow, and a broad one. In the two instances, the expression is connected to the conduct of the police officers and their treatment of the people of racial minority groups.
Under the narrow description, racism in police arises when a law enforcement agent stops, inquires, incarcerates, and searches a person exclusively anchored in the person’s ethnic background or race. Critics characteristically employ this description while criticizing police racism similar to the manner in which the law enforcement officers do when denying the occurrence of racism in police. Most legal authorities argue that police racism is akin to racial discrimination, which is illegal and broadly rejected in the United States, and affirm that it is reasonably rare amid police officers. They believe that it is impractical for a law enforcement agent to stop and search or arrest an individual based just on his/her race or ethnic group; instead, they feel that other aspects are usually entailed.
In line with the broader description, police racism arises when police officers employ ethnicity or race amid the numerous aspects that result in the decision of stopping, arresting, searching, or questioning a person. An instance of racism in police as explained by the broader description would be a law enforcement agent stopping a person based on the following factors: age (youthful), dressing (baggy trousers), time (late at night), location (in “wrong” environs), and race (African American). Arguing by the broader description, racism in police arises when law enforcement agents usually employ ethnicity as a reason that, alongside the occurrence of other aspects, results in a law enforcement agent acting with suspicion (Chaney & Robertson, 2013).
Police racism is frequently associated with respect to traffic stops by the law enforcement agents (Walker, 2010). Nevertheless, a wide pool of studies makes it seem that the expression is progressively being generalized to encompass other forms of stops or searches by the police officials. The majority of people from the minority communities throughout the United States have for a long time asserted that the law enforcement officers usually employ traffic infringements as an alleged reason behind stopping vehicles to assess other probable criminal activities, for instance, illegal possession of weapons such as guns. The issue of stopping African American drivers in an attempt to find anything incriminating has turned out to be so rampant that the practice is making it appear as if African Americans are being stopped for the crime of driving while black. This has become the standard manner of defining the common encounter of frequent stops, as well as brutality against the people of color; acts that are carried out by the law enforcement agents. Racism in police is not the act of just a few bad officers but has become a prevalent daily incident that calls for systemic restructuring.
In numerous recent occurrences, empirical proof backs allegations of the emergence of considerable racism in police in the United States (Barak, Leighton, & Cotton, 2014). For instance, in New Jersey, there has been the account of Hispanic and African American motorists making up just 13% of the drivers in the state but accounting for 73% of the drivers stopped and frisked by the police officers. On the same note, a research of such occurrences in Maryland asserted that although the African American drivers are just 17% on some highways, they constituted of over 71% of the ones stopped and frisked by the law enforcement agents.
It is also apparent that African American drivers have a twofold or threefold chance of being ticketed when judged against their white counterparts. Studies show that though Hispanics are less than 8% of the Illinois population, they form over 27% of the motorists stopped and searched by the police. Moreover, the United States General Accounting Office, a public research body, issued findings that out of the passengers returning to the American airports from flights overseas, a very high number of black females were taken through more infringing searches such as strip searches. In numerous occurrences, the charges that have been filed against such acts of police racism fail because of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.
The rising publication of reliable information backs the allegation that police racism is widespread across the United States (Huq, Tyler, & Schulhofer, 2011). For instance, in one case, Charles and Etta Carter, an aged black couple, were stopped by police in Maryland during their fortieth wedding anniversary. The police officers frisked their vehicle and even decided to use sniffer dogs. In the course of the act, the wedding garment of their daughter was thrashed about before being gusted to the ground by passing trucks. In the course of the operation, Mrs. Carter was prohibited from using a public lavatory since the law enforcement agents feared that she was attempting to flee. Their property and personal effects were scattered on the ground where the dogs trod and urinated on them. At the end of the intensive search, the police found no drugs, which was contrary to their expectations.
Views of Racism in Police
Recently, a Gallup Poll was carried out in the United States and entailed about 2,000 phone interviews that were randomly chosen to carry out the study. It was established that about fifty-six percent of the white residents and seventy-seven percent of African Americans were convinced that racial profiling was an extensive progression in the US. Furthermore, just 6% of the whites and 42% of African Americans believed that they had been stopped by the law enforcement agents due to their racial backgrounds. 72% of youthful black individuals that carried out a survey (between 18 and 34 years of age) had a feeling that they had earlier been subjected to racism by the police officers (Jackson, Huq, Bradford, & Tyler, 2013). Likewise, a high number of youthful African American males asserted that they had negative perceptions of the local law enforcement agents. It has been made to appear that law enforcement officials stop motorists from minority groups since they are convinced that the people of color have a higher probability of committing some forms of crimes when judged against the whites.
Most of the police officers in the United States affirm that the high number of stops and arrests against the people of color does not represent the use of race in making decisions concerning whom to stop, frisk, or detain. They maintain that they consider other aspects and not race in their operations and decisions, for instance, driving while drunk, suspicious actions, and other forms of violation of the law (Gabbidon, 2010). They affirm that if the findings are racially disproportionate, it is because the other aspects occur in high levels amid the minority communities. In this regard, the police officers disagree with the concerns of racism happening in law enforcement actions. For instance, Drug Enforcement Agency representatives declare that race is not amid the factors considered by the officers in the hunt for illegal drug traffickers. They also affirm that Drug Enforcement Agency officials do not consider the race of a person while deciding whether an individual suits the profile of a possible drug trafficker. However, they assert that drug traffickers arrested by the officers sometimes account for a high number of people from minority groups.
In the 1970s, the Colombians came to a decision of eradicating all middlemen and driving the facets of cocaine trade right from planting, to processing, to trafficking, and eventually selling it on the streets of American cities. Consequently, the majority of the arrested drug couriers were Columbians. In the mid-1980s, the Columbian traffickers started engaging African Americans and other minority groups who would take part in the cracking of cocaine and distribute it all through the United States. As a result, there was a great rise in the incarceration of youthful, African American, male traffickers. Additionally, the heroin couriers from Nigeria changed from smuggling the drugs themselves and began using youthful, white ladies. In no time, the smugglers started recruiting older, white men and women. This affirms that drug traffickers could be from any ethnic group, and the courier attributes have stayed somewhat the same all through the years. The main aspects to consider in the profiling of drug traffickers encompass such things as preferred cities for arrival or departure, the means of payment, and the schedules, routes, period, and frequency of the trips (Brunson & Weitzer, 2011). Such factors, taking into deliberation the trip reservation account and the outgoing and incoming calls, distinguish the passenger from the others.
Admitting and Defending Police Racism
Some police officials admit the occurrence of racism in police in line with the broader description, with ethnic group acting as one of the numerous aspects employed, but go ahead to defend it as being proper judging by the dissimilar patterns of engagement in criminal activities by the people from minority groups. Those who defend police racism assert that, in regions where youthful African American men carry out tremendous levels of street crimes, the law enforcement officers have a valid reason for examining the members of the race more profoundly than other ethnic groups, similar to the manner in which they are justified in probing males more intensely than females. For most police officers, racism acts as a prudent, statistically anchored instrument that allows police officers to apply their energy more effectively; it reduces the outlay of acquiring and processing data thus lessening the expenses of policing. Some studies affirm that police racism should continue based on the above explanation, as it acts as a successful way of combating criminal actions (Gabbidon, Higgins, & Potter, 2011).
It is evident that the people who support police racism do it on statistical basis, through citing the empirical reality that, in some regions, people linked to some ethnic groups are involved in a high number of criminal activities. National data could be seen as a way of backing such allegations. For instance, recent federal information discloses that African Americans across the United States, who represent about 13% of the population, account for 43% of the people that are incarcerated for dissimilar crimes associated with violence (Stewart, Baumer, Brunson, & Simons, 2009). Another argument in support of police racism is that it may assist in addressing some criminal activities. For instance, law enforcement officers believe that the approach of assertively stopping, frisking, and spotting young, black, male motorists that drive recklessly or do it late in the night assists in divesting any potential criminal amongst them of the anonymity that is vital to prevent arrest for criminal actions such as murder, rape, and robbery. On this note, racism in police may help in deterring such potential felons from committing or running away with crime.
Arguments in opposition to Police Racism
Some of the arguments made against police racism encompass both constitutional interests and realistic deliberations (Schlosser, Cha-Jua, Valgoi, & Neville, 2015). Amid the most powerful arguments in opposition to racism in police is the one anchored in the equal protection section of the American law, under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Such assertions start with an insistence on the unique importance of racial characteristics in the life and regulations involving the US residents. Racism in police is and ought to be distinguished from any form of stratification. This is the reason behind the courts consistent ruling, from the period of civil rights movement, that mere tenability is an inadequate proof for police officers to discriminate people based on their race or ethnicity. On such incidents, the courts have recommended the application of strict inspection, a strong degree of judicial process, to enforcing the adherence to the law. Consistent with this hard-hitting principle, the consideration of race in the strategies of the police force could be permissible just when it implements a convincing government approach and when narrowly adapted to enhance the purpose.
Strict scrutiny exemplifies the identification, anchored in complex accounts of the United States history that avows that the inclusion of a racial aspect in the decisions by the government results in the assumption that law enforcement officers might be operating in breach of the people’s civil rights. However, even the courts state that resolutions differentiating between individuals because of their race do not necessarily lead to illegal racial discrimination unless ethnic background acts as the only factor considered and causes disparate treatment (Phillips, 2011). For instance, in a major court ruling involving a police officer stopping and frisking an African American male, an occurrence where the officer confessed having taken the person’s ethnicity alongside other factors into consideration, the court did not define the action as racial discrimination.
Devoid of professing the constitutional declarations, studies go on to make assertions in opposition to racism in police on the basis of its social cost (Phillips, 2011). They allege that police racism fundamentally pushes away people from ethnic minority communities from the protection of the law. Such alienation usually results in witnesses who choose to be uncooperative to the law enforcement agents; they turn out to be people with a perception that prosecutors are their enemies, lawyers scorn the law they have avowed to advocate, and the judges have the zeal of getting even with a system that has ill-treated them. For the benefit of the adherence to the law, the US government ought to be conscious of the unfathomable pool of fury toward the law enforcement agents existing amid the ethnic minority groups. Police racism forms the biggest proportion of what makes the reservoir accumulate anger.
Each time that the horrible, racially founded criminal acts are carried out against the black people on the streets in the US by the police, it is evident that the society is failing the racial minority community in numerous ways. Racial discrimination against the people of color by the police in the US is a continuation of the racism of the past decades, which emanated from the times of slavery (Chaney & Robertson, 2013). Racism in police just differs with slavery in the past in that the ancestors (the then slaves) were aware that they were suffering as victims of harsh racial setting and made every effort to break the bond of slavery, racial discrimination, and segregation.
Currently, it is apparent that all the US residents have equal rights although the people that have the responsibility of protecting the rights of the racial minority communities are shockingly discriminating against them and treating them brutally. At the core of the absolute violence and murder of the people of color by the law enforcement agents is complete denial of their decorum and sense of worth (Chaney & Robertson, 2013). Most of the white law enforcement officials believe that being a male African American makes one a potential crook, suspect, and mischief-maker. This creates a picture of the white law enforcement agents fearing the male African Americans and protecting themselves and the community in the most violent approach achievable. Something is terribly amiss concerning a society where some of its residents act as targets of police racism and brutality. There is a great thing that should be done to rectify a society where being an African American male is taken to mean that one has a high likelihood of encountering untimely death caused by the guns of law enforcement agents than natural occurrences.
The unjust social occurrences that are at play and increasing in the US, and that were brought by the slavery and Jim Crow laws, are disgraceful practices and approaches that need to be eliminated. Sadly, such occurrences have formed the notions of what being a male African American insinuates in the perceptions of the white police officers to a point of causing unreasonable killings of the people of color similar to the way one would just decide to kill an insect. Though there are assertions that the people of color have a high possibility of engaging in criminal actions as compared to the whites, the argument is that the people that have the task of protecting ought not to pose threats to the existence of the very individuals they are recruited to safeguard. However, the issue does not affect all the police officers in the United States as the many decent ones merit reverence and utmost regard (Gabbidon et al., 2011). The setback is caused by the practices and racist values that influence the manner in which being black is viewed in the US by the whites. White law enforcement agents who are carrying out brutal actions against innocent people of color have been socialized in the racial discrimination accounts regarding the blacks.
Racial discrimination even amid the police officers is a learnt conduct, similar to acts of terrorism, in addition to other vices of inhumanity that grip the globe in a lasting bondage (Gabbidon et al., 2011). Just like terrorism, no person is born with racist attitudes in their genes. Racism in police has been worsened by the façade of rights in the Constitution of the United States, which offer a fake principle of liberty and guarantee the happiness of all the US residents. Unluckily, most of the black American residents suffer a painful social and existential hostility that has left them in a world of suffering in the hands of the police officers thus pushing them to the sidelines of the American vision. What is termed as manifest destiny that the US residents claim has been existing for the people of color as the unexcitable fate due to police racism, violence, brutality, imprisonment, and unjustifiable unemployment and endless surveillance.
Because of the acts of racism in police, the United States cannot affirm to be a post-racial nation just by the reality that it elected an African American president. This will only be the case when injustices will not be color-based anymore, and racial discrimination will long have been eradicated. It is unfathomable how racial discrimination in police and amid the citizens has increased despite the coming to power of President Obama and the level to which the ever-increasing police-perpetrated injustices, profiling, and discrimination against the people of color have stayed unmanaged. In this regard, the election of President Obama acts as a false depiction that the US has evolved past racial discrimination and police brutality. What has been heightened by the police force are the undisclosed forms of racial discrimination against the ethnic minority groups, acts that are not written anywhere under the legal systems but in the minds of the many law enforcement agents. The reputation of the United States is soiled when evils in the name of police racism keep occurring, and such injustices are left to persist (Chaney & Robertson, 2013). It is the high time that America rose above police racism through policies and effective measures that will eliminate such a reprehensible development and malodor of the United States’ social conscience.
Encounters with the Police
Racism in police might sometimes act as the strongest factor influencing the arrests by the law enforcement officers. In the instances of suspected young, male African Americans, studies have affirmed that for minor transgressions, the law enforcement agents might take into consideration the behavior of the persons when choosing whether to incarcerate them. When the law enforcement agents feel that such a suspect is showing lack of respect, his conduct could raise the possibility of an arrest. Consistent with ethnic background, Phillips (2011) established that the perspective of a given race also influences the decisions of the law enforcement agents about making arrests or applying force, since it is apparent that the law enforcement personnel have a greater possibility of making arrests, threatening, and employing force against people from ethnic minority groups.
Studies into the manner in which the law enforcement agents apply force against the ethnic minority groups, irrespective of the race of the police officer, have served in shedding light to the vital concerns in policing, and the significance has been the evaluation of whether white police officers treat people of color more harshly when judged against their white counterparts. In a given study carried out by Cole (2009), it was established that approximately eighteen percent of the encounters of the people from minority groups with white law enforcement personnel resulted in arrests when judged against fifteen percent in the case of black officers’ interrelations with such suspects. Moreover, the young, male, African Americans had a higher possibility of being arrested when compared to the females or older counterparts, and the law enforcement agents were considerably more probable of arresting black suspects when judged against the white ones. In this regard, the study concludes that even the black police officers had a higher likelihood of using oppression against the African Americans than the whites. Studies do not offer elucidation for such discriminatory arresting and treatment by the police officers apart from the fact that race appears to cause the difference.
While taking into consideration the rate of African Americans that have been entailed in instances of police shootings, Fellner (2009) illustrates that in the United States, the people from ethnic minority groups were more probable of being illegally shot by the law enforcement agents since they excessively take part in occurrences involving gun violence. On the contrary, the research study continues to declare that although the people from racial minority groups had a higher probability than whites to take part in gun violence, in most cases, the police shoot them while fleeing. The study affirms strongly that the use of lethal force by the law enforcement agents is influenced by the racial origin of the person involved.
The case of racial origin and the arrest of drug traffickers disclose that the majority of drugs, encompassing heroin and cocaine, are smuggled by the whites, and that the people of color are majorly involved in the delivery of just a single drug, the crack cocaine. Nevertheless, more than 60% of the people arrested for drug (without considering crack cocaine) trafficking are those from ethnic minority groups (Phillips, 2011). The discussion illuminated by such discrimination implies that police officers target the blacks and that the drug trafficking by the whites obtains minimal concentration by the law enforcement agents. In this regard, it is evident to assert that race shapes the views of what and who should be targeted in the fight against drugs. What is the reason behind law enforcement agents in most states prioritizing drug prohibition as a police task and taking part in regular traffic stops to undertake drug searches? The rationale behind this approach is that such actions allow the police officers to maintain their racism against the minority groups and enhance their revenues in the process.
Though there could be less explicit forms of police racism based on the existing laws and a high intolerance of open racism, a novel kind of racism in police has surfaced and is anchored in color-blind ideas. For easy comprehension of the issues of color-blind perception, it is vital to assess assertions that the culture of white dominance has sought to elucidate and explain racism. Such police racism has taken on more implicit perspectives, emanating from the presumption that the law enforcement agents do not take racial origin into deliberation but thoroughly undertake their operations while treating every person in the same manner. Color-blind racial perceptions encompass the broadly held view that racial discrimination no longer exists in the United States and that everybody that works hard gets an equal opportunity of becoming successful, whether black or white. Nevertheless, the color-blind racial concerns are just meant to conceal police racism and give room for the present discriminatory actions against the people of color to keep thriving. Color-blind discourse is deemed impartial and politically approved by the majority of the law enforcement agents and the whites in the US through affirmations that there are no distinctions amid residents based on the color of their skin. Nonetheless, this is impractical in the US where racism is a problem existing in all aspects of life and not just policing (Phillips, 2011).
Color-blind perspectives disfigure both the form and degree of police racism in the United States and offer a veil for the facilitated propagation of racial discrimination against the ethnic minority groups. The assertions that racial discrimination exists in the police service is just a means of perceiving and describing evident racism actions of impartiality that are repressed by learning and anti-discrimination regulations (Fellner, 2009). Since racism is apparently a describing attribute of the police force in the US, the acknowledgment of its existence could be vital to the betterment of the interrelations between the law enforcement agents and the people from racial minority groups.
It is recommended that law enforcement officers become more receptive to all the US residents, particularly the ethnic minority communities, as the first step toward the eradication of acts of racism (Fellner, 2009). Policing approaches and strategies have historically upheld racism in police. The initial stride in the profession of a law enforcement agent starts in his/her training. Shaping the approaches and beliefs of police officers against racism right from their training could help eradicate racial discrimination in their later service by treating all the residents in an equal manner. The importance of such an intervention is that it could generate positive transformations in the training approaches through the promotion of impartial policing.
Economic aspects, predominantly poverty, are profoundly interlinked with police racism and violence. To reduce or eradicate racism in police, the government has to come up with strategies for eliminating poverty amid the people of color. Research establishes that the racial minority groups have a joblessness degree of twofold that of the whites. Since many people of color are poor, they are unreasonably frisked, questioned, and incarcerated. Moreover, characteristic poor crimes (such as robbery and burglary) attract more severe legal measures when judged against the rich crimes (for instance, tax evasion and fraud), and this causes frequent conflicts between the police officers and people from ethnic minority groups. To tackle poverty amid the racial minority communities, the government should ensure that every resident has the same access to quality education and employment opportunity to acquire adequate income to make them rise above the poverty line. This empowerment would mean that people of color will commit minimal crimes and that they would afford first-rate lawyers in case they get arrested for unjustifiable reasons (Schlosser et al., 2015). This would go a long way to reducing police racism.
The issue of racism in police is on the rise across the United States. Racism in police could be portrayed as a set of attitudes, convictions, and approaches that are applied in the explanation of inferiorly or superiorly treating racial groups by the law enforcement officers. The ethnic communities in the US that are majorly linked to racial discrimination by the police are Latino Americans and African Americans. Racism in police is often associated with traffic stops and frisking by the law enforcement agents. The concern of stopping African American drivers in an effort to find anything incriminating has turned out to be so widespread that it is appearing as if African Americans are being stopped for the transgression of driving while black.
Influencing the approaches and convictions of police officers against prejudice right from their training could aid in the eradication of racism in their later service by treating all the citizens in an equal manner. To reduce or get rid of racism in police, the government should develop strategies for eliminating poverty amid the ethnic minority groups. This study offers insight to lawmakers and other public stakeholders who could be planning to finance or embark on a similar research, or who could require comprehending or carefully assessing the findings with the purpose of eliminating police racism.
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