It is Impossible to Increase the Ability of the Police to Reduce Violent Crime
“It is impossible to increase the ability of the police to reduce violent crime unless police-community relations are substantially improved in minority areas. These relationships have been getting increasingly worse because of rising demands of minority groups, frequent physical and verbal abuse committed by police officers against citizens, and other police activity on the streets. Recent changes in police departments to make them more professional have often further harmed police-minority relations, and the reforms being adopted in police departments to improve these relationships have generally not been effective. Substantial improvement in police-minority relations requires that the police and public radically change their concept of what police work is about. Police officers must be seen as one of many different groups in our society dealing with human problems and serving the public, such as teachers, gang workers, and correctional officers. Such a change will require that police personnel and policies be substantially changed.
In March of 1985, the Supreme Court in “”Tennessee v. Garner”” held that laws authorizing police use of deadly force to apprehend fleeing, unarmed, non-violent felony suspects violate the Fourth Amendment, and therefore states should eliminate them. This paper investigates the impact of that decision on the number of homicides committed by police officers nationwide. The investigation shows a significant reduction (approximately sixteen percent) between the number of homicides committed before, and after the decision. This reduction was more significant in states which declared their laws regarding police use of deadly force to be unconstitutional after the “”Garner”” decision. Evidence suggests that the reduction is due not only to a reduction in shooting fleeing felons, but also to a general reduction in police shooting. This paper discusses a mechanism that can explain the unique “”Tennessee v. Garner”” dynamic.
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This study uses data from a national and a local opinion survey that were underway when highly publicized police beatings of African American citizens occurred in two American cities—the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles and the killing of Malice Green in Detroit — to probe the impact of these dramatic events on public perceptions of racial discrimination. The incidents appear to have had their greatest effect on specific perceptions of the way local police treat blacks, and markedly less effect on broader perceptions of the extent of discrimination against them.
It is well known that African Americans and whites hold different views of the police, but nearly all of the previous research has been conducted in majority white settings. This research examines the relationship between race and evaluations of the police in majority black versus majority white contexts. Social dominance theory and the research on racial threat predict that when the racial majority changes, the relationship between race and attitudes toward police will change. We find that, in majority black contexts, the traditional relationship between being black and having negative evaluations of the police disappears, and it disappears because whites’ evaluations of the police become more negative. Black evaluations of the police are relatively consistent across racial contexts. Also, white racial attitudes affect police evaluations in majority black contexts, but not in white contexts, while African American racial attitudes are inconsequential in both contexts. Furthermore, if a white citizen is victimized by crime in a black city, it has greater ramifications for evaluations of the police than if the victimization had occurred in a white city. All of this suggests that whites’ views of the police may be more racialized than the views of African Americans.
This essay examines the connection between violence and masculinity that leads men to appoint themselves the protectors of racialized communities and that constitutes its own interracial brotherhood linking lawbreakers and law enforcers. Feminists are familiar with the concept of “”gender violence,”” but this term is usually used to denote violence by men against women. Yet exploration of the violence in the criminal justice system begins to reveal the extent to which masculine identity is shaped by relations of repulsion and desire between men. Indeed, this community of violence extends to state actors within the criminal justice system, most notably the police. Disrupting the cycle of gender violence both inside and outside the state is a race issue and a gender issue, as well as a criminal justice issue.
The current controversy surrounding racial profiling in America has focused renewed attention on the larger issue of racial bias by the police. Yet little is known about the extent of police racial bias and even less about public perceptions of the problem. This article analyzes recent national survey data on citizens’ views of, and reported personal experiences with, several forms of police bias-including differential treatment of individuals and neighborhoods, police prejudice, and racial profiling. We find that attitudes toward the prevalence and acceptability of these practices are largely shaped by citizens’ race, personal experiences with police discrimination, and exposure to news media reporting on incidents of police misconduct. The findings lend support to the group-position theory of race relations.
The beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles focused public attention on the issue of police brutality and sparked a debate about how police departments might avoid similar incidents in the future. In this note, Michelle A. Travis examines one response: psychological tests that purport to identify and screen out potentially violent individuals before they are hired as police officers. Surveying the tests most frequently used by police departments, Ms. Travis concludes not only that the tests are unreliable, but also that their use in employment decisions may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act by targeting a mental disability. She concludes by suggesting alternatives to psychological testing that avoid the scientific and legal pitfalls of behavior prediction and focus on addressing the job-related stress and other situational factors that may trigger police violence.
While the emphasis in this article is on physical force by police officers, the perspective adopted is one of a transaction affected by police characteristics, citizen characteristics, and their interactions in a given setting. The violent police-citizen encounter, moreover, is considered a developmental process in which successive decisions and behaviors by either police officer or citizen, or both, make the violent outcome more or less likely. The emphasis upon mutual contributions in the encounter carries policy implications that have not always been carefully considered in the past.”