The Change in Relationship between Law Enforcement and the Black Community
How it works
The relationship between law enforcement and African Americans has always been tricky, but what complicates this relationship even more is police brutality. Over the course of many years, police have become more harsh and violent, even to the point where some might describe them as militarized. This police brutality has also mainly been targeted towards minorities, especially African Americans. These acts of police brutality that still happen today show the amount of racism and discrimination and racism that exists towards the black community.
Law enforcements use of police brutality causes the black community to have a feeling of hatred and lack of trust in police. Police were created to protect and serve, but instead are feared and seem to hurt us instead of protecting us. Law enforcements use of police brutality causes them to be feared, rather than helpful in society. This is done through their minority targeting, harsh tactics, and the law enforcements ugly history with police brutality towards African Americans.
How it works
To change the image of police presented to society and to alleviate the number of police brutality incidents, law enforcement needs to change their policies while handling hostile situations and be appropriately punished if choosing to partake in police brutality. This will further build trust between law enforcement and the African American community, and furthermore make police more effective within society. To understand police brutality, we must examine its timeline and its history in the United States. According to peoplejusitce.org, the NYPD was founded on January 1, 1845. From there the U.S. went into the Civil War. During the Civil War, the NYPD played a part in lynching’s, beatings, and other form of harassment towards civilians.
On January 13, 1874, police officers attacked immigrant protesters in the Tomkins Square Riot of 1874. This is the first real attack of police officers towards men, women, and children. From here, the police brutality did not stop. As we fast forward to the Civil Rights Movement and the Selma to Montgomery Marches, police with tear gas and beat with billy clubs attacked many African Americans. In 1969, the Stonewall Riots protested the police brutality against the LGBTQ community. By the 1990s, the amount of police brutality increased to a ridiculous rate which fueled many protests and riots against law enforcement.
The death of Rodney King in 1991 and the lack of charges for the police officer sparked the Los Angeles uprising which caused much chaos and turmoil, especially within the African American community. By 2007, the 1st National CopWatch Conference was because of the amount of police brutality incidents that had occurred. (2008-2013 People’s Justice for Community Control & Police Accountability). As time has passed, many people have begun to notice that this brutality has been mostly targeted towards African Americans and furthermore has affected the relationship between blacks and law enforcement. As the timeline shows, ever since law enforcement was created, there has always been some type of police brutality, which has historically usually been targeted towards minorities.
Before we can start to create solutions, we first must define the issue and demonstrate the problem. According to The Law Dictionary, police brutality is defined as, “the use of excessive and/or unnecessary force by police when dealing with civilians” (The Law Dictionary Staff). Police brutality is not a new issue that just has arisen in the black community; it has been a part of U.S. history for many years. Basically, since the policing system was created, there has been police brutality. Of course, as the civil rights movement came into motion, the level of police brutality severely increased, especially directed towards African Americans who peacefully stood up against the wrongful racism and discrimination that was thrusted upon them. With infamous police brutality cases, from Rodney King to Michael Brown, the black communities have completely lost trust in law enforcement and see them as a bad force rather than a good one.
According to copcrisis.com, a site for a nonprofit that specializes in spreading awareness about police brutality, “every 7 hours’ cops kill an American citizen” (copcrisis.com). With statistics like this, it is hard to show that police have a good standing within our communities, especially African American communities. Most police brutality cases are committed against African Americans more than any other race.
Police have become a common source of hate for the majority of Americans. For law enforcement to be effective, they must rebuild trust within our communities, and that can only happen if police brutality is completely eradicated. This issue of police brutality towards African Americans can be traced all the way back to the Civil Rights Movement. As many African Americans peacefully stood up for their rights and against discrimination, law enforcement practiced unnecessarily harsh tactics such as using firehoses and police dogs to attack African Americans. These discriminatory acts of police brutality have not ended, and have greatly increased, despite how far we have come with racism in our society.
According to mappingpoliceviolence.org, “police killed at least 102 unarmed black people in 2015, nearly twice each week”. This source also shows that unarmed African Americans are killed five times more in police brutality incidents that white people. (mappingpoliceviolence.org). This shows an obvious correlation between race and police brutality incidents, and makes you question how this discrimination still exists if we have supposedly “come so far”. According to civilrights.org, racial profiling drives these incidents. Police are basing possible suspects of crimes based on a person’s skin color. Police officers try to defend this racial profiling as not racist, but a way to find a potential suspect. (civilrights.org). This continues increase the perception within law enforcement that minorities, especially African Americans, commit the most crime. This way of though only gives an excuse for police officers to commit police brutality against African Americans.
Furthermore, this also creates division in the relationship between African Americans and law enforcement, causing African Americans to feel like they are being wrongfully targeted. In these past few years, there have been many cases of police towards African Americans that have been happening pretty close together. For example, one of the police brutality cases that got a lot of attention is the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. The unarmed eighteen-year-old stole cigarillos from a local gas station and was fatally shot during an altercation with a police officer. It is supposedly said that Michael Brown had his hands up when the officer made the decision to fatally shoot and kill him. Another case in Montgomery, Alabama, 58-year-old man Gregory Gunn was fatally shot steps in front of his house because a police officer was investigating “suspicious activity.” Darius Randell Robinson was unarmed and suffocated by a police officer for trying to escape his prison cell.
In 2015, Sandra Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation, arrested, and found in her jail cell mysteriously dead. These are just a few examples of the unrightfully killing of African Americans throughout the United States every day. In many of these cases, the police officer in the incident is not sufficiently charged for the crime that they have committed. Most police officers will receive no charges or the lowest charge that you can receive for the crime that they committed.
According to The Huffington Post, there were a total of zero officers in both 2014 and 2015 that were charged for fatally shooting a civilian. (Matt Ferner; Nick Wing, Huffington Post). This little to no charges towards law enforcement is seen as sort of a slap in the face to the black community and further creates diversion between them and law enforcement. Those innocent people who died will not ever receive justice because officers use the system of law enforcement to their advantage to make it seem like their actions were justifiable. The lack of consequences that a police officer has allows it easier for them to commit acts of police brutality, and this is something that we need to change. These incidents of police brutality have sparked a movement called Black Lives Matter.
The Black Lives Matter movement basically “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” The movement rose from the many police brutality incidents within the last few years and the large amount of innocent black people being killed on a daily in the United States. There is much controversy towards the movement and what it stands for, however, its main goal is to have justice for the many innocent people who have died and let society know that the lives of black Americans matter. (blacklivesmatter.com). Black Lives Matter really sheds light on the injustices that are put upon the black community by law enforcement and force society to make law enforcement to take accountability for their actions.
Racism is still alive and well in the United States, and police brutality is a definite sign of that. According to governing.com, in 2013 89% of law enforcement is made up of white people compared to a 3.1% of African Americans in law enforcement. (governing.com). With most of law enforcement being Caucasian, it’s hard to have African Americans in law enforcement to try to make change in the discriminatory profiling that leads to police brutality. It is clear that law enforcement and society see African Americans as criminals and the racist stereotypes from fifty years ago, still live today in 2016. Law enforcement must become more diversified so that African Americans are fairly represented as well as to make sure that the amount of underlying racism in the field can decrease.
Many African Americans are outraged with the continuous incidents of police brutality that seem to be increasing, and feel like a solution to this problem is to “peacefully” protest until this dilemma is solved. According to Revolution newspaper, “it is very important that people rise up and refuse to accept the continual murder of people, particularly Black people as well as Latinos, by police… because there is no solution to these outrages under this system” (Revolution newspaper). After the shooting of Alton Sterling, hundreds of protesters gathered in Chicago to protest such police violence. I do agree that we should not sit in silence and ignore this significant problem at hand. However, I believe that protesting will only be a further setback to a solution. Although we’d like to hope that all protests are peaceful, it would be incorrect to say that they all are.
Instead of sparking change and bringing light to the issue, these protests further egg on law enforcement to feel like they have a reason to “fear” African Americans and give them a reason to use harsh tactics that seem discriminatory and police brutality. The law enforcement that show up to these protests are armed in SWAT gear, which only further certifies the image of police becoming more and more militarized. This also adds on to the strain on the relationship between law enforcement and the black community. Instead of trying to mend this relationship, these protests cause African Americans to become even more angry with law enforcement and lose trust in their actions.
I also disagree with the statement that there is no solution to this problem. There are various ways to attack this issue, however, protests are not the solution. These protests are a valiant effort made by fed up people wanting change, but, they don’t have the ability to insight the change we want and need. Although there are many unsatisfactory solutions out there to solve this problem, which does not mean that there are no other ways to solve it. One solution that would drastically decrease the number of incidents of police brutality would be to change the policies in which police officers refer to when dealing with adverse situations.
According to the Law Enforcement Critical Incident Handbook, one of the first few things that an officer should do while dealing with a critical incident is recognize their own personal risk and protect themselves. However, nowhere in the six steps in dealing with a critical incident does it state that law enforcement should consider the safety of the civilian at hand. (Law Enforcement Critical Incident Handbook). Admittedly, the safety of our police officers is very important, however, the safety of our civilians is important to, even if they are being considered as a “criminal” at the moment. There needs to be a change implemented in these handbooks as well as in police culture to put value in the lives of the people that they consider to be criminals. The value put upon a police officer’s life is no more valuable than an African American. Once we are able to instill these thoughts and policies into police culture, the amount of causes of police brutality towards African Americans will only decline. Another way we can solve this problem is by trying to mend the relationship between law enforcement and African Americans, and build trust between the two.
A study taken in the book Racism and Police Brutality in America by Cassandra Chaney and Ray V. Robertson, examines the contempt that people have towards law enforcement. Many people base their hatred towards police officers off either witnessing or being a victim of police brutality. Some of these views are expressed through hateful and derogatory terms. The study in the books shows that, “five individuals (0.14 %) used words and/or phrases that represented their disdain (dislike) for law enforcement. Interestingly, the narratives ranged from insulting sarcasm (regarding the sexuality orientation of law enforcement) to indignation regarding the individuals that have been victims of police brutality” (Chaney; Robertson, pg. 486). The feelings that African Americans have towards law enforcement are reflected through music, media, and television.
For example, the song Fuck the Police, by NWA reflect hatred towards law enforcement because of how African Americans are treated because their skin color. Even though the song uses profane language to describe and insult police officers, it shows a great problem of police officers targeting minorities. These feelings of contempt and “the “suspicion of law enforcement” theme is words and/or phrases related to thoughts, feelings, or beliefs that members of law enforcement directly or indirectly engage in police brutality and/or condone the brutal actions of other members of law enforcement” (Chaney; Robertson, pg. 486). As this source shows, there is a definite need of change on how the black community views law enforcement and the relationship between them.
There is an obvious direct correlation between the thoughts that African Americans have on police officers and the number of police brutality incidents. When we are able to change this relationship from a hostile one to a good one, the issue of police brutality has the possibility to be solved. For these solutions to work, they must be correctly implemented. To be able to change the policies within the police handbook, we need to spark change in the law enforcement system. There needs to be a complete change in the Law Enforcement Critical Incident Handbook that forces police officers to consider the lives of the people that they are dealing with on a daily basis. It needs to be made clear that the lives of African Americans that police officers deal with matter and should not be put in risk when an officer feels the slightest bit “threatened”. To further instill this, officers who do choose to partake in police brutality should be justifiably punished for their actions.
In 2010, only “33 % of misconduct cases that went through to convictions and 64 % of misconduct cases that received prison sentences. The average length of time convicted officers spent in prison was 14 months” (Chaney; Robertson, pg. 485). Police officers need to be charged for their crimes, just like any other citizen would be if they committed the same crime. When police officers are forced to face the consequences of their actions, the number of police brutality incidents will surely decrease. For police officers to gain trust within black communities and create a better image for themselves in society, they must become more involved in the betterment of communities, especially in urban areas where police brutality happens the most.
Law enforcement should have police officers come to urban areas at least once a month, to perform some act of community service. African Americans mostly populate these urban areas, and when law enforcement is seen doing good in these communities, African Americans will be able to gain trust in law enforcement. This will therefore cause African Americans to change their views on law enforcement as being helpful rather than harmful. This will also allow police officers to see that Africans should not be labeled as criminals just because of their skin color or the neighborhood they come from, when they are human beings just like them. All in all, the matter is that police brutality is an issue that cannot go on any longer and cannot be ignored. It has gotten so out of control that there is a great division between law enforcement and the African Americans.
The policing system can’t function as it was made to because of the lack of trust individuals within the black community has towards it. Police shouldn’t be seen as a hard, militarized force who functions on racism and discrimination that hurts rather than helps the African American community. When we eradicate police brutality, we will be able to use the policing force for what it was really made for, to keep people safe and keep order. We will also be able to greatly decrease the number of racist and discriminatory acts that are inflicted upon the African American community. It is a must that a solution is implemented, otherwise, we will continue to live in a society where racism will never die and we can’t even trust the people who are supposed to protect us.
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The Change in Relationship Between Law Enforcement and the Black Community. (2021, May 10). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/the-change-in-relationship-between-law-enforcement-and-the-black-community/