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Ethnicity and the Police Essay

Relationships between the police and minority communities have come a long way, and still continue to evolve as public awareness grows. Although there are still misconceptions about community policing, it is a fact that improvements have been made because of the new and continuously emerging programs, and partnerships that have been created between the police and private citizens. Among these improvements are lower crime rates, higher crime reporting rates, and improved public perception of police effectiveness. The 1960’s were a symbol of inequality within the justice system. The actions of police officers were causing race riots all over the United States. Because of this President Lyndon B Johnson appointed Illinois Governor Otto Kerner to chair the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, otherwise known as the Kerner Commission. It was this commission that brought to light the reasons behind the riots and initiated the change. The commission stated that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” and criticized law enforcement for the underrepresentation of blacks on police forces, brutality and abuse of power, and racial bias in the use of deadly force (“Policing The Social Crises Of The 1960s”, 2013).

The police agencies responded to this by starting affirmative action programs to recruit and promote more blacks and women, formulating written policies for the use of deadly force to reduce racial disparities in police shootings, and of course they started police‐community relations programs to improve communication between the police and racial minority citizens (“Policing The Social Crises Of The 1960s”, 2013). This is what paved the way to the attitudes of experts in policing in the 1970’s who began to acknowledge the necessity of both police and the community in their roles as co-producers of community safety. This is a partnership that has been proven to solve problems before they become more serious (“The United States Department of Justice”, 2014). Many practices and programs constitute community policing. Some activities are carried out only for the sole purpose of improving the image of police departments (1974). For example: Attending meetings of church groups, and other local organizations, and TV or radio ads asking for citizen cooperation (“The United States Department of Justice”, 2014).

Some activities are of an internal nature within police departments and include: Community relations training, the establishment of specialized positions within a department that are responsible for community relations, and specialized programs used to recruit officers from minority groups (1974). Other activities include police work in the field that makes them appear more visible and personable, such as foot patrols (“The United States Department of Justice”, 2014). Community policing is diverse and varies from department to department (1974). The Detroit police department, for example, has a program known as the Citizens radio patrol. The patrols were established to help serve as extended eyes and ears for the police department. The department offers classes to those who are interested in making a difference on community watch techniques. The role of the patrollers is to watch over their neighborhoods and report any suspicious activity to a patrol base operator, who in turn contacts the local police precinct or district. Patrols consist of a number of volunteers who commit a small amount of their time each week to serve as a base operator, a driver or an observer with the driver (“Thank God for the Shelter”, 2011).

The Detroit police department also offers programs for youth that are interested in learning how to be good citizens and community leaders. These programs focus on those who have the potential and may be interested in becoming police officers someday. Other programs that assist under-privileged kids get involved in basketball, football, softball, soccer, bowling, golfing, track and field, swimming, martial arts, tennis, and cross country skiing are also available (“Thank God For The Shelter”, 2011). Even though there are a wide range of different practices among police agencies the one common goal is to achieve better relationships with specific segments of the community (1974). For example, in 1992 a federal grant was awarded to the housing authority and the Fort Lauderdale police department. $250,000 was used to pay off-duty officers to work special details in the city`s public housing projects. The money is also being used for other programs to help foster better police-community relations. Since the new program began, residents have been getting to know the officers in their neighborhood and tipping them on crimes (Corbett, 1992).

So far we have given examples of community policing that have made improvements for minority groups by way of lower neighborhood crime rates, higher crime reporting rates, and a more positive public perception, but what about the perception of the police by foreign born citizens? Unfortunately there has been a lesser impact of community policing efforts observed by communities with a large number of recent immigrants. In A study, known as the Houston community policing experiment, Latinos scored lower measures of awareness, participation, and effectiveness of community policing than blacks (“The United States Department of Justice”, 2014). It is likely that language barriers, lack of understanding of the new culture around them, and a strong mistrust of the police that has been brought with them from their homeland hinders even the strongest efforts from being effective. Foreign born citizens are not the only people that harbor misconceptions about community policing. The public as a whole is still comprised of a large number of citizens with doubts.

One of the most dominant misconceptions about police community relations is that is restricted only for efforts that regard minority groups. Although it was this that started the ball rolling, nothing could be further from the truth. Police agencies have a vested interest in creating and maintaining good relationships with the entire community no matter the ethnicity. Another misconception is that these practices are done strictly to receive positive reviews from the citizen review board. In most cases these programs are developed by the department themselves and are not subject to review of any kind (Kreps & Weller, 1973).

Police community relations programs have not only improved the attitude of minority groups, and the entire public as a whole towards the police, but have also created a positive impact on communities by lowering the crime rate. Strategies used for community policing are as diverse as the population of the United States itself, but they all share the common goal of promoting strong relationships with those who in the past were underrepresented and abused. These programs continue to ensure an understanding between the justice system and the public, and are necessary for harmony between the two.


(1974, May 5). Police community relations. Sun Sentinel. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/docview/388977280?accountid=458 Corbett, M. (1992, February 24). Police boost community relations. Sacramento Observer. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/docview/388977280?accountid=458 Policing the Social Crises of the 1960s. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.cliffsnotes.com/more-subjects/criminal-justice/development-of-the-american-police/policing-the-social-crises-of-the-1960s Thank God for the shelter. (2011). Retrieved from http://thankgodfortheshelter.com/2011/06/08/detroit-police-deparatment-%E2%80%93-police-community-services/ The Police-Community Relations Movement: Conciliatory Responses, Kreps, Gary A; Weller, Jack M The American Behavioral Scientist (pre-1986); Jan/Feb 1973; 16, 3; ProQuest Central pg. 402

The United States department of justice. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/

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