Policing has come along way the In the United States. Resources such has vehicles, radios, and computers have made policing much more efficient. Although policing has advanced, history of policing has had a huge impact on the current relationship between African Americans and police. Tension between African Americans and police existed throughout the history of policing and still exists within policing today. Policing history is divided into the political era, reform era, and community era. The political era and the reform era of policing have influenced the current relationship between African Americans and police (McNamara & Burns, 2009). The issues of these policing eras have been the foundation for the issues that continue to exist between police and African Americans in today’s society.
During the political area of policing, officers were looking to build a more intimate relationship with the community and politics had a huge impact on police practices and police departments. Law enforcement personnel who supported political leaders were rewarded for their support, this had a huge influence on who worked for the police departments and in what capacity they served (McNamara & Burns, 2009). During the political era Black officers were treated differently from white officers and were not allowed to patrol in areas that were predominately white areas. Black officers were assigned to patrol in high crime areas and areas that were predominately minority areas. As a result of this, there was less police focus and protection in areas that were heavily populated by minorities (McNamara & Burns, 2009) Although police departments have made huge strides to diversify police departments, discrimination within department still exists. The number of Black police officers in 50 of the largest states has increased by 128% since 1983, however, Black officer are still underrepresented.
The Black officers who are given the opportunity to work for police departments still have to deal with overt racism from white officers. They also had to deal with assumptions from others, that they will give Black people a break when caught committing violating the law. Although there are a growing numbers of Black officers on police forces, it is still difficult for Black police officers to attain positions of command (The Criminology and Criminal Justice Collective of Northern Arizona University, 2009). There are laws set in place that afford Black people equal opportunities to work on the police force and not be discriminated against in the workplace, however, this type of discrimination and racism still exists. During the reform era of policing, police relied heavily on technology. The use of vehicles and technology advances enhanced policing, at the same time these advances hurt the relationship between police and communities.
Officers no longer interacted with the community like they did while walking beats. During this era, officers focus on crime fighting (McNamara & Burns, 2009). The Civil Rights movement caused a series of events that changed policing. During the reform era tension between Blacks and police officers grew as a result of Black protesters being confronted by white male police officers who had little training on how to confront protesters. Officers were in charge of dealing with anti-war and race demonstration, and the lack of African American and minorities in policing cause clashes between officers and Blacks. This played a role in hundreds of riots that occurred between 1966 and 1971. Police were seen as the enemy and faced criticism from every direction (McNamara & Burns, 2009).
The reform era set the foundation for the current relationship between police and African Americans. This era cause tension between Blacks and the police. Because officers were not properly trained to deal with certain situations, such as protest, they resulted in using violence as a way to control the situation. This perception of police still exists in today’s society within the Black communities. The perception of officer discriminating against Black, being racist, or using excessive force against Black is a frequent topic in today’s society. The Oscar Grant case is a good example of an officer lack of training resulting in the use of excessive force. Oscar Grant was shot by a while Bart police officer. This shooting caused uproar in the community. Many people protested as a result of the shooting. The relationship between police officers and the African American community continues to be distant and filled with tension.
The image that African Americans have of police officers as a result of the reform era, has been passed down from generation to generation, by the knowledge of knowing about incidents of the past or just personal perceptions passed down from family and friends (Brunson, n.d.). Although training has been implemented into the training curriculum of officers, there are still officers who react as a result of their own biases and perceptions. And for these reason the relationship between African American and police officers will continue to be filled with tension and distrust.
Policing history has had a huge impact on the current relationship between police and African Americans. Advances in technology and allowed policing to evolved into a more effective organization. However, the advancement changed the focus of policing from community relations to crime control. This changed began to create a distance between police and Blacks. As times passed the tension between these two groups continued to grow causing an even greater distance between the two groups that continues in today’s society.
Brunson, R. K. (n.d.). University of Massachusetts Lowell. Retrieved from http://faculty.uml.edu/jbyrne/44.203/police%20don’t%20like%20black%20people.pdf McNamara, R., & Burns, R. (2009). Multiculturalism in the Criminal Justice System. Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database. The Criminology and Criminal Justice Collective of Northern Arizona University, (2009). Investigating Difference: Human and Cultural Relations in Criminal Justice, (2nd ed.). Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database.
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