Throughout the interview process I was able to understand and gain an adequate perception of how others felt about law enforcement here in the United States. I found that many answers were universal and were not only the views of one particular race. Law enforcement is set in place to up hold the laws and to protect and serve the people of the United States. However, I found that a few of my interviewees felt that law enforcement was biased and were not for all people. The interviewing process was very interesting and being able to listen to the participants’ responses was very enlightening. No two people had the same perception however, there were many concerns that were similar. My first interview was conducted on an African American woman. She is 75 years old and is originally from Saint Joseph, Louisiana. However, she is a widower and all of her children have passed on. She moved here to Houston Texas in 1960 with the husband and two children. Where they have resided in the area of Houston known as Fifth Ward for over 54 years. She has spoken about how growing up in Louisiana as a black child was horrible, and how they were taught to avoid the police by all means. The town of Saint Joseph was a very small town, and it was divided by color.
Yes my interviewee grew up during segregation, and she recalls that the police were not for the blacks. She recalls classmates being beaten by the police and nothing never being done about the fact that they were beaten for nothing. She spoke of the time when her sister worked for a white family and was raped by the man of the house. Her sister and family could not report such a crime because they feared that it would bring trouble to their entire family. She states that she has no respect for law enforcement, however she states that she never breaks the laws of the land. Obeying the law is her way of staying out of jail and feels as long as she abides the law she is quite alright. During her interview I found her having many stories to tell in regards to how black life has no value, and how she has never seen the law truly work for the African American. Her responses to the questions left her stumbled sometime, and I found myself finding ways to inform her that law enforcement has made great changes since she was a child.
I could understand but I was unable to relate because my experience with law enforcement has never been to the extent of hers. I did find it quite interesting when she was asked the question about domestic violence. Her response was, “I never heard of husband’s hitting their wives and if they did that was not something for the world to know”. She stated that, “You knew that what went on in your home stayed in your home”. I was shocked and somewhat appalled at her response. Her body language and her tone let me know that she was indeed serious about keeping affairs in the home. She believed that women who were hit must have done something pretty bad to make her husband hit her.
I still found myself puzzled by her response. Although during the second interview when asked this very same question. She elaborated about an incident with her cousin who was caught cheating and her husband did abuse her. She inclined to say that, “You just do not do things in such a manner and not expect such behaviors”. I could understand where she was coming from, but I was not able to agree with a man or a woman hitting their mate. This 76 year old black women was still stuck in the era of when she was a child and very young adult. She felt that law enforcement would never been positioned to serve or protect African Americans, and that the only reason they have allowed blacks to become police officers was because it would not matter if another black man was killed.
In her opinion there is no hope for the African American people here in the United States and that it is just a bunch of boloney in the world in which we live. However she did feel that the use of DNA was the greatest thing that could have come along. With a strong understanding that the use of DNA can help to solve crimes and maybe even help from crimes being committed. She believes that if they find a killer this way people may think twice before actually think twice before committing murder. Her wish is that law enforcement stop perceiving and believing that all black people are criminals.
My next interviewee is a Caucasian women and she is 41 years old. She is married and is the mother of three children. She is a fulltime student at the University of Houston-Downtown and she will be graduating in December. She is a Houston native and she grew up near Bellaire. Her and her family now reside in the historical area of the Heights. This too was a very interesting interview, simply because she was truly involved with the questions and she gave a statement as to why she felt the way she did with the answers she gave. Her answer in regards to domestic violence she felt that there are three sides to a story and that both parties should give their side. Then allow the police to determine if the call and the situation requires law enforcement to detain anyone.
Her thoughts on how the police perceived citizens was very mind blowing, and she felt that it was not just minorities that were targeted by law enforcement. However she does feel that police are power hungry, bias, hardworking and underpaid, and this only adds stress. Stress can factor in how law enforcement responds and reacts to certain situations when performing their job without allowing race and location to blind their actually duty to the citizens. As stated early she feels that every citizens is scrutinized by law enforcement, and she feels that law enforcement tends to the jump the gun before completely assessing the situation. Being a mother of three she found what it felt like when her son was stopped and harassed by the police for no particular reason. She believes these acts are the very reason that the younger generation shows no respect for law enforcement. However she does feel that reaching out to high schools would be a proactive in the process of recruiting new officers. She also feels that there she be additional training included for those citizens with mental illness. Those trainings will help to keep the citizens and the officers out of harm’s way. I will now move on to my third participant who is a 46 year old African American woman who has recently divorced and has no children. She is originally from East Oakland, California and has been in Houston for 5 years.
Returning back home is the plan in the five years. She has dealt with the police on a regular occasions due to her ex-husband being incarcerated for ten years. Her answers were just as interesting as my second participant, and her answers were very colorful. I want to just note that her lifestyle was one that was accustomed to glitz and glam due to the fact that her ex-husband was a drug dealer. She recalls the time that law enforcement ran into her home and threw her on the floor and she stated talked to her like she was an actual dog. Not allowing her to speak, handcuffed her, and she was thrown in the back of a police car. She says that she was held for questioning for 2 days, and even with her ex-husband stating that she had nothing to do with his dealings. They keep her and continued to question her asking the same questions over and over. However she does not hate law enforcement and she believes that this very incident opened her eyes to a different type of guy she would have. She feels that most part traditional policing strategies have been effective in combating crime, however police use excessive force when utilizing discretion in dealing with citizens sometimes. Recalling an incident that was made into a movie named “Fruitvale” was based on a true story and was right down the street from which she grew up. She believes that the police in East Oakland are very aggressive and are trigger happy. She feels that law enforcement here in Houston are not as aggressive with law enforcement back home in California. She does feel that in certain areas of town here in Houston.
This participant would like to see a substantial increase of specialized training in the mental illness area, sign language for the hearing impaired and subtle prejudice courses for those law enforcement officers who are hiding behind their badge. Police officers are receiving adequate training as for as the physical requirements. To be well rounded you have to have some since of street smarts and able to deal with people from all walks of life. She agrees with every current method of police recruitment, selection, and training of officers, except the minimum age requirement for some law enforcement agencies. She had some personal views on domestic violence seeing that she was a domestic violence survivor. She does believe that women should be arrested for domestic violence, however she feels there is an exception if the woman is trying to defend herself. My fourth participant is 43 year old African American male and he is married with no kids. Had no run in with the law until he made 40 years old. His brushes with law came from driving while intoxicated and carrying a handgun. He was able to have the handgun case dismissed, because he actually had his handgun concealed. However he is on probation for driving while intoxicated. He has lived in Houston his entire life and has very biased views about law enforcement. In his younger days he was a part of a gang and was what he refers to as a thug and drug dealer.
He took pride in his past and stated that had he not have met his wife he would probably still be running the streets. I also found that he is a male chauvinist and has some harsh views on domestic violence. When asked about domestic violence he stated that a women should know her place and that the man is head of his home. He feels that as long as a woman is submissive and keeps her husband happy they should not have any problems. He does not feel that a wife should not call the police on her husband and that they should keep what goes on in their home. Being a woman that has experienced domestic violence I got off of subject and asked him why such harsh feelings about domestic violence. He stated that his step father was abusive and his mother stayed. She never called the police on him and over time the abuse stopped. They were pretty happy before his step father passed, and being the grandson of a pastor he feels that bible is key to keeping a happy home. When asked about how the police perceived citizens, he automatically stated that African Americans have no chance with the Houston police department. Growing up in the northeast intercity area of Houston he says he has seen police brutality on a regular. The police were not there to help black people is what he stated. He said the only way the police were on your side was if you had enough money to pay them. They do not fight crime and they are a part of the crimes that are committed. Biased and unethical are his choice words about law enforcement. Still today in 2013 ones race and ethnicity affects how police treat you. Blacks are treated as the criminal and Whites are treated as the innocent bystanders. He feels that police are a threat to minorities and there should be training to new officers so that they do not allow their personal views to interfere with their ability to protect and serve all citizens.
He express the fact that the police have no understanding or training when it comes to dealing with the mentally ill, and feels they have no problem with shooting them. Extensive training should be given yearly, and maybe even some classes should be required to be able to realize that there may be some mental illness when dealing with certain individuals. I want to be honest and inform you that I was not able to complete a second interview with this participant and I was able to find a fifth participant. Now my last participant is 35 year old African American women who is married with three children and is a fulltime student at the University of Houston. She is a Psychology major and will be graduating in May of 2014. She is native Houstonian and grew up in the fifth ward area. Having a daughter in the military has opened her eyes for all those that protect and serve. She is also the daughter of a preacher. She believes that females have more help now to escape an abusive home in a peaceful and confidential manner. However she feels in some cases determining the difference between minor and serious acts of domestic violence are ignored by officers that arrive on the scene. Understanding the frustration when officers deal with mentally ill people because many officers have died trying to help but in many cases officers are there to get them the help they need so yes they do respond appropriately.
DNA is vital in most convictions because it can be used to clear suspects and exonerate persons mistakenly accused or convicted of crimes. She believes that laws are put in place to protect not only the citizens but those that are uniformed to do so. When asked about the current methods of recruiting she respond. The current method for recruiting officers is pretty good but as in any field how can you really predict or screen if you have a ‘bad’ or “good” officer as a candidate despite all the requirements including background and psychological information revealed. She felt that the only inadequate problem of training is the mental state of many of the officers. In the area of training she believes that all officers need to be trained on how to deal with other races and they need to be taught social skills within various cultures.
Maybe this will help them erase preconceived notions and ideas of others that are not a part of their ethnic group. There are way too many cases involving officers and issues with minorities, stereotyping, racial profiling, brutality, injustice and racism, many officer perceptions is very negative when it comes to certain ethnicities. There has to be a stamp on the bias that affects the way minorities are treated when dealing with law enforcement. All of the participants were very strong about their views based on personal or others experiences with law enforcement. Listening to their answers and their stories opened my eyes, and allowed me to feel how they truly felt. However I wondered did any of my participants understand that many officers may have the same opinion about the citizens that they protect and serve. Many men and women that are in law enforcement fear for their lives every day. I understand that some law enforcement officers are biased, however I feel that some of that may extend from personal experiences as well. Maybe there could be some common ground for both parties, and there should be a communal outreach to bring back community involvement.
Courtney from Study Moose
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