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Policing within the Criminal Justice system is a controversial topic that has been all over social media especially in today’s society. Within policing the issue that has been addressed in about every social media, news networks, etc is racial inequality. When discussing racial inequality in policing we must look into how racial inequality is implemented within law enforcement. Racial inequality is the use of excessive force towards non-white citizens. In this paper I will discuss the different aspects of racial inequality within policing as well as policies and solutions that can be used in order to resolve this form of racism.
When we conduct research on racial inequality we must first look at the disproportionate number of arrests within the Criminal Justice system. For instance, According to a few studies, “the Probability of you being black, unarmed, and shot by police is 3.49x the probability of being white, unarmed and shot by the police” (Slides, 2018). Another example, of disproportionate numbers within the Criminal Justice system is that African Americans who were fatally shot by the police in 2015 were less likely to be posting an imminent lethal threat to police than White Americans.
Last but not least, In NYC alone between 2004-2012, 80% of stops resulted in no further action, 83% of stopped population were Black or Hispanic (Slides, 2018). In analyzing the disproportionate number of arrests and the overall racial inequality, cases such as Mike Brown are of importance. Mike Brown a young African American male from Ferguson, Ohio who recently graduated from high school.
In his interaction with a few police officers he was shot multiple times and his body was left in the middle of the street. Protest as well as social media began to spread the message of such racism within policing. However, law enforcement officers did not take this act lightly. In the twelve days following Brown’s death, 172 people were arrested, 132 of whom were charged only with “failure to disperse” (BLM, 2018). For instance, at one point during the demonstrations, a Ferguson officer pointed his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle in the direction of journalists and screamed, “I’m going to F*** kill you”! When someone asked, “What’s your name, sir?” He screamed, “Go f*** yourself!” (BLM, 2018). In further explaining racial inequality, incarceration rates tends to be the first issue that comes to mind. For instance, between 1990 and 2000, the rate of black incarceration nearly tripled (Bobo, 2011). This is a clear example of how the brutal realities of Black life are treated by law enforcement officers within the Criminal Justice system.
In regards to policies and programs I believe the best way to tackle the issue of racial inequality in policing is by supplying law enforcement officers with body worn cameras. By supplying law enforcement officers with body worn cameras the number of disproportionate arrest may decrease as well as for the people of the community can be much more aware of how racism still exists. When an officer is wears a camera, studies have shown that they think twice before acting in a wrongful manner. If the law enforcement officers were equipped with the cameras, the possibility of receiving some sort of punishment would have been for certain. A study was conducted in Rialto, CA, the first city to trial police body cameras, found an over 50% reduction in the total number of use of force incidents by police officers when body cameras were worn; complaints against officers fell from 28 in the year prior to the study to 3 during the year of the trial (ProCon, 2018). With this being said, the implementation of BWC may reduce the number of civil lawsuits against police departments. In fact, with this implementation community members can see racial inequality for what it is. BWC is one form that police officers can use in the step of creating change amongst their communities when it comes down to racism. However, just like everything else in this world there’s a positive and negative side to things. The negative aspects of BWC for instance, Police cameras invade the privacy of citizens, BWC can expose victims and witnesses of crimes, as well as can damage police public relationships. Chief of Police Ken Miller of Greensboro, North Carolina says that if citizens “think that they are going to be recorded every time they talk to an officer, regardless of the context, it is going to damage openness and create barriers to important relationships” (Miller, 2014).
On September 21, 2015, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the United States Department of Justice had disbursed $23.2 million in grants to expand on the use of body worn cameras and explore their impact. The grants were then given to 73 local agencies in 32 states. The result of these grants was that there was an 88% decline in complaints against officers use of force incidents in fact plummeted 60% (OJP, 2015). Although government officials are trying to help in every shape and form, police brutalities are still being committed till this day. It seems as though the tragedy that took place in Ferguson had no affect on how law enforcement officers conduct their practices. Incidents such as Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Devin Brown, Tyisha Miller, Margaret Mitchell and so much more have fallen in the hands of police misconduct and above all else racism. Tragedies such as these Body Worn Cameras is a start in a new direction in order to end this racial inequality, with BWC we are able to improve on the accountability of officers and held them responsible when they themselves have committed a hate crime that may go unnoticed (Slides, 2018). However, people may say not only can BWC improve the behavior of officers but it can as well protect them in case false accusations are made in regards to misconduct. A study was conducted in Las Vegas that stated, BWC was able to reduce the amount of complaints made towards officers and in fact reduced the amount of time to resolve these complaints, which in fact police departments were able to save a lot of money on resources. Another interesting finding was that BWC led to fewer “use of force” reports. Which means that BWC might be the right program that police departments should continue to use throughout their daily tasks.
In order to resolve this issues of racial inequality I feel as though educating others on the history of racism and the impact it has on minor groups, we can then find ways on combating racial inequality whether its within the Criminal Justice system or in our daily lives. We all have those specifically family members that at times can say the most outrageous things in regards to race. When you confront these types of situations it is best to ask them questions and share your thoughts about why they have such animosity towards a whole group of people. For instance, Did they have a bad experience with someone from that group? Or How did that encounter make them feel? (Gallagher, 2015). With this in mind, we must question ourselves on why is that law enforcement officers tend to target minority groups more frequently than the white racial group. For instance, black civilians are more likely to experience different types of force, whether it’s by being handcuffed without arrest, pepper sprayed or even pushed to the ground by an officer (National Bureau of Economic Research, 2016). 12 different police departments were studied by a few colleagues who worked at the University of California. Research found that within those 12 police departments, black residents were more often subjected to police force than white residents, even after adjusting for whether the person had been arrested for violent crimes (Center for Policing Equity, 2016). Whether we look at the disproportionate number of arrests or the use of force by the police, BWC seems like a program that if funded properly can reduce some of the tension.
To end racial inequality in policing we must find a way to implement the following. First thing first I believe if we can systematically address the racism within police departments across America, we can then create a start to end racism within the Criminal Justice system. Politicians can start to bring more awareness to BWC and how it can benefit minority groups who are targeted by law enforcement officers. Another policy/solution that can be implemented for change is by training police officers in the academy racial profiling issues that are occurring in today’s society. If possible, politicians and other government officials can inform other agencies within the Criminal Justice on continuing to prohibit racial profiling. When looking at traffic stops for example, if police departments can collect data of the stops as well as take down the characteristics of the person being stopped, location and circumstances in order to see any disparities in the populations stopped. Last but not least, we must advocate for documenting police related deaths as notifiable conditions so that public health departments can monitor these deaths. To point out when it comes down to policing within the criminal justice system the strategy “Community Policing” can go a long way. For instance, this approach encourages officers to build relationships with the people in the neighborhood. However, this is potentially a two-way street, for it may reduce the biases that residents may hold against the police as well as any police hold against residents. Furthermore, In Ohio, some departments have experimented with community contracts that spell out needs and expectations on both sides. While not perfect, the conversation that created it put unspoken assumptions to the test, and created a working understanding of how community and police believe their interactions should go and what safety looks like to them (Astolf, 2017).
When we think of law enforcement/policing in regards to racism the first thing that pops up in our minds in the act of police brutality. As I have mentioned before in this paper many innocent African Americans have suffered by the hands of police officers. In order to resolve and dismantle racism within policing we must take the first step in trying to end police brutality for good. For instance if we all take the initiative to join scholars join scholars to advocate for documenting police related deaths as notifiable conditions so that public health departments can monitor these deaths (Alang, 2017). Previously in this paper, I mentioned that if we support calls for more collaboration and partnerships among communities, researchers, policymakers and law enforcement systems than change may come. If we as citizens, advocate for and support criminal justice reform, demilitarization of police, and decriminalization of behaviors such as loitering and minor traffic violations, and ending stop-and-frisk, than the end of racism can be possible. It’s quite interesting to see the power that a citizen has in fixing this nationwide and even global issue. However, as mentioned earlier in this paper there are always negatives to positives. Critiques have said that BWC has no effect on ending racial inequality within policing. In fact, Lopez a journalist published a article called, “The failure of Body Cameras”. In this article Lopez discusses how over the past several months, there have been several other high profile police shootings that didn’t result in convictions despite the existence of body cameras or, in their absence, other video evidence (Lopez, 2017). Lopez explains a powerful case that took place in Cincinnati 3 years ago. A video, taken from a body camera University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing gave a very clear picture. Tensing stopped Samuel DuBose because he didn’t have a front license plate. Tensing then asked for a driver’s license. DuBose didn’t give Tensing his license. Tensing asked DuBose to take off his seat belt. DuBose’s car then began moving forward, away from Tensing. The officer, even though DuBose and the car didn’t pose a threat, shot DuBose, killing him (Lopez, 2017). This video did not lead to a conviction, although prosecutor Deters stated that the shooting was “unwarranted”. According to a few researchers, It’s not just Ray Tensing. Over the past several months, there have been several other high-profile police shootings that didn’t result in convictions despite the existence of body cameras or, in their absence, other video evidence.
As of today, systematic racism has been more of a focus within policing. 97 percent of the people who are considered minorities in this country are being punished and sentenced to prison just because they solely belong to a specific group statistically commits some crimes at a higher rate. Stop and Frisk plays a huge role in these unnecessary arrest are taking place everyday. In recent years Stop and Frisk has not been used as far as I know, but simple interactions that you make with law enforcement officers can cause unjust events. Traffic stops seems to also be another issue that systematically targets racial minority groups. For instance, According to a study conducted by The Department of Justice, In 2013 Black and Latino drivers were more likely to be searched, vs six percent of black drivers and seven percent of latinos (Balko, 2018).
As can be seen, racial inequality in policing has been an issue that goes back to the era of Jim Crow, Civil Rights and many other important times in history. Policing in my opinion has never changed its ways, in regards to protecting and serving the community. Throughout these past few years innocent lives have been taken and ripped from love ones over simple reasons, that could of been avoided if only proper training was conducted. Racism especially in the Criminal Justice system will never change. I feel as though it’s only going to get worse. The system for what we know is designed to keep minorities like myself controlled under all means. However, if citizens stand up for what is right and speak their mind about these issues than maybe we have a chance to end this racial inequality within the Criminal Justice system. This process can take years, and even decades but if we the people have proper representation in the government, politicians can influence and educate those who have their mindset stuck in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
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