Discrimination in Policing
The police play a crucial role in society under their motto, protect and serve. Police officers are the people we call to rescue us from dangerous situations such as kidnapping, robbery, and domestic violence. Without them, the society would descend into chaos. Although the police promote law and order, protecting innocent individuals, there is a different dynamic between law enforcement officers and persons of color. The presence of a police officer should inspire confidence and a feeling of safety, but this is not the case for minority groups, especially African-Americans. Over the years, there have ben many reports of police discriminating against this particular group, inspiring racial protests in the country. Indicators of discrimination in the police force include likelihood of being stopped, reasons for a police search and the level of violence used.
The main cause of discrimination in policing is the implicit biases that individuals hold, as well as negative stereotypes. In the article titled ‘Policing in black and white,’ Weir explores the racial biases that many white officers hold, such as the tendency to associate black individuals with crime (Weir 2016). This bias occurs even when the officer in question does not hold any racist beliefs or attitudes. Society has just tuned them to believe it without even them realizing it. There have been multiple experiments designed to test racial bias among police officers. In one, officers played a virtual game where they were required to shoot at suspects of different races. It was found that the officers were much quicker to shoot at the black suspects while they refrained from shooting the white ones (Neil & Winship 2019). This is clear example of bias within controlled situations, but it is the reality in every day life.
The three main indicators of discrimination in policing are likelihood of being stopped, reasons for police search and the level of violence the officers use. African-Americans, especially males are more likely to be stopped by police than people from any other race (Swencionis & Goff 2017). A researcher from Stanford University analyzed data from Oakland, California with regard to police stops. Although African-Americans make up 28% of the population, they made up the majority of police stops, 60% to be precise (McClurg 2019). Second, police officers are more likely to conduct a search on African-Americans even without sufficient reasons, mostly because they are more likely to suspect them of crimes.
Third, police officers tend to use more force and violence on African-Americans during interaction than any other race. There have been multiple cases of officers using excessive force on unarmed individuals, leading to severe injury or death. Recent, widely publicized cases include the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Stephon Clark, Philando Castille, among many others. African-Americans make up about 13% of the total US population but they are more than twice as likely to be shot by the police (Holmes IV 2020). Most of the time, these individuals were unarmed and did not pose a threat to law enforcement, but police officers still used fatal force on them which is a form of racial discrimination.
In summary, discrimination in policing remains a serious concern in the country today. This discrimination is mainly based on race. Some of the ways to tell that there is discrimination is the likelihood of being stopped and searched, as well as the type of force used. There are some ways to address these forms of discrimination, the most important being recognizing the prevalence of racial bias then training officers how to counter this bias. Increased surveillance such as the use of body cameras also help in monitoring the behavior of officers, holding them more accountable. The police remain an integral part of maintain law and order in society, making a lot of sacrifices to keep us safe. However, just like any other person, they are prone to weakness that is quite harmful to others. To keep this from happening, there must be concerted efforts to treat all people with respect and dignity, regardless of race. `
Holmes IV, O. (2020). Police brutality and four other ways racism kills Black people. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal.
McClurg, B. (2019). Reducing the Impact of Racial Discrimination in Policing. J. Disp. Resol., 201.
Neil, R., & Winship, C. (2019). Methodological challenges and opportunities in testing for racial discrimination in policing. Annual Review of Criminology, 2, 73-98.
Swencionis, J. K., & Goff, P. A. (2017). The psychological science of racial bias and policing. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 23(4), 398.
Weir, K. (2016, December). Policing in black & white. Monitor on Psychology, 47(11). http://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/12/cover-policing