There is a tv show called “Dear White People” in Netflix, an American media-services provider. In season one, the fifth episode of this tv show, an African American college student named ‘Reggie,’ this episode’s subject, goes to the party of his Caucasian college friend, ‘Addison’. In that party, he wins every game he plays with his innate intelligence.
Suddenly, as Reggie and Addison argue about using N-word while singing along a rap, a tension between goes up rapidly. Campus police arrive soon and ask if Reggie goes to the college. Several people including Addison says that he goes to the college but the police do not listen. Reggie refuses to give his student ID as the police do not ask it to Addison. Then the police pull out a gun and aim at Reggie with it. Immediately, White and Black students in the party are outraged by this but Reggie receives a great emotional shock as facing with death. The tv show, “Dear White People’ is released in 2017.
The movies called “Hidden Figures,” “Get Out,” and “Moonlight” are released in 2017 as well. These tv show and movies have something in common. All of them released last year and deal with racial discrimination. Media often becomes a mark for revelation and indictment of social issues at that time as ‘Maus,’ a graphic novel by Art Spiegelman does.
Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the act that enabled African Americans to be legally impartial, was signed on 1964, racial discrimination against African American is still prevalent until now. This issue can also be shown by the police brutality against them which was proven by a number of accumulated data and statistics. For example, FBI’s 2012 Supplementary Homicide Report shows that while the population of Black people takes thirteen percent in total United States population, Black community takes thirty-nine percent in the total population of people killed by policing while not attacking. Following the characteristics of the basic obligations of the police officer, serving and protecting the citizens, police brutality has been seriously criticized.
The importance of solving police brutality has been more emphasized whenever several related issues happened such as Eric Garner or Michael Brown cases. As its gravity was emphasized, numerous citizens, social activists, experts, and authorities suggested solutions in various aspects. Among those solutions, altering the police community culture exerts a greatly positive influence upon the relationship between the police and the public. To alter police culture effectively, developing training and policies to a considerably high degree with authorities’ support is indispensable.
Developing training for police officers can be achieved in two sections. One of them is developing practical skills especially for handling a difficult or unexpected situation. The other one is developing an appropriate mindset of policemen. Police officers deal with both mundane and unexpected situations. Learning appropriate practical skills will lead them to handle the situations more flexibly with control no matter what they are unexpected or not. In addition, this way of training is very effective. Because police deal with people for most of their time, they can see the immediate feedbacks clearly and directly. With those feedbacks, police community can improve their practical skills with more details as well as set a goal to achieve.
On top of that, adopting body-worn cameras in police departments widely enhances the effectiveness of the training further as well as prevents or reveals a police misconduct. Body-worn cameras give the panoramic view that will help policemen to “diagnose what might be a training deficiency, or a disciplinary deficiency, or [conclude] there was nothing that the officers could have done differently” according to Ronald Serpas, a former New Orleans police chief. Through those skills, police officers can build a more reliable relationship with the community of public as well. As they engage and interact with the community more, it might also help police officers to diminish their own implicit biases.
To be more specific, the police community can develop practical skills with more detail depending on the level of seriousness of the situations they faced and the external things that should be considered. They can also develop the ways to figure out the seriousness of the situations. For example, policemen will handle people differently considering what is their personality and who they are in the situation of a traffic stop. Let’s say a person who they encountered looks suspicious because of his or her attitude such as quietness or sudden flurry.
Policemen will recognize that he or she is quiet as for personality or that he or she is mentally ill for a sudden flurry. Then they will consider that personality and mental status to treat them more gently and less aggressively like they learned from new developed practical skills.
Besides, policemen with less implicit biases will stop fewer cars that are owned by African American men in the first place. For learning developed practical skills, the police community can learn more about de-escalation skills and non-lethal tactics. There are so many lives that were lost by unnecessary aggressive treatments of police officers.
For example, there is Michael Brown in Ferguson. With developed practical skills, former police officer Darren Wilson would not stop Michael Brown for a trivial crime like jaywalking and encounter escalating circumstances that led Wilson to shoot him to death. The reason why developing an appropriate mindset of policemen is similar to that of developing practical skills. Depending on the individual policeman’s mindset or perception, his or her behavior and attitude is determined in a specific way.
Seth Stoughton, the law professor at the University of South Carolina School, argued that “there is a distinction between police who adopt the mindset of a guardian and those who approach their job as warriors. In general terms, the former see their role as that of peacekeepers and protectors, while the latter see themselves more as enforcers and wielders of authority.” Serpas agrees to his argument and advocates policemen behave as guardians saying “When police officers enforce the law, … they’ve got to really be in lockstep with the demands of the community.” In short, policemen who consider themselves as warriors with “us-and-them” attitude tend to be more aggressive when they treat people as thinking that people who go against the law are their enemies.
However, in reality, the primary goal of policemen as guardians is to protect the people whether they are wrongdoer or victims and to solve an intense situation amicably. Policemen are influenced greatly by not even this “us-and-them attitude”, but also implicit biases on race or skin color. Some of them even identify people’s race as an indicator of crime and danger.
To solve this issue, more racially aware training for policemen is needed as “ people’s subconscious biases guide their choices even when they’re not fully aware of it.” (Lopez) For example that shows racism can culminate by implicit bias, in 2015, Florida police department caught using black people mug shots for target practice. Serpas asserts that officers are needed to be trained “… to be aware of … inherent biases from the perspective of learning about their behavior and their perceptions—how they can bring those perceptions and behavior to reality in a way that’s non-biased.” Although there are numerous advantages and positive results from developing training for policemen, some experts view that police brutality does not happen because of the training issue.
One of them, Donald Grady II, a retired police chief with over 30 years in uniform, insists the importance of policing reform saying “ [police brutality] is an issue of who it is that we’ve decided we would allow to police our country.” He also points out that policing was not designed to take care of the public. To alleviate police brutality more effectively, not even reforming training, but also reforming policing is needed. For another reason that policing should be reformed can be found on the article, “How systemic racism entangles all police officers — even black cops.” The writer, German Lopez points out that “the way policing is done in the US is racially skewed — by, for example, targeting high-crime neighborhoods that are predominantly black.” She insists that these types of policing create subconscious bias, implicit bias, against African American by connecting a specific skin color and crime and danger.
Moreover, according to Sklansky, a law professor at Stanford Law School, this type of inequalities in law enforcement will cause a bad relationship with the police and the black community as an African American community express more fear to the police while police might take their emotional expression as being suspicious. In other words, reforming policies are essential for police brutality to solve some struggles that training cannot alleviate, to stop creating a more racial implicit bias and worsening the relationship with police community and African American community. For the improved policies, policies could be reformed to put less emphasis on arrests for petty crimes like jaywalking of Michael Brown case, which could help diminish frequent harassment African American experience by police with bias. (Lopez)
To be more specific, the policy that the number of tickets and arrests as a measure for evaluation for policeman for incentives should be stopped as it encourages policemen to arrest Black people in large numbers. (Lopez) Again, the community being suffered the most is the Black community as it is already proven by the great amount of data.
A researcher Cody Ross concluded by his research, “A Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States” which was conducted from 2011 to 2014, that particular racial bias in police stops or use of force are involved in the inequality seen for shootings against African American. (Lopez) In short, policing is a major aspect that forms police culture. As Las Vegas police chief Kirk Primas said, “Our sheriff recognized that we had to change, and that included a change in the department’s culture.
So we revamped our policies, and we put ‘respect for the sanctity of human life’ in the first paragraph of our use-of-force policy.’ Although it seems that there is not much connection among police culture, policy, and training, they interact with each other. As it is stated earlier, training and policy complement each aspect’s defects. At this point, police culture is significant to achieve the positive results from developed policy and training as organizational police culture influences upon them greatly.
Even if the newly hired officers were well trained with developed policy and training, there is a quite big danger for them to follow the old ones that are aggressive and authoritative influenced by former officers in the community. According to the article, “The Organizational Reasons Police Departments Don’t Change,” “police scholars have agreed that the organizational culture of policing — the set of informal, cultural norms that are unique to the occupation of law enforcement — is the most important determinant of police behavior. This includes both the culture of policing writ large and the micro-cultures of individual departments.” In other words, altering police community culture positively is inevitable since without altering it, developing training and policy is worthless.
However, to alter police community culture, firm support and help of the authority, such as police chief or mayor, is essentially needed. “Organizational change will require top-down pressure, including strong police leadership at the highest levels. The only way that individual cops will change is if the organizational culture changes, and the only way that the organization will change is if high-level officials are held accountable for the actions of their subordinates.” (Armacost 521) According to former Police Chief Anthony Bouza, ‘ [a] police department’s first order of business is to get its internal house in order through the creation of an organizational climate that fosters integrity and effective performance.’ The creation of such a climate begins with the ‘approach and competence’ of the chief of police, which sets the ‘mood and atmosphere for the agency.” (Armacost 521)
Police brutality has been an unresolved on-going struggle of the United States for decades along with the history of racial discrimination against African American people. Every year, the racial discrimination against minorities happens untiringly so as police brutality which is alleviated little by little. The Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Although every human being is deserved to be treated equally, minorities are still neglected in reality. Alleviating police brutality in the United States will be one aspect to accomplish quality of every human being.
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