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When thinking about hot political issues, racial profiling, along with police discrimination, are at the top of the list. With the help of social media, our news networks have started to rely on what is recorded by civilian bystanders to report their news. The news outlets today seem to rely on social media to get their facts. Cassandra (2015) states that “Videos of police officers hurting and brutally handling people have gone viral and the media has pointed out how bad it has become” (para. 4). The question here is, do the news outlets verify this information before they broadcast it? If not, they run the chance of broadcasting a video that has been edited to show just part of the issue and not the full story. In doing that, they tarnish the reputation of the police force unintentionally. The reverse is also true, if what the video shows is the full story, and it isn’t shown, then they run the chance of being seen to favor the police over the citizens. Due to this I believe that the media should always do their own investigation before airing the information. Just like in the Michael Brown case, everyone jumped to conclusions and alleged a lot of things before the investigation was even started.
In August, 2014 an officer involved shooting took place in Ferguson, Missouri. The victim was an 18-year-old, black man and the suspect was a white Ferguson Police Officer. The facts of the case start with the victim and a friend are walking in the neighborhood in the street when the police officer stopped and told them to get off the road onto the sidewalk. The officer drove away then backed up to the two individuals and called the victim, Michael Brown, over to the vehicle. There was an altercation that resulted in a shot being fired, Brown and his friend ran off and the officer, Darren Wilson, pursued. After running a short distance, Brown spun around, then moved back towards the Officer, who discharged 12 rounds, hitting Brown seven or eight times. All of this took about three minutes and resulted in the death of Michael Brown. (Adamson, B. 2016, para. 16).
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Many people think that Mr. Brown was shot because due to his ethnicity, not for attacking a police officer, who in turn had to defend himself. Officer Wilson testified to the Grand Jury for about four hours, along with several different witnesses, including two different Medical Examiners (ME). One of those ME’s was an independent hired by the victim’s family. Both ME’s came to the same conclusion, that supported the testimony of Officer Wilson, that Mr. Brown was trying to take possession the officer’s gun during the altercation in the vehicle, after the chase, Brown spun and rushed the officer. (Cassell 2014, para. 13). As a result of the testimony provided, the Grand Jury did not indict the officer.
There is a perception that police forces are largely discriminatory. This is a hard perception for police forces to overcome. There are many factions that like the status quo the way it is, and will do what they can to keep racial tensions at the height they are at right now. Weitzer, & Tuch, (2005) indicate that “While most blacks and Hispanics want more law enforcement,1 leaders within the minority community often criticize the police in public, which may reinforce whites’ impressions that minorities are trying to interfere with crime control. In a nutshell, white skepticism of charges of police wrongdoing may be partly rooted in their attachment to the law-and-order status quo; minority perceptions of misconduct, on the other hand, may reflect their desire to gain better treatment from the police” (p. 1011) When there are certain factions in each group trying to lead by deception, and criticize the other side for their beliefs, those that follow and respect their leadership are more likely to fall in line with their way of thinking without researching to make sure that what they are saying is true or not. Legewie, (2016) states that “Events strengthen cohesion within the police department and invoke the notion of the police versus black youth. Police increase the use of force against minority groups to mitigate (perceived) threat, retaliate against the offending group, and preserve social order.” (p. 380). The same can be said when talking about the cohesion among the minority groups. This will not change until those on each side come together to figure out what the real issues are and deal with them.
Recommendation to reduce Racial Profiling and Discrimination
Where there are biases, whether perceived or real, there will be the notion that racism is the crux of police injustices. Yes, there is a lopsided amount of minority arrests contrasted to other racial groups, but this may not be due to racism, but more likely due to in the moment, situational, decisions that drive police officers to react. Keesee (2015) states that “Implicit bias describes the automatic association people make between groups of people and stereotypes about those groups—stereotypes that even members of the targeted group can internalize. More than three decades of research in neurology and social and cognitive psychology has shown that people hold implicit biases even in the absence of heartfelt bigotry, simply by absorbing messages from the media and world around them.” (para. 3). So, what steps can be taken to combat bias found in police departments?
- Raise awareness of implicit bias among police leaders and officers
- Transform the conversation between police and the community
- Put policies in place to limit the impact of bias (Keesee 2015).
Everything needs to start from the top down. If the those who are in charge cannot lead by example, then nothing will work. Get out in the community to promote diversification and cohesion, work with community leaders, raising awareness and cultivating community policing. Show the community that policing is about the crime & discipline not racial biases.
Racial Profiling has been a crook in the policing community since its inception. The fact that leaders in all communities denigrate the other side does not help matters in the least. All communities need to come together to find a way to work through our differences and come up with a way to promote the cohesiveness that we have been needing to find for many years.
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