Using examples discuss inequality within the police service

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Using examples discuss inequality within the police service”

Inequality within the police force is not only race, but gender, sexual preference and also social standing. The institute like many is still quite a caucasian, masochistic created environment and continues to be run this way with not many complaints due to either fear or embarrassment.

I will be discussing the origin and aspects of police culture, the different types of inequalities within the police, supporting my statements with examples of cases which represent inequality within the police institution and towards civilians. While focusing on the United Kingdom I will look at other countries such as the United States, as they seem to be facing a lot of issues with racial inequality within their criminal justice system. There will be different examples which may contrast or confirm my ideas and the statistics.

Collins Dictionary defines inequality as “the state or quality of being unequal; disparity, an instance of disparity and lack of smoothness or regularity”. The Police, are meant to maintain order, to regulate and control the community but also to protect as well. To maintain order and control, one must have a set of universal rules that are followed by everyone, however this is where the issue of consistency stems from. The ‘blue code of silence’, is the unspoken notion which occurs among many police officers, not to report or disclose another officers wrongdoing or error. If they are challenged about it, they act naive and oblivious to the situation. Within their society, officers must trust each other to give support and back-up in their attempt to maintain control. Hence the development of strong bonds and loyalty that ensure they will always be there for each other. As police, although they are part of the community; society holds them in high regard which can have a negative result as they may not be able to deal with the pressure which then leads to corruption and misconduct, but they are not called out on it because of the ‘blue code of silence’. This means a lot of police officers are abusing their power but nothing is being done about it as they are all uniting in silence with each other. Because of instances like this, it could show an increase of police becoming more corrupt and unequal as they are getting away with a lot of crimes and misconduct.

When discussing the term "police culture", it can indicate various different aspects of the policing role. The "us versus them" attitude, is one of the main aspects of the policing culture, associated to police forces in almost all places. The term "them" can mean society as a whole and criminals. There are a variety of police officers, all viewing their roles in various ways, for example ‘Mission’ type officers see their roles as very victim orientated and are constantly finding ways to play take on the ‘hero’ role. Then there is the ‘action’ fuelled officer, he is always looking for activity, an event to take place in which he is fuelled on adrenaline and the ‘buzz’ of his job. Lastly, there is the ‘Cynicist/Pessimistic’ officer, he views the world in quite a negative way, with the approach that everyone has the ability to be a criminal. These aspects can create quite negative outlooks on society, inwardly effecting their reactions and responses to certain people and situations. Suspicion is high within the police force, constantly looking over their shoulder, expecting everyone to be offenders and regularly profiling people and situations. This however leads to social stereotypes and racial profiling as the basis of their profiling may be regarding previous experiences, highlighting the inequality towards society and in their institution.

There is a strong brotherhood within the police however that isn’t the case with all officers, some are quite isolated and have a black humour in regards to quite serious delicate topics as they find it easier to cope.

However saying that, the unification of this institute makes it very hard for others to merge and become involved, it’s a bit like a playground scenario; you have the ‘cool kids’ and the ‘outcasts’, within the police force, anything other than a caucasian male is an outcast and unfortunately made to feel like this.

This leads me onto the topic of the racial inequality in the police force and towards the community, there are many cases of examples of racial inequality whether it be the stereotyping in regards to the community or minority ethnic groups within the police.

Official statistics show that in data collected from March 2013, there were 6,537 full time officers of minority ethnicities in England and Wales, which only represents 5% of the total police force.

When narrowing down the regional police departments, data shows that The Metropolitan Police had the largest amount of minority ethnic officers at 10.5% with Leicestershire having only 7%. That alone represents how racially discriminatory the police force is, it clearly mirrors the fact that the police do not represent the wide and diverse community we live in which goes against the origin of the police force, as they started out as a collective of the community coming together to protect the greater good. In regards to senior ranking, ethnic minorities are considerably under represented here, as of March 2013, 5.4% were constables. Once again The Met police had the highest amount of ethnic minority special constables, at 27.7%, that could be because of the great extent of diverse races within society, however it’s still not equally represented at all.

Los Angeles congresswoman Maxine Waters, a significant african american woman, believes the criminal justice system is still very much racist, stating that “the color of your skin dictates whether you will be arrested or not, prosecuted harshly or less harshly, or receive a stiff sentence or gain probation or entry into treatment.”, there are many cases in the United States that support that statement, for example the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, devastatingly shooting Trayvon in what was said to be cold blood, however his trial for second degree murder ended in acquittal.

Although many believe the police force to have a strong connection to racial issues, some also disagree with this idea. Well known criminologist William Wilbanks (1987) disagrees with the notion of racism within the police force, stating it is colour blind, for various reasons. He believes that the criminal justice system is based on prior charge history and the severity of the crime, however if as a young black boy you have been tarnished from a very young age you’re going to have a longer history of convicted crime compared to a young caucasian male who may be seen to be able to rehabilitate back into society therefore having less crime convictions; thus making Wilbanks point invalid. He also states that for the system to be racist it has to be racist throughout each and every process, however he says evidence shows that not each step is racist meaning the whole system cannot be. However, it is not 100% reliable and validated as not all racist prejudiced events would be recorded and taken into account, thus making Wilbanks point untrue.

However many do disagree for a variety of reasons, a paper by Marit Rehavi and Sonja Starr (2012) using data from Federal data bases, shows the reason they believe more blacks to be behind bars because of the sentences they are getting. The study shows resilient long lasting affirmation that on average black men experience between 7-10% longer sentences compared to white males with the same criminal records, because of the severity of charges they are getting. This information has constantly been overlooked by other criminologists as it was not seen as an imperative factor for data, it shows black men are more likely seen to be confronted with charges which usually carry mandatory minimum sentences. This would explain why it seems as there are a lot more black men in prison compared to white men, regardless of criminal records or not. Marit Rehavi and Sonja Starr’s data shows that the odds double when a prosecutor charges a black male with a minimum sentenced offense.

Their data also correlates with older literature, Howard Odum and Gary Johnson (1937) ran some studies on sentencing in the United States, finding out that there was an obvious difference in sentencing depending on the ethnic background of the accused party. Showing that although times have modernised visually, inherently and mentally we are still quite stuck in the past. Jesse Jackson, an American civil rights activist, agrees with this stating that black males are overpopulating prisons cells, not because of their crimes but because they are being held to much stronger harsher sentences, compared to their white counterparts.

A study from the Duke economics department show that with a sample of 700 Florida cases, the racial disposition of the jury has a great impact on conviction rates. Demonstrating, with an all white jury, a black defendant would be convicted 81% of the time, however when mixing the races of the jury when the conviction rate of blacks and whites are nearly equal with black men 73% and white men 71%, this however could mean the racial prejudice in the police force has now descended into society and the way in which they also view others.

The way in which society view each other, is a vital factor in the inequality within the police force as they are meant to be a collective of our community, so if they have prejudices and discriminatory thoughts then it will filter through to the community.

The case of Stephen Lawrence is a well known one, with confusion and anger focusing on the process of the entire case and it’s final outcome. Racism within certain communities are prominent and cannot be hidden, when crimes such as this occur it’s painful to see but sadly not shocking, however we expect to see a different outcome in regards to the criminal justice system. The first public inquiry into the Lawrence case was by Sir William Macpherson in 1999 which resulted in the police force being tarnished as "institutionally racist" for its shortcomings and failure that led the teenager's murderers to evade justice. However many years later the Metropolitan Police said the label no longer applies to them because it has improved so much, although the head of the Metropolitans Police Ethnic Minority officer strongly disagreed. Janet Hills said: "We believe the Met is still institutionally racist." She supports this with issues that show higher rates of stop and search against black people (49% of stops and searches carried out by the Metropolitan Police Force were on Ethnic Minorities, compared to 13% across all other forces, that could be because of the vast amount of varied nationalities or races in the Met Polices regions, or maybe the prejudice they have built up against other races), and "the representation of ethnic minorities within the organisation, where ethnic minorities are still stuck in the junior ranks", which reflects the statistics in March 2013 only 3.8% of ethnic minorities were chief inspectors or higher positions.

Sir William Macpherson's report appeared to be quite impactual and was thought to change the way in which the police governed the streets and their institute, he spoke on becoming very open and honest with each racial incident, breaking down the ‘blue code of silence’ and reporting each and every misconduct your peer may have performed. He suggested for the Met Police to strive to fill its positions with 25% of officers from ethnic minority backgrounds, a percentage which reflected the capital’s mix. However as of statistics from March 2013, that figure stands at just 10.5%, while the number of non-white Londoners have risen to 33%, clearly not being well represented. The report was to show that the police had zero tolerance for racism within and outside the walls of the institute, however it still seems statistically that it is still existent.

It is not just racial inequality within the police, but it is also gender and sexual preference that are also quite bashed and reasons for the stunting of progression.

Together, Margaret Dawson and Nina Boyle founded the Women Police Service in 1914, Dawson wanted an organisation that showed consistency and unification and hopefully deter women away from prostitution and pimps from enticing them whereas Boyle took advantage of the men at war and placed women in their positions temporarily with the hope that their roles would become permanent. The Commissioner at the time, Sir Edward Henry made them patrol the streets, with the intention of rescuing prostitutes. They were never known as being a part of the official Metropolitan Police Force, as they were a separate police service volunteering alongside the Met. It could be because of this that they are still not viewed as equal to do the job men can do. The way in which most men look at women is quite fragile and more like victims so for them to do a man’s job isn’t plausible in their mindset, this is why there is a lot of criticism when it comes to the job they do, men are usually looking for an opportunity to prove themselves right. Women were not formally allowed to carry handcuffs unless told by a superior, they also could not make arrests until 1923 but even when they were allowed to make arrests they were still very limited in doing so. In March 2013, there were 35,471 female officers out of a total of 129,956 officers in the 43 forces of England and Wales, only representing 27.3% of the total, however compared with 26.8% in March 2012 this is an increase, not a large one but still progression. The proportion of women in the more senior ranks of chief inspector and above was 18.0% an increase from 16.3%, compared with 29.7% of women at constable rank, .3% increase up from 29.4%. A survey taken in 2012, by an independant organisation displayed the discontent and dissatisfaction of women in the police force. 3,410 responders which is quite a large number for a survey but could have been seen as an outlet of expression and opinion. A substantial 42% said they considered leaving the force, with only 20% said they were happy with how things were; however an enormous 76% were very pessemisitc about the future at the service on a whole.

The inequality of homosexuality is just as bad as racism or sexism, however as the discrimination is usually aimed towards men they get the worst of it. An example of outright hate for homosexuality would be in Peru 2009, the government declared that they would ban homosexuals from the police force as they believed they were damaging their idea of what the image of the institution should be. In Egypt, although homosexuality is not illegal but the police force went out of their way to use social media to find and arrest gay and lesbian people. If the police are directly going against human rights and freedom of choice then it will eventually seep into the mindsets of the community ruining the time it has taken to finally have a more accepting society. In America, two gay police officers said to have been discriminated against, looking further into this at least sixteen cases of officers being prevented from joining special units such as anti-terrorism because of their sexuality.

By gaining a deeper understanding of institutional racism, we can find various ways to achieve a tighter knit police force regardless of colour and gender. A force that deals with the matters of the community with clear colour blind eyes, in a much fairer, considerate way.

Discussing the different aspects of inequality produces awareness of the topic, and the aim of new approaches can be sought out and processed, with more positions being filled by ethnic minorities, homosexual people and women.

The way in which the police conduct themselves towards people that are different than themselves, whether it is because of the colour of their skin, their height or gender, is quite despicable and is a large factor as to why most women would like to leave the job (4/10 women).


The British Journal of Criminology; Changing Police Culture -

Collins Dictionary -

Government Data Statistics -

Racial Disparity in Federal Criminal Charging and Its Sentencing Consequences, M. Marit Rehavi (University of British Columbia; Canadian Institute for Advanced Research), Sonja B. Starr (University of Michigan Law School) May 7, 2012 -

Howard W. Odum, 1988, the building years, 1884-1930, New York: Garland Publishers.

Stephen Lawrence revelations, March 2014 -

The Stephen Lawrence Official Enquiry Report, February 1999 -

Police powers and procedures England and Wales 2012 to 2013, Published 3 April 2014 -

Stephen Lawrence: Key recommendations, March 1999 –

Life as an ethnic minority police officer, Jan 2012 -

Women in the police -

The guardian, The Observer, July 2012 -