Relationship Between Police And Black People
The relationship between the police force and the Black community has been strained for quite some time. There are many ways the view of the police has been shaped in the minds of Black people, especially those in low socioeconomic neighborhoods who hold the general knowledge that with darker skin, comes an increase in possible problems with the police. Not only is this view based on personal experiences of Black people dealing with the police, but it also comes from the learned experiences of friends and family members who share their encounters with the police force with each other, as well as the incidents broadcasted on the news. In addition, Black people in these low-socioeconomic areas are often treated worse by the police than other races and ethnicities in the same area, and other wealthier areas.
The collective view of the police held by Black people is based upon personal encounters with officers, along with the indirect “vicarious’ police incidents re-lived and shared by close relatives and friends, and the events they are exposed to within their own community (Weitzer, 2002). This is seen in prior research that defines how Black citizens’ views of the police are shaped by other (Black) citizens’ experiences as well. Direct and indirect experiences that involve serious discrimination from the police are held by both the individual the incident(s) occurred to and also the family in the form of stories and group recollections (Feagin and Sikes, 1994:16). This is especially seen in disadvantaged Black neighborhoods where aggressive policing strategies are used more frequently. This factor coupled with the use of unwarranted physical and deadly force on black people in these communities further strain the already strenuous relationship held between the police and the Black community.
Pedestrian and vehicle stops also increase the police harassment of Black people because they are the staple of police efforts. And there are generally more crimes committed in the low socioeconomic neighborhoods that Black people reside in, officers are often accused of pretextual stops of people who “fit” the description of certain profiles such as gangbanger, drug dealers, and other offenders with Black people being the main targets. In the Black community, this is a phenomenon known as “driving while black” (Harris, 1999). It is also commonly believed that Black people are more likely to be stopped by the police than white people, or any other ethnicity but there is limited information on that. However, it has been reported that Black people who had been stopped by the police were more likely than their non-black counter-part to be ticketed, searched by officers, handcuffed, and even arrested. (Tuch, Weitzer, 2002).
Single controversial incidents, such as the unjustified killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, also can have a strong negative impact on the popular confidence in the police, in the city the incident occurred, and in other cities that Black people who became aware of the injustice resided in (Weitzer, 2002). But because Black people are more likely to have more negative views of the police than other races, they are also much more likely to believe that they have been racially discriminated against by a police officer with a 2006 study showing that 43% of Black people believed they were stopped solely because of their race or ethnic background, compared to 3% of White people. When they were asked about the encounters with the police in their cities, 34% said that they have been stopped without good reason compared to 13% of white people. (Weitzer & Tuch, 2006).
Those findings proved very similar to the results of surveys conducted in the USA in the 1990s, which helps demonstrate the continuity of the belief over time. But, the nature of the stop is the actual factor. Studies have reported that in ordinary, routine stops such as speeding tickets and other driving infractions, the race of the driver is not a factor, but in ‘investigatory stops,’ based on a wider range of minor violations that are conducted with the intent of making an arrest or for harassment, the drivers’ race is a predictor (Epp, Maynard-Moody & Haider-Markel, 2014).
However, there is a racial perception gap that needs to be taken into consideration. Certain perspectives believe that class consciousness has increased racial group identification in middle-class Black people, who are starting to see their interests aligning more with middle-class White people than with disadvantaged blacks. So, it is argued that this class position protects middle-class Black people from many of the problems faced by poor blacks (Weitzer & Tuch, 2006).
It is also worthy to point out that patrol officers often learn to differentiate the different neighborhoods according to the race and class of the occupants, as well as the local crime rate, even in communities with distinctions, i.e. law-abiding and troublemaker (Easton & Ponsaers, 2010). Because of this, studies have found that police officers tend to do three main things; the first is that they generally stereotype the people of ethnic minority neighborhoods as hostile and uncooperative and generally treat most residents similarly. This is known as ‘ecological contamination’ of the residents because of where they live. Werthman & Piliavin, 1967;Sykes & Clark, 1975). They also tend to use coercion oftentimes towards the residents of non-white or ethnically mixed neighborhoods than in white communities (Smith 1986). And lastly, they participate in much more misconduct like corruption, verbal abuse, excessive force, and unjustified stops in low socioeconomic nonwhite neighborhoods (Epp et al., 2014; Kane, 2002; Mastrofski, Reisig & McCluskey, 2002; Terrill & Reisig, 2003). This also includes the ‘stop and frisk’ behavior that was practiced in ethnic minority communities in New York neighborhoods (Fagan et al., 2010). These studies both demonstrated that policing is typically more aggressive in neighborhoods that are both populated by an ethnic minority, and at an economic disadvantage.
In addition to the racial background aspect, it is important to note that age and gender play a role in a person’s attitude and personal experiences with the police. Young black people are much more likely to have encounters with police officers, and for them to be unpleasant and against their will. And while women and girls are much less likely to have any kind of contact with the police, black women and girls still run a higher risk of being targeted in their neighborhoods. But research shows that young black males, in particular, run the highest risk of being stopped, interrogated, and searched by the police than any other demographic. There is an argument that stops are necessary due to local crime rates, but the study found that the stops increased 500% over the past ten years while local crime rates declined, and the arrest rate of the stops also decreased by half with the decline disproportionately concentrated in black neighborhoods (Brunson, Weitzer, 2015).
Many disadvantaged Black neighborhoods often experience a delayed response when it comes to the efficacy of police aid. They are faced with slower police response times, fewer police services, and large numbers of residents in these neighborhoods who feel that the police- crime-prevention efforts are severely lacking because officers don’t respond quickly to calls for assistance, nor do they conduct adequate investigations of crimes that occur in the neighborhoods (Jacob 1971; Sampson & Bartusch, 1998; Velez, 2001). But oftentimes when crimes do occur, police are stuck at a standstill because victims in these disadvantaged neighborhoods are often reluctant to come forward with evidence ber fear of these neighborhoods who feel that the police- crime-prevention efforts are severely lacking because officers don’t respond quickly to calls for assistance, nor do they conduct adequate investigations of crimes that occur in the neighborhoods (Jacob 1971; Sampson & Bartusch, 1998; Velez, 2001). But oftentimes when crimes do occur, police are stuck at a standstill because victims in these disadvantaged neighborhoods are often reluctant to come forward with evidence because of a fear of getting in trouble with the law themselves, or a fear of retaliation by the person they are publicly going against harming them or their family.
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