Race Relations and Law Enforcement in the United States of The us

“Race relations and Law Enforcement in the United States of The us”


Osasumwen Osaghae

January, 2009


The spate of lethal shootings by the police in the procedure of apprehending suspects has led several commentators to suggest a racial undercurrent in the frame of mind of the police officers. In truth, there is the racial latest in regulation enforcement attitudes when it arrives to minorities like blacks and Latinos. There are various areas of the racial latest examine. 1st, there is the white officer versus black victim situation black officer versus white victim situation black officer versus black victim situation and black officer versus white victim situation, (Peruche & Plant, 2006). It has been suggested citing the hazard perception principle that the police are a lot more most likely to use lethal force in parts or situations where by they face increased levels of violence or perceive their jobs to be notably dangerous, (Greatest & Quigley, 2003). The area of racial sentiments in police lethal shootings is not solely clear as there are competing theories in search of to clarify police lethal shootings. There is the perceived hazard perspective which attributes police shootings to the risk posed by the suspect sought to be apprehended. Even so, a review observed that preconceived notions of violence affiliated with sure races plays a major purpose in how the police officers respond to threats posed by suspects, (Alpert 2007). Not all the theories share the sentiments of the minorities in the frame of mind of the police in apprehending black suspects. There are all those who guidance the regulation enforcement community arguing that minorities should really be profiled as criminals or as likely criminals for the reason that they are a lot more most likely to dedicate crimes. Profiling and stopping individuals for investigative procedures was for that reason assumed to be a rational reaction to the drug and criminal offense trouble among the some regulation enforcement officers, notwithstanding the evident ecological fallacy of focusing on individuals dependent on group habits, (Alpert 2007). The main problem is to what extent does race impact the way regulation enforcement officers offer with black suspects in relation to how white suspects are addressed?

The author contends that race may be a factor in the frame of mind of the police in apprehending black suspects. But it is only applicable to the extent that blacks are affiliated with a lot more aggression and violence than other ethnic teams. It is the truth of the association a lot more than the race by itself that triggers a lot more intense policing techniques in usually black neighborhoods.


There is a expanding problem that police officers may be a lot more intense in their responses to minority as opposed to White suspects, (Peruche & Plant). These responses may be motivated by stereotypic anticipations. For case in point, it is achievable that the stereotype that Black adult men are a lot more most likely to be violent and hostile may build anticipations that Black men and women, notably Black adult men, are a lot more most likely to be violent criminals than are. This may have led to a series of lethal police shootings which will be reviewed in this paper

Lifestyle seems to have an impact on interpersonal interactions in the society. If there is racial prejudice in a presented society, the police force where by dominated by the oppressive race as in white race in relation to the oppressed race (black) simply cannot be free of charge from these kinds of prejudice. Therefore, a corrupt society would produce a corrupt police force even however a various photo may be painted. The definition of society by Linton (1945) supports the argument that police force can only be as great as the society it operates. For him, the society of society is the way of lifestyle of its members the selection of thoughts and behaviors which they master, share and transmit from technology to technology. There is a different element of society that is applicable to racial prejudice in policing, cultural sensitivity on the component of the police officers. Given the multi-ethnic structure of most societies in the United States of The us today, it is really achievable that a police may obtain himself among the a men and women, whose society he is aware minor or nothing about. It is crucial for that reason that police officers be skilled in cultural range and sensitivity from time to time. In this respect, is aggression violence? Being loud or generally defensive may be frustrating to a regulation enforcement officer. But is it sufficient to provoke a forceful apprehension to the extent of fatally shooting a suspect?

The paper will evaluation numerous incidents of lethal police shootings with a check out to determining a sample if any and the area of race in the steps of the police officers in the shooting incidents. The crux of the subject seems to be attributing primacy to race as a determinant of police reactions or reactions to perceived hazard with race as a concomitant variable in the police officers’ reactions. Amongst many others, the paper will evaluation the Amadou Diallo case in New York, Kathryn Jones in Atlanta and Jason Gomez in Denver.

Amadou Diallo

Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant with no criminal document, was 22 years previous when he was killed on Feb. 5, 1999, by 4 New York Metropolis police officers. The officers — Kenneth Boss, Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon and Richard Murphy — acknowledged firing forty one shots that evening, but stated they assumed that Mr. Diallo was carrying a gun. Mr. Diallo, who arrived to The us a lot more than two years just before from Guinea and labored as a avenue peddler in Manhattan, was strike by 19 bullets when standing in the doorway of his Bronx condominium constructing. The case established off large protests throughout the metropolis, and turned a flashpoint for heightened frictions concerning minority leaders and the administration of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. All 4 officers, who were being in plainclothes, stated they approached Mr. Diallo for the reason that they assumed he in shape the description of a guy wanted in a rape case. They contended that when he pulled out his wallet to display identification they mistook it for a gun.

Kathryn Johnston

Users of a Ga narcotics investigation staff shot and killed ninety two-year-previous Kathryn Johnston throughout a drug raid in her Atlanta property November 21, 2006.

A look for warrant stating crack cocaine was being offered in her condominium authorized the officers to slash via the burglar bars defending Johnston’s property and burst via her doorway with no determining them selves.

Johnston, who lived by yourself, seemingly mistook the plainclothes officers for intruders and, according to the prosecutor striving the officers, fired 1 shot via the doorway and strike nothing. The police responded, firing 39 shots, killing Johnston and seemingly wounding 3 of their own. Jason GomezOn December 19, Denver police officer Timothy Campbell was standing in the middle of the avenue in a west Denver neighborhood, his gun pointed at a guy. The patrolman had been driving north on Irving Street when he’d passed a 1997 Saturn that appeared suspicious. When Campbell manufactured a U-transform, the Saturn speedily sped down a aspect avenue and pulled into a driveway. As the officer drove up, a guy — he looked to be in his early thirties, Hispanic, sporting a light, saggy jacket — jumped out of the auto and ran. Campbell adopted him on foot, via back yards and in excess of fences. The guy attained the 3200 block of West Ada Position, where by he slipped on a patch of ice. He acquired up and continued down the avenue, slipping twice a lot more. By now Campbell had shut the gap, and when the guy acquired up yet again, the two were being struggling with every other, significantly less than 10 ft aside. Campbell had his assistance pistol drawn: a .forty five-caliber semi-automated Glock. The guy attained into his trousers pocket, set his hand at the rear of his back, and then started off relocating his hand forward. Campbell saw the glint of one thing metallic. He fired two rounds, paused, and then fired 4 a lot more. The guy fell onto a pile of dirty snow.

The Position of Race in Law Enforcement

For some inexplicable reasons or bizarre coincidence, it is the blacks and the Hispanics that are generally caught committing some crimes, (Ruth & Reitz, 2003, P. 32). This is not to suggest that there is no merit in the assert of disproportionate prosecution for crimes involving sure races and ethnic groupings. The position is that, the races and ethnic teams concerned tend to have an uncommon criminal propensity. Some have argued that the way the society is structured economically places the concerned races and ethnic teams at a downside. This may be a valid argument. It is also real that the African-People have a greater criminal propensity than any other one group in the United States of The us. At this position, there simply cannot be any legal justification for resorting to criminal offense and the reasons are evident. A good deal of African People suggest that survival is the sole purpose for indulging in criminal offense. For exactly the similar purpose, other folks are pursuing legitimate enterprises in a bid to survive. It is not bizarre that school drop outs are best among the the African People. It follows that if the basis is weak, the superstructure will as of requirement stick to fit. There are several aspects impacting the criminal propensity of African People. For case in point, the presence of numerous liquor outlets in usually black populations is perceived as deliberate as it facilitates violent habits and increases incidents of grievous bodily hurt and murder.

Winter season (1980) contended citing other authors and pretty rightly in my check out that police shooting is the greatest triggering mechanism for racial violence in this United States of The us today. Producing the case for the racial material in police shootings, the author famous that studies have shown that the ratio of black victims to white victims of police shootings is as substantial as 30-to-one in Milwaukee and in Chicago which has the best rate of civilian deaths, the ratio is six-to-one. According to the author, the alternative may be in changing the frame of mind of the police officers them selves. Some of the officers consider that controlling their electrical power of lethal force is handcuffing them. The trouble with this way of considering is that they surface to want uncontrolled electrical power in working with blacks as opposed to whites. What is possibly expected is a re-orientation and some sort range tolerance education with the hope that the police officers would use lethal force significantly less frequently on black men and women

Apart from the case of Kathryn Johnston, the other victims of the lethal police shooting reviewed in this paper were being unarmed and curiously ethnic minorities. The reviewed situations and many others like them have presented increase to detrimental sentiments on the component of the ethnic minorities, to wit the blacks and Latinos. There has been the frame of mind that Law enforcement despise blacks. The sentiment is predicated on a vast record of significant and little functions that African People facial area from police attitudes and steps. According to this school of assumed, (Brunson, 2007), blacks do not only attract from their own experiences, but also from a consistent sample of functions they are uncovered to in their communities. This perception that the police do not like black men and women is not served by the intense policing techniques used by the police in deprived African American neighborhoods, (the hood, ghetto etcetera). Indirect experiences have the likely to amplify or validate individuals’ interpretations of private experiences and merit in-depth assessment Centered on research finding on attitudes of African People in direction of the police, there is the contention that citizens’ distrust is a lot more prevalent among the African People than among the white people. Brunson examines in-depth interviews of 40 African-American adolescent males who resided in a deprived urban neighborhood in St. Louis to much better comprehend their experiences with the police. A main aim of the review was to produce a “in depth knowledge” of how these African-American adolescent males interpret their interactions with the police, as very well as the interactions of spouse and children members, good friends, and neighbors, and to assess how these experiences condition their perceptions of the police. The results suggest that both immediate or indirect mistreatment by the police led to detrimental evaluations by the contributors. A good deal of the distrust emanates from media reporting of police handling of African American situations. The situations are sensationally noted highlighting the racial contents in excess of and earlier mentioned the dynamics major to the shootings as in perceived threats and potential risks encountered by the police officers concerned. The case of Kathryn Johnston, the ninety two year previous lady shot in Atlanta by the police. She had shot into the ceiling just before the officers opened fireplace. This is not an try to protect the steps of the police officers. But when a gun is fired, can it fairly stated that 1 would not really feel endangered so as to provoke a sure response these kinds of as to shoot with two reasons in mind: self protection and apprehension of the suspect who is armed and dangerous? Given the history of the case which was meant to be a drug bust, should really the officers have still left their guards down? I consider not. There is some purpose in the contention that some neighborhoods are a lot more dangerous than many others. Exactly where a neighborhood is infamous for criminal propensity, violence and drug trafficking, the policing techniques simply cannot be any factor but intense. The numerous situations highlighted earlier mentioned only served to boost citizens’ distrust of the police among the blacks in the communities where by the fatalities took place. Brunson (2007) advised that a thought should really be presented to the cumulative homes of police/citizen interactions in buy to totally comprehend the character of conflicts concerning minority communities and police.

The Brunson check out is supported by a later on write-up titled Both they do not know or they do not care: black males and detrimental police experiences by Stewart (2007). In addition, he identified race as 1 of the most salient predictors of perceptions and attitudes in direction of the police and may be a function of neighborhood context. Owing to social limitations, imagined or true, several inhabitants of structurally deprived neighborhoods really feel estranged from formal institutions they may absence the social and/or political money to interact regulation enforcement in buy to deal with numerous complications in just their neighborhood. Often, the police may check out these structurally frustrated neighborhoods as criminal offense-prone ecological models.

Some occasions of police shootings tend to be indefensible. Though men and women are ready to take a one officer may vacation resort to lethal shooting dependent on his judgment, the men and women resent the use of lethal force by a number of officers concerned in the shooting. This recommendation is validated by the outcry which adopted the shooting of a ninety two year previous lady (Kathryn Johnston) in Atlanta by a lot more than 4 officers beneath the guise of the belief that the lady was a drug trafficker. What manufactured it worse was the discovery later on that there was an try to address up the functions major up to the shooting of the black lady. Curiously sufficient, it was a different racially tainted police fatality. The position of the police officers is that they have to have to protect them selves in opposition to perceived potential risks from the suspects and that any try to regulate their use of lethal force is a way of handcuffing them and creating them defenseless. For the citizens, notably the black populace, the use of lethal force is not justifiable in most circumstances and is viewed as extreme in most situations. In the write-up beneath reference, two individual studies were being conducted to investigate perceptions of Law enforcement use or misuse of lethal force. The initial review observed that as quantity of officers diminished and quantity of shots enhanced, perceptions of misuse of force were being augmented. Number of shots for every officer substantially predicted perceptions of misuse of force.  The 2nd review showed a major conversation concerning quantity of officers, quantity of shots fired, and social dominance orientation. This identity variable was an specifically strong predictor of misuse of force in situations involving the greatest quantity of shots fired for every officer. This finding is in consonance with the racial factor inherent the lethal shootings of the police. 1 way of testing the validity of the racial sentiment would have been to look at the rate of lethal shootings among the black police officers and to see who were being shot in phrases of racial composition, (Perkins & Bourgeois, 2006).

The difficulty of police shootings took a various dimension with the recommendation that distinct races are being focused for these kinds of deadly assaults. Regrettably, numerous studies seem to be to guidance the racial undertone in the shootings, according to Tennebaum (1994). Prior to the Garner case, police shooting was ruled by 1 of 4 legal excuses for shooting a suspect. They are The Any-Felony Rule the Defense-of Everyday living Rule The Model Penal Code The Forcible Felony Rule. The any felony rule excused a police officer who shot at a suspect acquiring absent functioning absent soon after committing a felony. The trouble with pretty much all of the 4 principles was them they known as for a judgment on the component of the officer even just before the suspect has a working day in court docket. In the Garner case, Garner brought an motion in opposition to the police officer and the police office for fatally shooting his son when leaving the scene of a theft. The suspect was unarmed. The court docket dominated that these kinds of shooting may not be utilised unless of course it is to prevent the escape and the officer has probable trigger to believe that the suspect poses a major risk of death or major bodily damage to the officer or many others. 

There is a variant of lethal police shooting which simply cannot be blamed on the police for the reason that it is induced by the victims them selves. Sufferer induced shooting has been outlined in numerous techniques and Mckenzie deemed some of the definitions describing them as puzzling: killing in which the victim is the precipitator of the killing, incidents in which men and women bent on self destruction interact in lifestyle threatening and criminal functions to force the police to shoot them. All the definitions deemed suggest a aware act on the component of the victim. But the author factors out that not all shooting inducing act are aware.  In this space of police shooting, race does not surface to be a factor.

On the aspect of the police, it have to be said that there are puzzling terminologies in the race dialogue. Minorities can be contextual. Blacks may be minorities in the United States of The us as a whole. But not so in some communities that are predominantly black. For case in point, in most metropolitan Atlanta in the point out of Ga, it would be incorrect to refer to blacks as the minority for the reason that they are in vast majority. The truth of the racial composition of the community is major for the reason that of statements of racial profiling. Exactly where 3 of 4 citizens are blacks, it follows that blacks are going to sort vast majority of all those apprehended by the police in that community. It is pretty achievable, for case in point, to have all the men and women pulled in excess of in a plan police verify to be black for the reason that not really several whites are existing in the community. It would also be achievable for the police to be really energetic and interact in intense policing techniques if the men and women in the black community have a large criminal propensity. 1 truth have to be said. Blacks tend to be a lot more violent than other races. Furthermore, how affordable is the allegation of racial bias where by the apprehending officers are blacks? It have to necessarily mean that the association with aggression and violence emanates from the men and women and not from the police. The perception of black as violent and intense men and women seems to be the similar with black police officers as it is with white police officers.


There seems to be statistics to guidance the accusation of racial bias in the regulation enforcement procedures involving black men and women. According to the Federal Domestic Study, “most latest illicit drug end users are white. There were being an approximated 9.9 million whites (seventy two percent of all end users), 2. million blacks (15 percent), and one.4 million Hispanics (ten percent) who were being latest illicit drug end users in 1998. “And nonetheless, blacks constitute 36.8% of all those arrested for drug violations, in excess of forty two% of all those in federal prisons for drug violations. African-People comprise pretty much fifty eight% of all those in point out prisons for drug felonies Hispanics account for 20.seven%, (Material Abuse and Psychological Wellbeing Products and services Administration, National Domestic Study on Drug Abuse: Summary Report 1998, cited in Race Law Enforcement & Prison, 2008). The photo painted soon after reading through the earlier mentioned statistics is that a lot more white men and women dedicate crimes than blacks, but there are a lot more black men and women caught for the crimes. It is both that the white criminals are way too intelligent for the regulation enforcement officers or the regulation enforcement officers know who the criminals are among the white men and women, but select not to apprehend them. It is doubtful if the latter is the case.

 In an interview conducted by the author with Assistant Law enforcement in Dekalb, Kennis Harrell on eleven/20/2008, the racial profiling assumption was flawed. The Assistant chief does not concur with assert of racial profiling. His argument was that in a predominantly black populated County like Dekalb, it is to be envisioned that most of the apprehended suspects would replicate the racial composition of the County. He would also not concur that blacks have a greater criminal propensity than whites. It arrives down to the similar argument that blacks would dedicate crimes in a black populated community. The similar factor goes for the Latino populated parts. This argument when stretched further more appears to dispel the racial material in the spate of lethal police shootings. It would surface that every case of lethal police shootings would have to be analyzed on a case by case basis. Therefore, the only principle that would implement normally to all situations would be the “hazard perception” principle, (Greatest & Quigley, 2003). According to this principle, police officers respond to the level of hazard they visualize they are in. It then seems to be pure coincidence that a lot more ethnic minorities are concerned in lethal police shootings. It is absolutely an difficulty deserving of further more inquiry as the craze is disturbing. There is considerably truth of the matter in the recommendation manufactured by Stewart (2007) that there should really be further more inquiry on what the impact of the presence of minorities in the numerous police departments would have on the minorities’ perception of the regulation enforcement companies. Would the minorities in the police force see their kith and kin as a lot more intense and a lot more violent than many others? The response seems to be that perceptions would rarely modify. The purpose is that even in neighborhoods which are predominantly black both equally in populace and in the composition of the police departments, racial profiling (so known as) is not absent and inner thoughts of unfairness and police brutality keep on being strong.

There is the have to have for African People to have a re-orientation 1 that emphasizes industry as opposed chopping corners 1 that symbolizes difficult perform and not in search of to experience where by they have not sown a thorough plan for all round advancement as opposed to the get abundant syndrome and a authentic work at abandoning ghetto lifestyle.


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Post time: 11-09-2016