Police brutality and poor community relations continues to plague racial and sociological groups throughout United States, which proves that law enforcement management needs to implement better community relations policies and procedures. The Watts Riots of 1965 was the peak of police brutality at its worst that was documented by video. At the time, California had adopted Proposition 14. This proposition moved to block the fair housing element of the Civil Rights Act which created feelings of injustice and second- lass citizenship among minorities, particularly Blacks, in the Los Angeles area.
According to www. history. acusd. edu, Watts was “known as the ‘duck pond’ where police could stop anyone, at any time for any reason; one study showed 90% of juveniles arrested never had charges filed. ” On August 11, 1965 a ‘routine’ traffic stop in South Central Los Angeles of a suspected drunk driver is what started the Watts Riots. Apparently, the Black community had enough of the constant harassment that preceded this event and Proposition 14 did not help. The riots began and lasted for six days thereafter.
By the end of the riot of 1965, 36 people (mostly Blacks) were slaughtered by police, 1,032 injured, 3,436 jailed, and $40 million dollars in property destroyed according to www. occawlonline. pearsoned. com. According to Rev. James Edward Jones, this was not a “riot” but a “protest” by people not allowed to participate in mainstream of society Los Angeles. Police Chief William Parker contributed greatly to this tragedy by ordering police to use “justifiable homicide” to stop the riots.
If community and inority relations were good during that time, this riot would have not happened. Chief Parker was a proponent of military-style policing as opposed to community policing. This style of policing was very threatening to the Black community. It also added fuel to the fires of racial tension and poor community relations between police and minorities.
Police using the term ‘boy… do this or do that’ to refer to Black males during a routine stop did not make matters any better as opposed to being referred to as ‘sir’ or ‘Mr… During the Parker administration for the LAPD, there was egregation within the police department itself; Black cops only partnered with Black cops and White cops only partnered with White cops. However, White cops were allowed to patrol Black neighborhoods such as Watts, which increased racial tension, much like North St. Louis, Missouri today. This military-style policing offered no solution but increased poor race and community relations, which eventually led to the Watts Riots of 1965.
Poor race relations are not the only element that sparks community tension with police – poor relations with specific sociological groups amages the image of police. For example, the Stonewall Inn was a gay bar located on Christopher Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. On June 27, 1969 during the night, a police inspector and seven other officers from the Public Morals Section of the First Division of the New York Police Department arrived shortly after midnight.
Allegedly, they were there to look for ‘violations’ of the alcohol control laws. During their ‘inspection’ they made the unnecessary homophobic comments, and after checking identification, they threw the patrons out, one by one, while thers remained outside to watch. The gay and lesbian community had been continuously treated as second-class citizens by NYPD during this time. As with the Watts Riots, with poor community relations, it was just a matter of time before big something had to happen to initiate change.
The Stonewall Riots of 1969 lasted three nights. Although there were no reported deaths as a result of this riot, it is still quite disturbing that it took three nights of rioting to even begin a change in police community relations with the particular social group. This is yet another example of the backlash of poor community relations. There is a definitely connection between police brutality and poor community relations; they go hand in hand.
Former United States Attorney General Janet Reno said it best: “The issue is national in scope and reaches people all across this country. For too many people, especially in minority communities, the trust that is so essential to effective policing does not exist because residence believe that the police have used excessive force, that law enforcement is too aggressive, that law nforcement is biased, disrespectful and unfair. ” There are endless stories of police brutality, abuse of power, racism/racial profiling, and negligence.
For example, it was concluded by the state Attorney General’s office that the New Jersey state patrol used race as a basis for pulling over drivers on major highways, hoping to make drug arrest. Let’s also not forget one of the most prominent brutality/abuse cases; the case of Amadou Diallo. Diallo was an unarmed West African immigrant standing in the stairway of his apartment building. The NYPD, four white police officers, fired forty-one shots at Diallo, and striking their ‘suspect’ nineteen times, killing him.
This use of deadly and excessive force is not limited to racial groups; significant cases have been documented on specific sociological groups, such as the homeless, mentally ill, gays, lesbians, bisexual and trans-gendered individuals. Some complaints include the denial of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) medication to persons being arrested to the depravation of toilet facilities, water and food.
According to Amnesty International article on ww. amesty. rg, a mentally ill man was reportedly killed by the LAPD with thirty-eight shots after his wife called police to report his suicide attempt; the subject cut himself in the neck and threw the knife at police officers (and missed). Media coverage on police brutality is poor to marginally fair but not at all good; it is, at times, biased and politically motivated. Better media coverage of these occurrences including but not limited to the full names, badge numbers and department would keep the community that the media serves informed of police brutality and abuse.
Better coverage could also act as a deterrence for future offenses by the department and would provide motivation for law enforcement management and prosecutors administer proper punishments for police offenders instead of sweeping it under the rug. Cops are given virtually unrestricted rights to use force in situations where their evaluation on the situation demands its use. The psychological puzzle behind why a police would brutalize a suspect or innocent victim comes with many different elements.
Adolescent elements ranging from issues like being a victim of a playground bully to being onsidered socially unacceptable by adolescent peers; causes the need to assert control and domination in his or her adult life by becoming a police officer. To eliminate these high-risk individuals from policing communities, hiring boards should conduct detailed background investigations, which should include polygraph test and intense psychological examinations. Rules should also be in place to regulate the thoroughness of the background checks also.
Police training must include intense ethics, community relations, rutality, logic and reasoning, psychology, sociology training requirements in order to effectively deal with the suspected criminals and the general population. Some police officers’ personal views of a person’s social value have a devastating effect on the use of force. These officers feel that persons such as gang members, persons of a different race, sex offenders, drunks, drug dealers, foreigners and just plain hardened criminals have no value to society and thus deserve no protection.
As a result, these sociological groups are treated much differently than ‘normal’ civilians. This is the exact psychological position that leads to abuse and brutality, which leads to poor community relations for law enforcement management of clean up (or sweep under the rug if they choose). There are several steps that can be taken to improve community relations and stop police brutality. First, law enforcement management will need to implement a community policing concept to get officers out and about in the community.
This will make the community aware that officers are available to help instead of to threaten and/or dominate. Management hould also implement neighborhood watch programs to involve citizens in protecting their community and would improve citizen relations with police. Second and possibly the most important element is to put into action an external civilian complaint review board which will allow selected residents in the community to review complaints and make recommendations to the police chief or existing manager.
This approach will include the community in decision-making on crucial issues such as police shootings and brutality complaints. Law enforcement management should be required to uspend any police officer without pay that a citizen’s committee determines there is probable cause that brutality or abuse did occur and should also be required to turn all cases over to the county prosecutor for review. Third, management should develop an urban relations department to be constantly involved with community.
This department would be responsible for planning community events, promoting the police department in a positive manner and keeping the community and media informed. Next, a sophisticated computer complaint tracking system to catch police offenders arly before a fatal shooting or use of excessive force. Finally, police departments should be mandated by the Federal Government to keep detailed reports of abuse, excessive force, and including but not limited to brutality; this should include statistical data of these issues.
According to www. amnestyusa. org, all statistical data should also include the type and number of complaints filed and the outcome of the complaints. According to www. amnestyusa. org, prosecutors are reluctant to charge police officers that have been accused of abuse or brutality for fear that olice departments will not assist in future investigation for their criminal cases.
This is a political issue that only the citizens can change, that is, if the county district attorney is elected; if he or she is appointed, citizens should review the individual responsible for appointing this person. Police brutality is an ongoing problem today and will be tomorrow until law enforcement management and prosecutors step up to the plate and take measures to stop these occurrences from happening. This can only happen with better community relations.