Police Brutality and Community Relations Essay

This essay has a total of 1794 words and 10 pages.

Police Brutality and Community Relations

Management of Law Enforcement AL318

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-class citizenship among minorities, particularly Blacks, in the Los Angeles
area. According to http://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 http://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 minority 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 segregation 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 damages 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 others 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 enforcement 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 www.amesty.org, 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

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
considered 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
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