interest groups that think police brutality is not real
Americans of all races, ethnicities, ages, classes, and genders have been subjected to police brutality. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, for example, poor and working-class whites expressed frustration over discriminatory policing in northern cities. At about the same time, Jewish and other immigrants from southern and eastern Europe also complained of police brutality against their communities. In the 1920s many urban police departments, especially in large cities such as New York and Chicago, used extralegal tactics against members of Italian-immigrant communities in efforts to crack down on organized crime. In 1943 officers of the Los Angeles Police Department were complicit in attacks on Mexican Americans by U.S. servicemen during the so-called Zoot Suit Riots, reflecting the department’s history of hostility toward Hispanics (Latinos). Regular harassment of homosexuals and transgender persons by police in New York City culminated in 1969 in the Stonewall riots, which were triggered by a police raid on a gay bar; the protests marked the beginning of a new era of militancy in the international gay rights movement. And in the aftermath of the 2001 September 11 attacks, Muslim Americans began to voice complaints about police brutality, including harassment and racial profiling. Many local law-enforcement agencies launched covert operations of questionable legality designed to surveil and infiltrate mosques and other Muslim American organizations in an effort to uncover presumed terrorists, a practice that went unchecked for at least a decade.
Whereas racism is thought to be a major cause of police brutality directed at African Americans and other ethnic groups, it is far from the only one. Other factors concern the unique institutional culture of urban police departments, which stresses group solidarity, loyalty, and a “show of force” approach to any perceived challenge to an officer’s authority. For rookie officers, acceptance, success, and promotion within the department depend upon adopting the attitudes, values, and practices of the group, which historically have been infused with antiblack racism.
“[This report] is the result of dozens of interviews . and work we’ve done on the ground,” Marbre Stahly-Butts, a policy advocate with CPD and co-author of the toolkit, told reporters in a press call earlier this month. “Its goal was really to reflect the aspirations of these on-the-ground organizations.”
How can we solve the problem if we can’t agree on what the problem looks like? This standard needs to be better defined and enforced. The report says that all departments should issue a statement affirming that their officers should use minimum force to subdue people. They should develop clear and transparent standards for reporting, investigating and disciplining officer who do not comply. They should develop policies that let other officers intervene when fellow officers are using excessive force. And their training should be adjusted to emphasize de-escalation.
Copwatch sends teams of volunteers into the community on three-hour shifts. Each team is equipped with a flashlight, tape recorder, camera, “incident” forms (see sample form) and Copwatch Handbooks that describe the organization’s non-violent tactics, relevant laws, court decisions, police policies and what citizens should do in an emergency. At the end of a shift, the volunteers return their completed forms to the COPWATCH office. If they have witnessed an harassment incident, they call one of the organization’s cooperating lawyers, who follows up on the incident.
- Every person who has custody of public records shall permit the records to be inspected and examined by any person desiring to do so, at reasonable times, under reasonable conditions. The custodian shall furnish copies or certified copies of the records upon payment of fees.
- All public records which presently are provided by law to be confidential or which are prohibited from being inspected by the public, whether by general or special law, shall be exempt from the provisions of subsection 1.
The personal convictions of Mayor Baraka also played an important role in his decisive action to pass this policy. Ras Baraka’s activist background, and the influence of his late father, Amiri Baraka, rendered the mayor personally invested in the passage of a CCRB. Before entering politics, Ras Baraka organized against police brutality as a community activist, and as head of the Newark racial justice organization Black Nia Force. 52 When Baraka first ran for mayor in 1994, he championed the establishment of a strong civilian review board in his electoral campaign. 53 Multiple interviewees expressed that Mayor Baraka’s proposal goes above and beyond the DOJ’s requirements, reflecting the mayor’s personal commitment to addressing the issue of policing. 50
City legislators also appeared to support the Mayor’s initiative, as the municipal council members interviewed for this study expressed their own endorsement of the board and voiced that the council, as a whole, was supportive. The council’s support would aide in codifying the CCRB into law in the future by passing it through the city council as an ordinance. This would prevent the CCRB from being overturned by the next mayor, which occurred in Philadelphia in 1969. 24
But experiments with police officers show a more complex pattern. Similar to community participants, officers showed evidence of bias in their reaction times, more quickly reacting to armed black targets and unarmed white targets—in other words, targets that aligned with racial stereotypes. But those biases evident in their reaction times did not translate to their ultimate decision to shoot or not shoot (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2007). Still, that’s only part of the story. In later work, Correll found special unit officers who regularly interact with minority gang members were more likely to exhibit racial bias in their decision to shoot. When officers’ training and experiences confirm racial stereotypes, those biases appear to hold more sway over their behavior (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2013).
Social media has turned a spotlight on cases of racial discrimination. As the list of black citizens killed by nonblack officers grows, tensions between black communities and police are running high. “It’s a nuanced problem but people continue to take a polarized view,” says Jack Glaser, PhD, a social psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s not productive to demonize police.”