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An Afrocentric Perspective on Policing0001

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An article about African Americans and police force.
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    AnAfrocentricPerspective . on Policing ChristopherCooper Asa U S Marine IwastoldthatIwasgreen hencetodiscardmyblackness.AsablackpolicemaninAmerica thf reweremanytimeswhenitwassuggestedthatIdisregardrecognizingthatIdidn tlooklikemostotherofficers-wewereallsupposedtobeblue.Asascholar therearejustasmany if notmore timesthatIamremindedbymycolleaguesthattochampioncausesofpeopleofcoloristojeopardizetenureandpublicationpossibilities.IchoosetonoticemysocietalpositionasablackmaninAmerica.Todiscard it istoavoidrealizingandchallengingtheinjusticesthatcomewithmysocietalpOSition.Thesamepeoplewhotellyoutoforgetwhoyouare arethesamepeoplewhowillnotletyouforgetwhoyouare.-Theauthor From Criticai Issues inPolicing 4thedition. editedbyRogerG.DunhamandGeoffreyP.Alpert.Copyright © 2001byWavelandPress Inc.Reprintedbypermission.  3  124SectionII-JusticeandInjusticeintheStreets:ThePoliceTheMrocentricperspectivesontheWstoryofpolicingintheUnitedStates,thepolicinginstitution,anditsday-to-daypracticesdifferfromtheperspectivesheldbymanypeoplenotofMricandescent.TWsarticlepresentsthe otherside, thewaythatpeopleofcolorseepolicingintheUnitedStates.Itbolstersitspointsbyrelianceonempiricaldataandattentiontofactualinformationandevents.Inthetwenty-firstcentury,blackpeopleareunavoidablyintertwinedwiththeinstitutionofUS.policing.Thereasonsliewithcrimeproblemsinsomeblackcommunitiesthatpromptpolice-blackcitizeninteraction,withracismintheformofpoliceofficerswhochoosenottohaveagoodrelationshipwithpeopleofcolor,andwithofficerssinglingoutpeoplebecauseoftheirskincolor(raciallydiscriminatorypolicing).Thesephenomenahavemeantthatscholarlydiscourseonpolicing,policeprograms,initiatives,andstrategyareoftenaboutordirectedatblackpeopleandoftenimposedonblackpeople(Le.,communitypolicinginmanyjurisdictions).NootherracialgroupinUS.societyisasmuchthefocus,andatthenucleus,ofpolicingpolicylUndertheseconditions,anopen-mindedpersonwouldthinkthatblackpeoplewouldbeinvitedtoproffertheirperspectivesonpolicingtheircommunities;thatblackscholars(Ph.D.s)withsociologicalandcriminologicalexpertisewouldbeincludedbytheirwhitecolleaguesinresearcheffortstoidentifYcausesandsolutionsandultimatelytomakerecommendationstopolicymakers.Thesituationisquitetothecontrary.Blackpeopleareoftenobjectsofpolicing,andtheexpertsintheblackcommunityaretreatedbymanyoftheirwhitecolleagueswithdisdain.ItiswWtepolicescholarswhoassertthattheyknowwhatisbestforpolicingblackcommunities.Caseinpoint,anentireindustry,criminaljustice,hasbeenbuiltaroundanalyzingthesocialinteractions(e.g.,police-blackcitizen)andday-to-daylivesofblackandbrownpeople.WhetheritisclassroominstructionconcerningpolicingblackcommUnitiesorapanelestablishedtomakerecommendationsregardingpolice-blackcitizenrelations,theplayersareseldomifeverblack.BlaGksoc.talscientistsareavailable,andtheblackcommunityisavailable-availabletofunctionasintegralpartsofsocietyindiscussionsonpolicingandpolicymakingaroundpolicing.TheblacksocialscientistsarepreparedtopresenttheirperspectiveonUS.policing.Whattheyhavetosayaboutpolicinghasmerit,but,seldomaretheremainstreamoutletswelcomingtheMrocentricperspectiveonpolicing.ScholarlyworkconcerningpolicingwrittenbyMricanAmericanshavinganMrocentricperspective,ifpublishedatall,ismostoftenfoundintheblackpressorinblackscholarlyjournals.TWsarticle spresenceinamainstreampublicationisunusual.Hopefully,itsappearanceindicatesthatsomepositivechangesarecoItlirigfromthescholarlypolicingfield.7-AnMrocentricPerspectiveonPolicing125TWsarticlepresentstheMrocentricperspectiveonthreepolicingphenomenathatadverselyimpactblackcommunities.ThefirstisanMrocentricperspectiveonstatus-quopolicescholars:howtheyperpetuateracismandexacerbatepoorpolice-minorityrelations.Mostimportantly,thestatus-quopolicescholarsdenytheexistenceofracismandhavemisquotedpolicingWstory(bypresentingaEurocentricperspective).Thesecondperspectiveistheuseofracebysomepoliceofficersasafactorindecidingwhetherornottousedeadlyforce.Ininstancesofinteractionswithpersonsofcolor,suchdecisionscanleadtodispensingwithprotocol,asin shootingfirstandaskingquestionslater .Thethirdandfinalperspectivecallsattentiontohowblackpeopleareoftenexcludedbythemedia,policeadministrations,andgovernmentfromdiscourseanddecision-makingprocessesregardingpolicingoftheircommunities.Thesethreeperspectivescombinetopresentthereaderwiththeothersideofthestory. ThePerspectiveofthePoliceScholars Policescholarsareusuallysocialscientistswithdoctoratedegrees.Manyareacademicians,whileothersareacombinationofpractitionerandacademician.MostofthosewhostudyandwriteaboutUS.policingarewWtemales.TherearelegitimateconcernsbypeopleofcolorthattwsisascholarsWplackingracialandethnicdiversity.Thewordsconservative,statusquo,mainstream,andtraditionalbestdescribethemajorityofpolicescholars.Sadly,thestatus-quomainstreamscholarshavethepodium.WhattheyhavetosayaboutpolicingintheUnitedStatesistakenseriouslyandgivengreatweightbypolicyresearchersandmuchofthelaypopulace.Intwsway,thesescholarsinfluenceandshapetheperceptionofpolicingintheUnitedStatesformanyAmericans.Forexample,theyinfluencejudges,prosecutors,andthepublicaboutwhatconstitutesthecrimeofpolicebrutalityversusameremistake.Often,scholarsconveyinformationaboutthepoliceintheformofscientificresearch.Thesocialscientistswhoanalyzephenomenadosowithanobjectiveofamelioratingconditionsandalleviatingproblems.Intheend,theygivetheirfmdingstopolicymakersintheformofrecommendations.Thepublicreceivesthefindingsinlayterms(e.g.,viathenewspaperoratelevisionnewsprogram)andissupposedtoaddthenewinformationtowhatitbelievesitalreadyknowsaboutpolicing.TheproblemlieswiththefactthatfromanMrocentricperspec-tive,thestatus-quopolicescholars(especiallythosewhoundertake   8 SectionII-JusticeandInjusticeintheStreets:ThePolice7-AnMrocentricPerspectiveonPolicing  7 historicalanalyses)arenottruthfulconcerningpolicingintheUnitedStates.Muchlikethehistorylessonsofthepast,whichdidnotdivulgethatNativeAmericansoccupiedNorthAmericawhenChristopherColumbusarrived,thepolicescholarspresentaEurocentricperspectiveofpolicingintheUnitedStates.Itexcludesmentionofpeopleofcolor,theevents,epidemics,tragedies,andtriumphstowhichblackpeoplewereandareconnected. The idden istory Withfewexceptions,thestatus-quopolicescholarsdonotaddressthefactthatearlypolicingwasforthepurposeofmaintainingslavery-blackpeoplewerepolicedbyorganizedpolicelongbeforethesescholarssayformalpolicingwasestablished(Dulaney,1996).Thebrutalityofthepoliceduringtheslaveryeraissometimesdeniedormitigatedbythestatus-quoscholars.Asanexample,Monkkonen(1981)assertsthatreportsofSouthernpoliceinthe1860sbeingrepressiveandbrutalaretheresultofsentimentsthatreflectananti-Southernbias(p.198,n96).Helikenedtheobsen:ersofpolicebrutalitytopeoplewhowouldhavesaidthattheyhadwitnessedbrutality~veniftheyhadnot.Withtheabolitionofslavery,thepoliceestablishmentembarkedonanewstyleofclasscontrol.Thisincludedenforcingsegregationandchampioningwhitesupremacy,   butareaderwouldnotlearnthisfromtwenty-firstcentury,status-quopolicingtextbooksandlectureinstruction.Rather,thestatus-quoorEurocentricversion(e.g.,CarteandCarte,1975)revealsaperiodofvaryingpolicefunctions,suchasgivingsheltertothehomelessandgarbagecollection,andtheresultantidentitycrisisofthevocation.Notfarbehindisdiscourseontherealizationthatpolicemenneededuniformsandthatcorruptbehaviorbymanyofthemspawnedmajor cleanhouse initiativesin1884,1890,and1894,tonamejustafew(Fogelson,1977).WhatthereaderisnottoldbymostEurocentricwriters,forexample,ishowblackswereoftenexcludedfrombecomingpoliceofficersandthatinmanycommunitiestheKuKluxKlanandpolicewereeithercomplicitoroneandthesame.Thepolicingliteratureplacesemphasisandsignificanceonthepolicereformmovement-theperiodinU.S.historyinwhich,accordingtotheEurocentricperspective,thepolicingestablishmentissaid to havegottenamoralandprofessionalconscience.Thecorruptestablishmentwascalledtotaskbyinnovatorsfromwithintheranksaswellbyaconcernedexternalpopulace.MuchoftheEurocentricpoliceliteraturedescribesthereformeraasanepiphany.Wearetobelievethatthepeopleroseup,realizedthepatheticcharacterofthepolicingestablishment,thencalledforlawandordertobetakenseriouslyandadministeredequally.Nodoubtthereformmovementwasapivotalmomentinremovingpoliticsfrompolicingandupgradingtheestablishment sstatus.However,itsinattentiontoracialinjusticemakesthereformmovementalsoapivotalpointofincreasedintolerance.Whytherecentpolicingliterature(post-civilrightseraofthetwentiethcentury,andthetwenty-firstcentury)convenientlyleavesouttheracialissuesthatwereintertwinedwiththepolicereformmovementisbaffling.Thepolicingestablishmentwasconcernedwithdefiningitsmandateandwithmaintainingsegregationlaws.Tothisday,inclassroominstruction,theEurocentricheroesofpolicingareindividualswhomadetheirmarkinthereformmovementera:AugustVollmer,BruceSmith,HerbertJenkins,andWilliamParker,tonameafew.Themovement sleadersareportrayedasbenevolentandhavinghadfewfaults.Theirmotivesaresaidtohavebeenforthegoodofallpeople.Inreality,theywereoftenupper-classmenattemptingtoprotectupper-classinterests(Fogelson,1981).TheMrocentricperspectiveisthatthereformershadaprimary,glaringfault-notpayingattentiontosocialjusticeasitappliedtoallpeople.Thecriminaljusticestudentwouldn tlearnthisfactfromthetypicalpolicehistorytextbookpublishedbyEurocentricpolicescholars.Sparrow,Moore,andKennedy(1990)areamongthemanypolicingscholarswhohavewrittenandpublishedaboutthehistoryofpolicingintheUnitedStates.Fromtheirwork,thereaderwouldknowhowpoliticalpatronagecouldlandanindividualapolicepositionbutwouldfindnomentionofhowthereformersshirkedtheirresponsibilitytosocietybynotaddressingraciallydiscriminatorypolicing.Itisnotsufficienttoarguethatblacksdidnotmeetthehighereducationalstandardsputinplacebythereformmovement.Manyblackswhosatisfiedtheeducationalcriteriaappliedtopoliceagenciesbutwerenothiredbecausetheywereblack(Dulaney,1996,p.65).Thereformeraofpolicing,inparticular,providedthestageforrace-based,violent,andbrutalbehaviorbypoliceofficers,includinglynchmobscomprisedofpoliceofficersandofficerswhohuntedandshotblackpeoplelikeanimals.ViolencebypoliceofficerswouldinlargepartgivewaytosomeofthemostseriousraceriotsthattheUnitedStateshaseverexperienced(e.g.,WattsandNewark).Yet,themainstreamliteraturescarcelymentionsthatpoliceprovokedtherioting.2Theraceriotsthatrockedthenationwerespawnedbyonestandardofpolicingforwhitesandanotherforblacks.Theywerepropelledbyhorrificpolicebrutalityfromdogssetonpeoplebecausetheywereblacktojail-housebeatingsofpeopleofcolorbecausetheywereblack.Itonlymakessensethattherewouldbepoorpolice-communityrelationsfollowingthecivilrightserariots.Moreover,theprovocationbypolicethatledtomostoftheraceriotsisreferenced   8 SectionII-JusticeandInjusticeintheStreets:ThePolice7-AnMrocentricPerspectiveonPolicing  9 bypolicescholarsofcolor(e.g.,Alex,1976;Cooper,1980;Dulaney,1996)andafewwhitescholars(e.g.,Fogelson,1977).ThelateArthurNiederhoffer(1969),policesociologist,includedissuesofraceinhisbriefdiscussionofthehistoryofU.S.policinginhiswork, BehindtheShield HecalledattentiontooccupationalissuesofblackpoliceofficersandhowofficersabridgedthecivilrightsofblackandPuertoRicanpeople.Niederhofferwasananomalyinthepolicescholarlyfieldin1969andwouldbetntheearlytwehty-firstcenturybecauseherevealedaconnectiontopolicingandtheJohnBirchSociety(amongotherthings).HereferencedaNovember 8 1965, NewYorkTimes articleannouncingthattheformerchiefoftheSaltLakeCitypolicedepartment(areformandprofessionalizationerachief)wasscheduledtobeakeynotespeakerataJohnBirchSocietyfunction(inspiteofthesociety swhitesupremacistviewsandsupportofracialsegregation). 3 Ina1982issueof AtlanticMonthly policescholarsWilsonandKellingpublished BrokenWindows. 4Thearticleisheldinthehighestesteembyconservativepoliceacademia.Forgoodreason,manystudentsofcolorfindthearticleraciallyoffensive.FromanMrocentricperspective,thearticleiscondescendingandreflectsnarrow-mindedness.RecallthatthearticleislargelybasedonKellingandWilson s(twowhitemen)observationsandstudyofhowblackpeoplefeltabout,andinteractedwith,policeofficersassignedtofootpatrolinNewarkhousingprojectsinthe1970s.Forexample,theauthorsassertthatalthough theneighborhoodswerepredominantlyblackandthefootpatrolmenweremostlywhite,this ordermaintenance functionofthepolicewasperformedtothegeneralsatisfactionofbothparties (p.30).ThisstatementisproblematicforobviousreaSons.Inthetwenty-firstcentury,blackcitizen-whitepolicerelationsareincrediblystrained.AtthetimeofKellingandWilson sobservations,relationswereworseorequaltothecurrentclimate.Theychosetoimplythatblackpeoplewerenotastuteenoughtobesuspiciousofracialhostilityfromthepoliceorthatthepolice-citizenrelationshipwastense.Thissameargumentwaspositedintheslaveryerabyproslaveryobservers.Theydescribedslavemastersandslavesinclosephysicalproximityashavingapeacefulcoexistence.Mostpatronizingandraciallyinsensitiveisthat BrokenWindoW s (andasubsequentarticlebyMarkMooreandGeorgeKelling,entitled, ToServeandProtect:LearningfromPoliceHistory [1983])suggeststhatthepolicingofyesteryearwassowonderfulandbeneficialthattheUnitedStatesshouldrestorethe good 01 days, orthereformmodel.FromanMrocentricperspective,policescholarSamuelWalker(1984)iscorrectwhenhecallsattentiontohowtheauthorsnotonlymisinterpretedpolicehistorybutalsowerenottruthfulindescribingthepast.Walkeradds, thetraditionofpolicingcitedbyWilson,Kelling,andMooreneverexisted. 5McNamara(1982),inanarticlewithafittingtitle, DangerousNostalgiafortheCopontheBeat, bolstersWalker spositioninpotntingoutthatthegoodolddayswerenotallthatgood.Amorerecentreminderofthestatus-quopositionanditsinsen-sitivityaretheremarksfromaprofessorofcriminaljusticeaboutaconservativeWebsiteforpoliceofficersoperatedbyaChicagopoliceofficer.AlthoughtheWebsiteincludedracialslursandsexualinnuendoes,theprofessorsaidhefoundthesite morepositivethannegative becauseitallowspolicetovent. 6 OnContributionsbyBlackPolice TherewereblackpoliceofficerspriortotheCivilWar(Dulaney1996).butthatisafactnoteasilyfoundinthestatus-quoliteratureorpassedontocollegestudentsstudyingcriminaljustice.Inmostpublications,thetremendouscontributionsofblackpeopletopolicingarenotmentionedatallorarementionedtnpassing.Instead,peoplelikeDarrylGates,theformerLosAngelespolicechief,areoftenpraised.Topeopleofcolor,Gateswasknownfortheterrorthatheimposedoncommunitiesofcolor;hisnameconjuresmemoriesofrandomsweepsofblackandMexicanpeopleandthemostcruelandsadisticpolicebrutality. 7 Yetthismanwasdescribed(shortlybeforetheRodneyKingincident)byHarvardUniversityprofessors(policescholars)Sparrow,Moore,andKennedy asapioneeringpolicechief whohad pointedthewayforward (1990,p.Ix).Incomplimenting progressive policedepartments,theauthorsdescribedGatesashandsome,honest,andprofeSSional.Theydescribedhimas theepitomeofthereformpolicechiefandhisdepartmentashiningexampleofthebestinreformpolicing (p.60).TheEurocentricperspectiveonGates stenureiscompletelydistinguishablefromtheMrocentricperspective.King sbeatingwasnotanaberrationofGates sreign.Atypicalwasthatthebeattngwasvideotaped.ItislikelythatGates styrannywouldhavecontinuedhadthecountrynotseenthebrutality.TheinfamousMarkFuhrmanservedunderGates swatch.In1994,byhisownadmission,Fuhrmantoldhowheandothermembersofthepolicedepartmentbeatpeoplemercilesslybecausetheywereblack,plantedevidenceonpeoplebecausetheywereblack,androutinelyreferredtoblackpeopleas niggers. ,8Presently,theLosAngelesPoliceDepartmentisinthemidstofwhatcouldturnouttobethelargestpolicescandalinU.S.history.Dubbedthe Rampartscandal, itincludesadmissionsbypoliceofficersthattheysoughtLatinovictimsbecausetheywerepeopleofcolor,plantedevidenceonthem,andfiledcountlessfalse

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Jul 23, 2017
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