This paper will begin by discussing the issue of prejudice and implicit bias in policing. The problem of prejudice in policing is one that has been specifically prevalent in America today. This particular topic was chosen due to the fact that in the last ten years, the number of innocent minorities who have fallen victim to police brutality has rapidly increased at a steady rate. More often than not, these minority groups, black people in particular are targeted and automatically seen as criminals simply because of their skin color. With the recent media coverage of this issue, society has become more aware of just how widespread this issue has become, but also continues plays a big role when it comes to the issue of implicit bias.
This is a very important topic because for some of these minorities, this issue being presented is a matter of life or death. The police officers have the power to take away the lives of these people if, for any reason, they feel threatened. What is one to do when the color of their skin is the reason these officers feel threatened? Through the entirety of this essay, I will be discussing the problem of prejudice in policing, as well as the history behind policing and the cause of such bias.
Few people know the actual history behind policing and how it evolved into what it is today. Unbeknownst to many, policing as it is today is relatively new. The United Kingdom had directly influenced American policing during the time of colonization. At the time, they had no formal policing system. Great Britain had what was known as the Borh, which was a unit of security, typically twelve individuals who took responsibility for upright conduct. Of course, as the years went by, there were many more ineffective and corrupt attempts of policing that took place as an attempt to replace the Borh, as well as create a just system.
However, none of these attempts were successful until 1838. The increased population growth and immigration in major cities such as Boston and New York called for a professionalized form of policing. However, even though policing had been formalized, problems in the system continued to arise, such as unwarranted arrests, unchecked power, and excessive use of force. Thus, bringing us to 20th century policing. August Vollmer, the father of policing, saw the problem with these issues and decided to establish the Berkley Policing School, which established a code of ethics for these formerly corrupt officers and banned political corruption.
Therefore, officially creating a formalized and efficient form of policing. In the past, policing was established as a way to capture and return run-away slaves and protect and serve the wealthy. However, formalized policing today is the maintenance of law and order by police force. The role of policing is to enhance our quality of life by means of enforcing laws, preventing crimes, and arresting suspects while upholding core values. Although the function of policing has changed and slave patrolling has since been abolished, some would argue that the initial role of police, as discussed before, is still a remaining issue.
In a study conducted by at UC Davis professors, they were able to conclude that, “Evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being black, unarmed, and shot by police is about 3.49 times the probability of being white, unarmed, and shot by police on average” (Makarechi, 2016). The findings of this research suggests that officers are threatened, not because these people pose an imminent threat to society, but because they are black. The research study also found that there was no correlation between the crime level rate and the shootings of these people. This all comes down the media’s portrayal of black people and people of color in general.
As learned in previous classes, crime is portrayed as a direct outcome of violent media presented on television, movies, video games, and music. Many media outlets play a role in how people view and interact with minority groups. The media makes it seem as though violent crimes are, for the most part, committed by men of color, which leads to the formation of stereotypes. The media allows for people to make a generalized assumption of a whole people group based on a preconceived notion that has been provided to them through the media.
This prejudice predominantly stem from the art of infotainment, which is an extremely edited and misleading amalgamation of entertainment and information purported to be truthful and comprehensive, yet leads to false beliefs that are held by the public. In doing so, the media encourages civilians and police officers alike to be fearful and weary of the minority groups and feed into the implicit bias and prejudice presented to them. The article, Vanity Fair, in which this information was derived from is a scholarly, academic studies article with supporting evidence and research to support any and all claims made. This is a very important issue because the prejudice and brutality has not yet ceased.
Police are trained on when to use force, however a problem arises when force is used unlawfully. When dealing with minority groups, police are quick to use deadly force options, even if there is no visible threat. These issues reflect on the struggles faced by minority groups and hone in on how innocent lives are being taken without proper causation, yet no action is being taken to prevent these occurrences. Innocent lives such as Michael Brown, the unarmed man shot 6 times, or 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was shot multiple times while playing with a BB gun. The more widespread killings include names such as Treyvon Martin, a young boy innocently shot and killed while holding a bag of skittles, and Stephon Clark, a young father who was shot and killed due to police mistaking his phone for a gun. In 2015, African Americans made up 13% of the population. However, they accounted for 26% of those killed by police officers. (Beer, 2018).
In order to combat these racial issues, officers should be obligated to have body cameras at all times, as well as implement policies to ensure that officers are not targeting people based off of prejudice and if they are, they should be put on probation and go through a sensitivity training until proven worthy of the badge.