The Diminishing Reputability of Police in the United States, Explained.

A body invented to protect the masses has become an enemy to the very people whom they serve. The relationship between the US police and its citizens is a complicated matter which in recent years has become more prevalent in international discussions. Reoccurring instances of unnecessary contact and misuse of power from law enforcement have caught the attention of the US citizens and all those watching on around the world. A lack of accountability has created general mistrust, and it is clear that if reform does not occur to resolve the systemic issues that have arisen within the core of the police, the interrelation of law enforcement and the people of the United States will deteriorate further, and rapidly.

The unconventional dynamic between the citizens of the United States and its police force can be dated back to the establishment of police in America, and the responsibilities policemen were given at the time. Fundamentally, policing in Colonial America was established to keep communities in order. As society progressed, police duties grew. Eventually, as evident in modern day, police have been empowered to protect their own power and privilege most commonly in situations that allow them to exert social control over minority groups. A large aspect of tension between the police force and US citizens is the indisputable documentation of racially targeting people of colour. Slave patrols, during the colonial era, were forms of police who were responsible for punishing slaves who tried to free themselves (Romero 2020). Historically, police have had duties that inexplicitly target certain groups and have been authorised to use force with those who are not equal to them – including people of colour, low-income communities and minority groups. These factors are able to give context for the current behaviour of police officers in the United States today.

A very significant period of time that heightened tension between police and the people of the US was the aggressive response from police during the Black Lives Matter protests. After the death of George Floyd, a peaceful, wrongly accused man of colour who was pinned beneath police officers so forcefully he was unable to continue breathing, the world united to protest against police brutality specifically towards people of colour. Internationally, it was recognised that police in the United States are ignorant to the concept of equality. Research from Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project found that 93 per cent of the 7,750 Black Lives Matter protests were peaceful. However, images of violent protests were what made media headlines, with the then-president Donald Trump referring to the protesters as “thugs” (Cineas 2021). Over 427 arrests were made at the peak of the protests, despite the high number of protests being conducted in peace.

In comparison, law enforcement failed to keep white-supremacist rioters at Capitol Hill under control, through blatant complicity.  The lack of both physical presence and hostility at the Capitol riot that was so clearly present at the Black Lives Matter protests has reinforced anger within the American people. Such rioters smashed windows and scaled walls, however only 69 people were arrested (North 2021). Videos taken during the riot display officers “holding hands of extremists, escorting them down steps, holding the doors of the Capitol open for them and taking selfies with them” (Cineas 2021). The clear contrast of events and reactions from the police can be seen as a combination of ignorance and racial bias. It is evident that although police were aware of the extent of the event due to it being posted on social media, they chose to support the notion of white entitlement and as a result encouraged dangerous extremists to express their opinions in the most violent way possible without serious consequence.

The path forward is complex. However, in order to mend the relationship between law enforcement and the citizens reforms must be introduced (Jabali, 2020). Firstly, systemic issues within police training and recruitment must be addressed. Police should be reminded what their role in society is, and how violent riots should prompt a different reaction to non-violent protests. Implicit-bias training should be mandated in police academy, to attempt eradicating the clear racial prejudice towards minority groups. Although it is not simple to convince everyone to think the same way, if the police force project and openly support this view then the future generation of law enforcement will carry on this important, egalitarianist mindset.

REFERENCES:

Cineas, F (2021), Whiteness is at the core of the insurrection. Retrieved 13 January, from https://www.vox.com/2021/1/8/22221078/us-capitol-trump-riot-insurrection

Romero, D (2020), Reimaging the role of Police. Retrieved 13 January, from https://www.aclu.org/news/criminal-law-reform/reimagining-the-role-of-police/

North, A (2021), Police Bias explains the Capitol Riot. Retrieved 13 January, from https://www.vox.com/22224765/capitol-riot-dc-police-officers

Jabali, M (2020), If you’re surprised by how the police are acting, you don’t understand US history. Retrieved 13 January, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/05/police-us-history-reform-violence-oppression


Writer : Emily Camilleri

Editor : Angganararas Indriyosanti

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