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How do we think about institutional racism in the American police force?
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The social role of the police must change

This perspective believes that public understanding of the police, and what they stand for, is at the root of the issue. For too long, they have been seen as "public stewards" of law and order. Yet, disproportionately punish black communities. This group points to the origins of the force in the infamous "slave patrols" to show how the very traditions the police have developed from are steeped in appalling racism. Weeding out institutional racism requires reframing the idea of the police. They are not standard bearers for justice. They are here to serve American citizens. Proponents include the ACLU.

The Argument

The current role of the police is aligned with aggression, fear, and prejudice. The problem with the current role of police is the systematic focus on violence and fear in their training. A 2006 report from the Justice Department displayed that officers spend most of their time training with firearms and self defense (about 111 hours) and the least amount of time on cultural diversity, community relations and conflict solutions (just 11 hours [1]). If police reform is to be a real solution for systemic violence, then police must shift their focus from aggression in any encounter and focus their training on resolving conflicts . Many situations that police aren’t currently prepared for are mental health crises. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, mental health situations are responsible for about 1 in 10 police calls and a recent review by the Los Angeles Police Department reported that 37% of police shootings involve suspects with “documented signs of mental illness” [2]. The roles of police can no longer be simply catching and detaining criminals, they need reform to focus more on solving mental health crises and working to remove bias from their departments.

Counter arguments

Many politicians and officers alike believe that changing the role of the police is not a solution, and that being aggressive in the face of crime is the only way to ensure the safety of the greater community. Many people attribute the national lowering of crime rates from 1991 to 2014 to this aggressive police culture[3].



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Monday, 14 Sep 2020 at 14:13 UTC

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