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How do we think about institutional racism in the American police force? Show more Show less
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On June 8 2020, Minneapolis City Council announced it would be dismantling its police force. In its place, they pledged to introduce a new model for public safety, free from the institutional racism that had plagued its police. The decision was unprecedented, and yet, it has been followed by similar moves across the US, for police budget cuts and investigations into how they are run. At the heart of this debate is the question of institutional racism: where it comes from, how it manifests, and how it can be overcome. Following George Floyd's murder, pressure has grown for perceived systemic oppression to be addressed. Others argue that this is a myth, and that police are being victimised for the ills of society. The way that people are mobilising around this question reveals the fundamental ideas that drive their perspectives. So, who are these groups, what do they stand for, and why?

'The police must be reformed!': The police are systemically racist Show more Show less

This position believes that the coercive power of the the police has grown too far. The role of the police is to protect individual freedom, but police today now threaten this, more than they uphold it. The force has co-opted longstanding racial tensions in America to expand its own power. It is essentially corrupt and powers must be curbed.
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We need to hold the police accountable

Introducing accountability measures is the only way to remove rampant institutional racism from the police. For too long, the law has protected the police through laws such as "qualified immunity". In practice, this has given them license to brutalise civilians without repercussions. Reform requires checks and balances including dash cams, abolishing "no knock warrants", and creating a register of complaints against the police. Proponents have enshrined many of these in the Justice in Policing Act proposal - and include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, senator Kamala Harris, former Vice President Joe Biden, and the Congressional Black Caucus.

The Argument

An increasing amount of attention has been drawn to police brutality and systemic racism since the death of George Floyd in May of 2020. Seeing the level of force police officers employ has given rise to an outcry for change, specifically in the realm of accountability. As figures of authority, the police serve communities by protecting the neighborhood. Despite this concept, some feel they are not safe in their neighborhoods, even in the presence of police officers. Since the police are in a position of power, they can then exert greater control over people, and as a result, control the narrative of events that transpire in these neighborhoods. For instance, in the case of Jocques Clemmons, it appeared as though the police in Nashville were trying to portray him in a manner that did not quite fit the reality of who Clemmons was to justify how Officer Joshua Lippert handled the situation [1]. Instances like these are what fuel the movement for police accountability. Several measures are circulating to address concerns related to police accountability. Some states like NewYork have already passed some legislation, including banning chokeholds and setting up special offices responsible for investigating the deaths of people during and following encounters with police officers [2]. That way, if a police officer does use excessive force, they can be held accountable for their actions. In turn, holding these violators accountable will begin seriously addressing systemic racism within law enforcement.

Counter arguments

Holding police officers accountable is important. However, the measures taken to hold them accountable may prove to be too great an obstacle to police officers. Part of the legislation Governor Cuomo signed also includes budget cuts to New York's police department. Without proper funding, police departments will not be able to do their jobs effectively, leaving them "permanently frozen" [2]. Reducing police funding may also affect programs outside of law enforcement that center around community service and personal development. Losing the cadet and Explorer programs could further alienate communities from their respective police departments, serving to increase already existing tensions [3].

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/07/battle-over-police-accountability/594484/
  2. https://apnews.com/069d91bea55098286fe920b6378eea4a
  3. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2020/06/11/defunding-police-could-backfire-black-former-detective-column/5331008002/
This page was last edited on Tuesday, 8 Sep 2020 at 15:11 UTC

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