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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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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




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

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