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Police Reform: Diversity, Education, And Structure

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To discriminate and arrest. Law enforcement officials in the United States are sworn to serve and protect, yet in recent light, we have witnessed discrimination and unjust arrests. Abraham Lincoln was thought to of said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” The United States democratic freedom is second to none, yet those who are meant to uphold its values and morals have failed miserably. Communities of minorities face extreme violence at the hands of those meant to protect them. Racial bias and police brutality has repeatedly created inequality amongst society, and has no place in an American judicial system. “While we were protesting the police killing of Eric Garner, John Crawford was killed. While we were protesting the deaths of Eric Garner and John Crawford, Mike Brown was killed. While we were protesting the deaths of Garner, Crawford, and Brown, Darrien Hunt was killed”. As soon as Americans process the death of one member of the community, another death follows. In 2017, police killed 1,129 people and less than 1% were charged. Out of the 534 killer cops, 43 had shot and killed someone before, and 12 had shot and killed multiple people. Even though American citizens are quick to pick apart certain situations, changing the racial dynamics, requiring aspiring recruits to have a higher education, and integrating structural changes for law enforcement could create a justice system where a racial bias does not exist.

The judicial system is an overwhelmingly white male dominated industry, changing the racial dynamics would allow officers have a better understanding of each other; thus they can understand the surrounding community. Implementing a diverse police force that reflects the community it serves would ease the tension of suspects wondering if they were being stopped solely because of their race. The inequality in police brutality does not start when police shoot unjustified bullets, but with the deep disconnect of cultural awareness and compassion. “How Tamir Rice, a sweet 12-year-old boy playing in his local park, came to be shot in the gut by Cleveland Police, doesn’t start when the trigger was pulled. Yes, the force itself was unjust…but Tamir’s death revealed much deeper problems with law enforcement ranging from racial profiling to poor hiring practices to an antiquated 911 and police dispatch system”. King’s analysis’s of the justice systems overwhelmingly white male presence indicates issues in the future generation of law enforcement. Shaun King surveyed a large variety of educational institutions, and his findings in general were as followed, “to be clear, scores of them said they want to serve as entrepreneurs, civil rights attorneys, charity leaders, and journalists who address the problems of police brutality and injustice in America, but the notion that they would actually enter the belly of the beast to solve the problem from the inside out was consistently noxious.” None of the surveyed students had any interest in being law enforcement. Instead, college students want to enter careers that fight against police brutality, but dare not enter the police force to be the change they wish to see. A large majority of white Americans, 63%, are “confident” that the police treat blacks and white equally, while only 40% of Latinos and 21% of blacks do. Also, 60% of whites believe that the killings of unarmed black men were isolated and had no connection to broader issues, while 45% of Hispanics and only 18% of blacks agree with the isolated view. The vast majority of young adults are not interested in becoming law enforcement officials, which means in 5-10 years time, our judicial system will remain the same as it has been since its beginning: dominantly white. 70% of Americans believe that a city’s law enforcement should have a similar racial dynamic. If the racial dynamics were to switch to a level that reflected its multiracial community, it can enhance the overall reputation of the department. A potential drawback to implementing change surrounding the racial diversification of the police force is that it is illegal in the United States to hire based on race. Employers can run into multiple legal issues, and paperwork can be extensive. However, racial diversification is not the only reform that needs to be implemented. Racial diversification along with required higher education would weed out those unfit for the position to protect and serve.

Aspiring police recruits should be required to obtain a higher education, because a higher education instills critical thinking and gives officers more life experiences. In 2018, “law enforcement spends seven times more hours training officers on the use of firearms than on how to de-escalate situations”. “Higher education has the academic expertise and experience to produce critically reflective practitioners, capable and competent to conduct themselves professionally and meet the challenges of contemporary policing.” There is a multifold of advantages to requiring a higher education of potential law enforcement officials such as: learning responsibility, professional development, decrease in cost for training recruits, widens pool of diverse candidates for employers, exposes students to a variety of university experiences, and gain understanding of the complexity of communities without exposure to the police culture. Ultimately, a higher education allow for countless career options for students who decide that the police force is not a career they wish to pursue and strengthens the connection between law enforcement and higher learning institutions. As long as it is not a requirement for law enforcement to achieve a higher education, there will always be an inadequate system.

Integrating structural changes for law enforcement would decrease the amount of unnecessary policing. When only 12 officers are charge with a crime after the killing of 1,129 citizens, the conversation moves from motive, to the prosecutors. The lack of consequence handed out from local prosecutors handling cases from law enforcement alludes the appearance of justice. Conflicts of interest and racial dynamics in the judicial system causes a significant distrust and undermines the public’s faith in the justice system overall. “The appearance of a conflict arises for two reasons: (1) the “symbiotic relationship”61 between local district attorney offices and their law enforcement counterparts and (2) the systemic pressures on local district attorneys to avoid charging and prosecuting police”. Robertson explores the idea that with increased media attention surrounding the subject of extreme police brutality, the judicial system is incapable to successfully try cases in court. Scholars have argued that a way to combat the conflict of interest would be to have an appointed prosecutor from outside of the specific community, that way the prosecutor has no connections to the law enforcement culture. Caleb argues unfair bias in the judicial system will endanger the legitimacy of our overall system. Courtney Turkington explores current legislations and how they can be changed, so those released have increased employment opportunities and reducing recidivism. Louisiana not only has the highest incarceration rate out of the entire United States, but 13 times that of China. The United States only makes up 5% of the global population, yet Louisiana accounts for 25% of the amount of citizens incarcerated. “Mass incarceration has had a disproportionate impact on black Americans. Despite representing 13.6% of the total population of the United States, black Americans make up approximately 35.4% of the total prison population, numerically outnumbering the white prison population. Sentencing disparities, particularly with capital punishment, further the perception of systemic racial bias in the criminal justice system”. Turkington states that Louisiana can continue to lock up nonviolent offenders while its taxpayers foot the bill. In 2016, the Governor John Bel Edwards stated his goal was to reduce the number of inmates by 5,000 by the end of his term. But to achieve this goal, they must decriminalize those who were locked up for nonviolent crimes. As Michelle Alexander stated, once you are labeled a criminal, that notion will follow you throughout your life. “Convicted felons in the state are subject to 389 employment restrictions, whereas the national average is only 123.136 These restrictions include making ex-offenders ineligible for specific business or property licenses and certain occupations, including those in law enforcement, education, and the health profession”. Turkington states that they must expunge those offenders of nonviolent records to give the former inmate a chance on life outside of bars. “Not only are sheriffs still making payments on newly constructed facilities but they also rely on the prisons to generate revenue to pay for equipment, squad cars, and new technology. Many small rural communities in Louisiana rely on the prisons for jobs. Accordingly, there is intense political pressure to keep the prisons full, and the powerful prison lobby typically fights against reform efforts that could reduce the state’s incarceration rate. There is no question that “the hidden engine behind the state’s well-oiled prison machine is cold, hard cash”. The judicial system currently profits off those in prison. Analyzing Louisiana and its current incarceration structure, it builds a massive distrust from the community it serves.

On the other hand, scholars have put forth the idea that officers “have distinct personalities characterized by “machismo, bravery, authoritarianism, cynicism, and aggression,” as well as bigotry and some argue that police work itself fosters authoritarian personality traits”. Mummolo analysis’s of police reform indicates the only way to reshape law enforcement is through the institution that houses the agency With current police procedure and expectation to meet quotas, many officers claimed that if they failed to report satisfying numbers, it could result in consequences and career setbacks. “In this organizational climate, rates of stops by police soared, growing by 603% between 2002 and 2011, reaching nearly 700,000 stops in 2011”. With no direct protocols, law enforcement increased the number of stops for a suspect of a crime. Over time, Chief of Patrol James P., released a memo to the commanders of all patrolling units mandating all officers to record notes on the details of why they were stopping a citizen, and submit a photocopy to supervisors after each shift. This simple change in police protocol reduced the rate of unnecessary police-citizen interactions, and ultimately are significant for reforming police culture. “Despite persistent claims that police officers are largely autonomous actors who can shirk their duty and defy directives with impunity, we observe instead an immediate change in officer behavior in response to a relatively modest procedural change”. Scrutiny from above superiors, law enforcement adopted more conservative procedures. Procedural changes can dramatically alter the way law enforcement interacts with their communities

Various reforms proposed by the government to hold police officers accountable have failed miserably. For example, body cameras were implemented because the public thought it would hold police officers more accountable, and the officers thought it would exonerate them from false accusations. However, neither of these expectations became realities. Body cameras have filmed multiple deaths, with no charges brought against the shooter. Eric Garner, John Crawford, and Tamir Rice’s death was filmed, yet none saw justice. “All men are created equal,” has represented unity amongst Americans of all races, nationalities, genders, and socioeconomic status. But in America, some men in blue have the right to gun down unarmed, men of color without just cause and walk scot free. With current reforms, we will remain the same America today, in 10 years time. We will argue, protest, fight for the same cause that has plagued this nation for years. The United States desperately needs more effective reforms such as higher education, racial diversity, and structural change if we ever hope to see the other end of the tunnel. Some will argue that each incident is isolated, and that it has no connection to the blue as a whole. However, each incident that is handled so carelessly, will create distrust and fear of a system that gives the appearance of protection to only that of those doing the shooting. Changing the structure of the police would decrease the amount of unnecessary policing, when officers have a better understanding of each other, then they can understand the surrounding community, and higher education instills critical thinking and gives officers more life experiences. How long will it take to “Make America Great Again”?

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