Ethnicity and Justice

Ethnicity and Justice

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Ethnicity and Justice

We live in a world where we thrive on law and order and part of the order is often maintained by law enforcers including the police. In a world where there is no law and order then anarchy would really thrive which may pose to be an unfavorable environment to live in. It is for such reasons that often law enforcers play a huge role in a country and they have been granted the power to do so. However, more often than not some officers often misuse their power by brutalizing the innocent. Police brutality is an issue that is often brought up in almost every country including the United States. In the United States there have been cases of police brutality where police officers have harassed citizens or caused harm even to a suspect something not allowed and is a chargeable offence in a court of law. Extensive research has been conducted on effect police brutality has on African Americans including fatal injuries inflicted, adverse psychological effect, racist public reaction, high incarceration rates and arrests and integrated oppressive structure.

Justice system should be the most equal and fair system, however, it has had its criticism over the years. Researchers have often pointed out the link that exist between the justice system and ethnicity in America. There has been various research that have been conducted that indicates often when passing judgments or in determination of cases, ethnicity has had quite a huge impact. In America, minority groups or rather ethnicities have often felt that the justice system is often not fair to them and it seems to favor the whites (Andrew, 2010). The minority groups include African American, Latinos, and Asian Americans. In looking at the justice system, we will look at police policies, court judgements and the prison system so as to understand the correlation that exists between the criminal justice system and the link to ethnicity.

Police and law enforcers encompass the justice system therefore a look into their policies and how they affect ethnicity is important. For years’ police brutality has been documented and often police are seen to be harsher to people of color than whites. According to an analysis on FBI data, it was found that police are more likely to shoot people of color. In 2012, 31% accounted for police killing of black people which is a huge number. Racism has often been blamed on why police tend to use more force towards the blacks as compared to whites as well as existence of stereotypes such as African Americans are more likely to be criminals (Chaney, 2013). A good example is a video recorded in Spring Valley High, South Carolina showing how police brutally dragged a female student across the classroom sparking outrage. The action taken by Deputy Ben Fields was unreasonable in the sense that he had to apply the use of physical force on the minor creating a traumatic experience both to the student and other school mates. It is likely that if the student was white such an action would not have been taken against them.

There have been instances and actions that have portrayed how ruthless law enforcers can be to the minority group. There have been cases of police officers killing innocent people then defending themselves with the line that they though the victim was armed. There have dozens of cases of unarmed young men who have been stopped and later shot by police officers in cold blood. A good example is the murder of Trayvon Martin who was murdered while walking in a neighborhood that was occupied by mostly whites. He had gone to visit his father and the dad’s fiancée who were living in this neighborhood. George Zimmerman thought that he was suspicious and approached him as he thought the young man was up to no good. It is reported there was a little scuffle that led to the shooting. Such stereotypes have led to the death of so many African American. There is so much evidence that racism exists when it comes to law enforcement.

Fatal injuries may be the most felt effect when it comes to effect of police brutality. This includes injury that may arise from arrest including gunshots, wounds from cuffs, beatings that results in broken limbs and broken ribs. A good example is Dondi Johnson who was arrested in Baltimore and suffered injuries from police including broken limbs that he later succumbed from these injuries (Alang, 2017). Cases of African Americans that have succumbed from gunshots are quite too high as a result of brutality. The second reason is Psychological stress as most African Americans are often stressed if they may be the next victims. There have been those that have actually seen or rather experienced the pangs of police brutality such as children bearing witness to their parents being arrested or being beaten up. Most of these memories are long lasting and may have permanent effects.

As the public, racist relations have also been a contributor to stress. An example is an individual trying to stand up against injustice may get too much scrutiny from the general public. People who are outsiders, may judge African Americans without really them getting to understand what is that they go through. Most have to leave with this fact that not everyone will understand and try to lead just a normal life. At times we advocate for certain laws such as the police stop and search citing that such policies help in ensuring there is law and order and although this may be true, it is these same laws that targets the African Americans being profiled by law enforcers (Alang, 2017). There have been cases of police officers killing innocent people then defending themselves with the line that they thought the victim was armed. There have dozens of cases of unarmed young men who have been stopped and later shot by police officers in cold blood (Swaine, 2015). These policies have resulted in the arrest of a majority of African Americans. At times they are charged punitively and harshly for mistakes that whites receive just a slap on the wrist. The criminal justice system has been found to be racist as band bails are set high for the African Americans when compared to the whites. This is another factor that contributes to high number of blacks in jails.

Economic and financial constraints that are put on African American communities is too much. At times the medical bills that they have to pay is at times too high and for most they come from already poor backgrounds thus raising money to treat their family member who has suffered from the police beatings. This is money that had not been planned for and their already limited resources have to be channeled into something else. The burial expenses also stretch out the financial muscle of the African American community. Getting to prepare for a burial requires money and it may be really hard for the family especially knowing that this form of death could have been prevented.

Black community disempowerment is also another effect of police brutality. Most places where African Americans live are poor neighborhoods that lack resources. Even years later after Jim Crows law were abolished effect can still be felt by looking at the places where most African Americans live which are quite poor neighborhoods. Police brutality robs of the African American community able bodied men some of whom are bread winners to their family. Disempowerment also comes from the way most cases are often treated without much concern. Most of the cases are often ruled in the favor of the law enforcers and the form of punishment that they get is a transfer or desk duty for a while and then being handed in their badge again. This is an informal rule used by the police officers that no officer should report their fellow colleague’s error, crime or misconduct no matter what. Blue wall of silence is used in the force to indicate that any police officer needs to have their fellow officer’s back no matter what and cases that go unreported including cases on police brutality. Such instances discourage African American from getting justice because they know nothing much can be done.

Police brutality has an impact directly on those affected and indirectly to the community or family of those affected. Those left behind have to try and move on which at times involve ignoring comments that may be made that appear racist. Example is when people assume most African Americans are criminals thus the high number of arrests and incarceration. These comments get to affect most African Americans but some ignore it. The injuries and death as a result of police brutality contribute to psychological stress as well as economic burden to African Americans. In order to address police brutality, we need to be ready to have a talk on racial inequality among minorities (Days, 2006).

One of the greatest contributors of police brutality is the perception law enforcers have towards most African Americans and at times these perceptions are misleading. Most law enforcers view the African Americans especially the male as violent and more likely to commit crimes. This is why during a stop and search policy, a black is more likely to be stopped and force used on them. Law enforcers will often perceive a black man as a threat and think they are armed. There have been so many numerous cases where unarmed man tried reaching out for something in his pocket and the law enforcer misinterprets this as him reaching out for a gun thus putting him down and later using it as a defense (Earl, 2006). Police exerting force during a protest has often is seen to be different and much more force may be used in a protest organized by African Americans.

Media can a play a role in desensitizing the public on police killing through the stereotypes often portrayed. When media reports on crimes conducted a black, most often they will use a mug shot or a picture portraying the image that a person may be an offender on the other hand one may find that in most cases when a white commits a crime a picture of them smiling or even with the family is used. It is through media reporting that certain stereotypes have been created such as how most African Americans are hot tempered or how most are violent and are more likely to commit crimes. The media need to be unbiased when reporting incidences of protest especially one involving the minority groups. Humans are more naturally likely to give more attention to negative news when compared to positive news this may lead the media to sensationalize news especially on police brutality for example the Michael Brown’s case. This journalistic approach may result in diminishing of empathy as well as emotional response that the public may have when viewing the news based on the fact that thy may or may not relate (Leopold, 2017). A case like the Brow’s case may not be relatable to whites as compared to African Americans this is why there were protest by movements including Black Lives mater. These movements were discussed by some news outlets some referring to the group as a violent group that wanted to challenge the law enforcers. Such reporting deviates people’s attention into believing that the movement and their protest may not be valid as they are using violence.

Police will respond to various protest with different force depending on a couple of factors. Law enforcers protect economic as well as political interest of certain elites. Depending on the issue being protested against the force may be minimal or brutal. Issues such as police brutality are sensitive issues these is because a country like America has gone through years of changes in a bid to achieve racial equality (Reynolds-Stenson, 2018). Issues such as police brutality that still persist points out how issues of racial inequality are far from over. Police presence in protests on police brutality has been found to be high as compared to the presence of other protest. The police seem to be more repressive when their reputation is actually challenged. When police officers use force on unarmed African Americans at times to drive their narrative on brutality but this is countered by the argument that violence was used by the protesters and they were thus retaliating as their role is to ensure there is law and order. In order to ensure law enforcers are able to manage protests in a far much better way, negotiated management is applied. Negotiated management is whereby the law enforcers are trained ways that they can be able to deal with protests without the use of force.

Theoretically, police should be able to handle protest by African Americans the same way that they get to handle protests by whites. However, in real life scenario this does not seem to work as African Americans are treated with much more force. During a police brutality protest, they often feel the need to defend their legitimacy. They are likely to quell these protest by dispersing protesters so that the protest does not garner as much attention as it should. When their job is threatened and tarnished there is a tension between the protestors and the police officers and they often feel the need to use force to stop the protest (Reynolds-Stenson, 2018). Through negotiated management police officers should have a certain amount of tolerance when it comes to protesters but the force often used against African Americans shows that this may not be applicable in a docket that seem racial inequality and treatment of African Americans is still different.

Police and law enforcers encompass the justice system therefore a look into their policies and how they affect ethnicity is important. For years’ police brutality has been documented and often police are seen to be harsher to people of color than whites. According to an analysis on FBI data, it was found that police are more likely to shoot people of color. In 2012, 31% accounted for police killing of black people which is a huge number. Racism has often been blamed on why police tend to use more force towards the blacks as compared to whites as well as existence of stereotypes such as African Americans are more likely to be criminals (Chaney, 2013). A good example is a video recorded in Spring Valley High, South Carolina showing how police brutally dragged a female student across the classroom sparking outrage. The action taken by Deputy Ben Fields was unreasonable in the sense that he had to apply the use of physical force on the minor creating a traumatic experience both to the student and other school mates. It is likely that if the student was white such an action would not have been taken against them.

For years, racial profiling has existed in our justice system and the minority groups have been affected. Often, the stereotypes that have been created against these groups is what has constantly led to the failing of the judicial system. African Americans have often suffered wrong convictions and arrests in large numbers. This has been contributed by policies in place that seem to target the minor ethnic groups. The first policy that I believe has an effect on our justice system is the stop and search policy by the law enforcers. Police are tasked with ensuring that law and order is maintained and there are several legislations that have been passed that ensures this. One of the legislation is the stop and search laws, however, the minorities are often affected by search laws, an African American is likely to be stopped and searched as well as other minorities as compared to whites. When an African American is stopped for a routine search, the police officers often have a mentality they may be armed and dangerous, that is why they are often asked to put they arms where the officers can see, for whites however, a stop and search may actually be a casual conversation with no force use.

There are several minorities who have lost their lives during the stop and search. Several cases of minorities in a car trying to reach out for their documentation, have found themselves being shot at by the police who later on go on to use the defense that they thought that the police officer was reaching out for a weapon. Oscar Grant, age 22, is an example of African American who lost his life in New York on a New Year’s Eve as they were out with their friends. Oscar was heading home where he was asked to stop for a routine search to which he complied with, however, the police went ahead and shot him from the back. Oscar is just one case, there are so many cases of minorities being treated differently in a routine stop and search at times even officers planting illegal substances on them. The issue is not the law of stop and search, but rather it’s execution especially towards the minority groups. Stop and searches, have helped in maintaining law and order but there needs to be changes such as the use of Body cameras as a way of trying to tame the rogue officers.

On the job trouble refers to the problematic encounters that law enforcers may encounter while carrying out their job. If protest occur, police are tasked with ensuring there is law and order and that protesters carry out the protest peacefully without causing harm or vandalism to others. In the job trouble refers to dealing with police as well as the legal bureaucracies where one has to explain their actions on the job. This may include an inquiry of police conduct after a protest. Police may create ‘in the job’ trouble for themselves when they become repressive as they try to maintain law and order avoiding “on the job” trouble (Reynolds-Stenson, 2018). In cases where police officers may avoid to use more of hands-off approach especially in a protest that has violent tendencies, then there is likelihood of lawlessness.

Although police may often feel that through use of force to deal with protesters especially those on police brutality may be a way to resolve a tarnished name, this may not be the case. Use of force and police presence in cases of protest helps in garnering the attention of the media on the issues around police brutality and the partiality that exists when it comes to quelling of police protests. This attention is what forms basis for creation of movements such as Black Lives Matter a group that helps in dealing and advocating against police brutality by use of means that are much more peaceful and does not allow confrontation with police. Social media and improvement of technology has also helped in dealing with police brutality as now evidence can be captured where police are using force thus promoting transparency and accountability. However, these movements too have faced their fair share of opposition. There are people who’ve come up with slogans such as “all lives matter” not that anyone has ever invalidated the fact that all lives matter, however, this is a case of gas lighting where they want to portray that African American seem to just care about themselves.

Prosecution of police brutality cases have proved difficult often because police officers are people at power while the plaintiff is just an ordinary citizen. Blue wall of silence is another factor that impedes justice especially in police brutality cases. Blue wall of silence is a term that is used by police whereby as an officer you cannot be able to report a fellow officer for any of their misconducts. These code was developed by law enforcers as a way of ensuring that trust is built among the colleagues and to know that a person or partner will have your back. According to a report by Christopher commission of the LAPD, they found that most officers observed code of silence as a way of shielding their colleagues. The code of silence was actually strongest in crime hotspots and dangerous neighborhoods. Because of the code, most officers are often afraid of testifying against a fellow officer even though they do know of their misconduct. This is because there are repercussions to testifying against your officer including discrimination, or being beaten up. A good example of this code is the trial of Officer Francil Livoti who had been charged with the homicide of Anthony Baez. Most officers who testified went ahead and lied in court a term referred to as “testilying”. The judge could not sentence the officer due to lack of evidence. He however noted that most officers had committed perjury by lying to the court. Most police brutality cases often end up with insufficient evidence and at times these officers are only slapped with a transfer or a suspension letter for a few weeks.

People of color have also been victims to the judicial system. Cases of people of color seem to be mishandled and quick judgments passed at times. Let’s use the Central Park Five example as this is what is being talked on most discussions when it comes to discussion on the justice system and ethnicity. Central Park five was a case on five teenagers who were accused of raping a jogger. These children were threatened into confessing to these crimes and years later it was found that they were innocent as the person who had committed that crime had come forward. In a research that was conducted by the Innovations for Poverty Actions, more than 40% of people who were incarcerated were minorities especially the African Americans. The research also established that an African American is seven times more likely to be jailed than the whites. The incarceration rates for the Latinos was also significantly high thus one wonders if there is discrimination I the judicial system.

The United States judicial system has had a long standing principle that defendants should not be treated with contempt or differently because of their ethnicity and this is codified in the US constitution, 14th amendment “Equal Protection.” However, the matter of equality has been questioned through the analysis of sentencing as well as conviction rates by ethnicity. There is researcher who have defended the sentencing gap as not an issue but rather other factors come into play including education level, income and other factors that may not be easy to observe. Although this may be true there is evidence that race has been used especially in sentencing. People of color often get harsher penalties as compared to the whites. Whites were likely to receive a larger sentence reduction in a case as compared to the Latinos or the blacks because of cooperation with the police (Jordan, 2010). It has also been hypothesized that people of color are likely to be jailed before their trials thus resulting in them getting harsh sentences. Another aspect of race a sentencing is that a black or Latino is likely to receive harsher sentences if a victim to a crime was white as compared to a reverse scenario. The best example is a case in Florida under judge Sherwood who was overseeing a case with two suspects both of whom pleaded guilty to the same crime in the same circumstances. Most would think sentencing would be same or close but the black defendant was sentenced for 26 years in jail while the white defendant was sentenced for two years’ time served. The Sarasota Herald Tribune in 2016 had a series of articles titled “Bias on the Bench” with the aim that they would highlight the racial disparity when it came to sentencing and people of color are the most affected (Sarasota Herald Tribune).

There have also been debates whether the 13th Amendment was replaced with slavery. This is because despite the fact that slavery had been abolished, the amendment allowed for those that had Breen incarcerated to serve as slaves. Most whites saw this law as a loophole to try and arrest as many blacks as they could. There has been a documentary on Netflix “The 13th” that looks at how these legislations have enabled the justice system to work against African Americans. An example is war on drugs and how most African Americans were arrested during this period. Currently, with legalization of weed, lobby groups supporting African Americans have expressed concerns on why people wo were charged with weed possession are still in jail because most of them are the minorities, the Latino and African Americans. The whites seem to enjoy the legalization while the minorities are punished by the justice system.

There are several measures that can be taken in a bid to end police brutality. The first is a review of the stop and search policy. If the policy is to continue then it should be carried out in a manner that do not depict a picture that certain races are being targeted over others simply because there is a narrative, they are more likely to commit crime being peddled. Police officers should also have body cameras as part of their uniform so as to record their interactions with citizens. In case of a report on police brutality these cameras may serve as important sources of evidence to prove if a police officer violated a civilian’s right. There are precincts that are already using this such as New York and Washington D.C. Police officers need to introduce reforms in the system that makes it clear officers involved in police brutality and those who help their colleagues cover up for their crimes will face dire consequences including jail terms and termination. Cases against police officers should be tried by independent prosecutors and not the district attorney as most work with them and they may not be partial in the case. Independent Office of Police investigation should be given powers to prosecute and charge officers in criminal courts (Hickman, 2007).

In a nutshell, there has often been statistics that will purport that crime rate is higher among African Americans, they are most likely to be violent and are most likely to possess firearms. These statistics have often generated a certain stereotype among individuals where we tend to believe that all African Americans are violent. It is such thinking that has contributed to the police brutality that is often encountered by African Americans especially the male. The number of African American men that have been killed by the police simply because they were mistaken to be criminals or thought to be carrying a weapon are staggering high. This has been fueled by the arguments made by Otto that are biased that begins to associate violence to genetics or wants to associate lower IQ to race. The criminal justice system often gets to award longer and harsher sentences to the black Americans as compared to the whites who may have committed the same crime. Huge criminal justice need to be done in order to ensure that racism does not have its place in administration of justice and that every person is treated equally.

References

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Alang, S., McAlpine, D., McCreedy, E., & Hardeman, R. (2017). Police brutality and black health: setting the agenda for public health scholars. American journal of public health, 107(5), 662-665.

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Chaney, C., & Robertson, R. V. (2013). Racism and police brutality in America. Journal of African American Studies, 17(4), 480-505.

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Swaine, J., Laughland, O., Lartey, J., & McCarthy, C. (2015, December 31). Young black men killed by US police at highest rate in year of 1,134 deaths. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/31/the-counted-police-killings-2015-young-black-men