2015-06-06 / The Rock

Does the system work?

By Maurice Smith

From Michael Brown to Renisha McBride, police brutality and the rampant mistrust of cops has been ingrained in certain parts of society and cultures.

From an early age, many have been taught that cops are always here for our protection, and to a certain extent that is true.

But do cops stand for our safety? And if they do, are the incarceration rates of those apprehended correct?

Law enforcement officials were recently invited into a classroom to address questions students were having in regard to the recent alleged incidents in the news of police brutality. Students learned that officers shoot in the largest part of a suspect’s body to eliminate the threat, not wound. Although this is law enforcement protocol, can it be justified for trivial cases stemming from 2012, such as the shooting of 22-year-old Darrien Hunt, who was playing in a Japanese anime costume with a toy sword, or the shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-yearold boy from Ohio who was shot dead by two policemen within two seconds of arrival on the scene for possessing a toy gun? This alleged brute force and unfair treatment of citizens is not new to America. Recall the 1992 Rodney King police beating that sparked six days of Los Angeles protests and riots.

An anonymous poll surveyed 18 Person High School (PHS) students to find out their thoughts about police brutality and racism.

One student said, “There are brave men and women [in law enforcement] who [put their lives on the line to protect citizens] at any cost and are there whenever [citizens need them]. [It] makes me mad when people say [some police are racists] when they will arrest anybody who is bad enough, [regardless] of race, gender or sexuality.”

Nevertheless, the facts support that there is a problem with police brutality.

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, in 2011, New York police conducted stop and frisks on 685,724 citizens. Of them, 88 percent or 605,328 were completely innocent, 54 percent or 350,743 were African American, 34 percent or 223,740 were Latino, and nine percent or 61, 805 were white. Stop and frisk has been declared illegal by multiple judges for the violation of fourth amendment rights, yet cops still use the practice widely in large cities such as New York.

Currently, the United States makes up five percent of the world population, but 25 percent of world prisoners. To this day, African Americans make up one million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated. African Americans are jailed up to six times the rate of whites, and combined with Hispanics, both African Americans and Hispanics constitute up to 58 percent of the total jailed population in America. This is startling for most when considering that Hispanics and African Americans constitute 25 percent of the United States population. If these trends were to continue in the future, one in three black males born from today can expect to spend time in prison during their lifetimes.

Sourcing data from the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Criminal Fact Sheet shows that 14 million white Americans and 2.6 million black Americans admit to using an illicit drug. Though whites use drugs at five times the rate of African Americans, the latter race is caught, charged, and jailed up to 10 times the rate of Whites. Broken down into percentages, African Americans are 12 percent of the population’s drug users, but 38 percent of those arrested, and 59 percent in a state prison for drug charges. Even more startling is that African Americans serve as much time in prison for a drug charge as whites do for a violent offense.

Multiple studies show that black faces are unintentionally associated with criminal behavior and that the alleged prejudice in the minds of cops is subconscious. David Omodio, a NYU professor, presented data shown on a scatter plot that shows Eurocentric faces and features are preferred over African American, proving there does not need to be explicit racial prejudice for racial prejudice to exist. According to the American Psychological Association, young black males are perceived to be older and less innocent than young white males; furthermore, black males are perceived to be perpetually angry and subhuman. According to CNN, young black men are 21 times more likely to be shot by police in America than young white males.

Put the focus in your pocket. The NAACP also reported that incarcerated youths will leave jail with a reduced work time over the decade by 25 to 30 percent. Those returning to society are highly unlikely to find a job and within a year will be incarcerated again, which sinks and slows the economy, leading to higher taxes for Americans to fund government assistance programs. $70 billion is spent on correction centers annually, and a heavy portion of the $200 billion spent on public safety goes to prisons and jails. Is the systematic arresting, killing or incarceration of large percentages of minorities efficient and effective? Can all law enforcement be trusted with bringing the rightfully accused to justice?

The survey of high school students included a question about whether or not law enforcement officers are doing their job, and most agreed they are. However the same students were almost evenly divided when asked if police brutality is a problem and if racism and police brutality are synonymous, with the majority responding yes to both questions.

Can police and incarceration systems be trusted with the correct apprehending and jailing of American citizens?

Is the system flawed to the point of no return, or is everything fine and merely a coincidence?

What does the research show?

Return to top