Police Brutality and Community Relations

Management of Law Enforcement AL318

Police brutality and poor community relations continues to plague racial and sociological groups throughout United States, which proves that law enforcement management needs to implement better community relations policies and procedures.

The Watts Riots of 1965 was the peak of police brutality at its worst that was documented by video. At the time, California had adopted Proposition 14. This proposition moved to block the fair housing element of the Civil Rights Act which created feelings of injustice and second-class citizenship among minorities, particularly Blacks, in the Los Angeles area. According to http://www.history.acusd.edu/, Watts was “known as the ‘duck pond’ where police could stop anyone, at any time for any reason; one study showed 90% of juveniles arrested never had charges filed.” On August 11, 1965 a ‘routine’ traffic stop in South Central Los Angeles of a suspected drunk driver is what started the Watts Riots. Apparently, the Black community had enough of the constant harassment that preceded this event and Proposition 14 did not help. The riots began and lasted for six days thereafter. By the end of the riot of 1965, 36 people (mostly Blacks) were slaughtered by police, 1,032 injured, 3,436 jailed, and $40 million dollars in property destroyed according to http://www.occawlonline.pearsoned.com/. According to Rev. James Edward Jones, this was not a “riot” but a "protest" by people not allowed to participate in mainstream of society Los Angeles. Police Chief William Parker contributed greatly to this tragedy by ordering police to use “justifiable homicide” to stop the riots. If community and minority relations were good during that time, this riot would have not happened.

Chief Parker was a proponent of military-style policing as opposed to community policing. This style of policing was very threatening to the Black community. It also added fuel to the fires of racial tension and poor community relations between police and minorities. Police using the term ‘boy…do this or do that’ to refer to Black males during a routine stop did not make matters any better as opposed to being referred to as ‘sir’ or ‘Mr…’ During the Parker administration for the LAPD, there was segregation within the police department itself; Black cops only partnered with Black cops and White cops only partnered with White cops. However, White cops were allowed to patrol Black neighborhoods such as Watts, which increased racial tension, much like North St. Louis, Missouri today. This military-style policing offered no solution but increased poor race and community relations, which eventually led to the Watts Riots of 1965.

Poor race relations are not the only element that sparks community tension with police – poor relations with specific sociological groups damages the image of police. For example, the Stonewall Inn was a gay bar located on Christopher Street in New York\'s Greenwich Village. On June 27, 1969 during the night, a police inspector and seven other officers from the Public Morals Section of the First Division of the New York Police Department arrived shortly after midnight. Allegedly, they were there to look for ‘violations’ of the alcohol control laws. During their ‘inspection’ they made the unnecessary homophobic comments, and after checking identification, they threw the patrons out, one by one, while others remained outside to watch. The gay and lesbian community had been continuously treated as second-class citizens by NYPD during this time. As with the Watts Riots, with poor community relations, it was just a matter of time before big something had to happen to initiate change. The Stonewall Riots of 1969 lasted three nights. Although there were no reported deaths as a result of this riot, it is still quite disturbing that it took three nights of rioting to even begin a change in police community relations with the particular social group. This is yet another example of the backlash of poor community relations.

There is a definitely connection between police brutality and poor community relations; they go hand in hand. Former United States Attorney General Janet Reno said it best: “The issue is national in scope and reaches people all across this country. For too many people, especially in minority communities, the trust that is so essential to effective policing does not exist because residence believe that the police have used excessive