- Posted August 19, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Black Lives Matter protests (2014)
Police Chief of Ferguson Makes an Admission by Omission, By: Dionne Wright Poulton, PhD
The chief, both optimistically and simplistically stated that “Shooting situations always create training situations” and that “police tactics get better and better and are constantly improving.” While this might be true in reference to the aforementioned police tactics, I, unfortunately, do not share the chief’s optimism for improvement since he did not acknowledge racial profiling as a possible influencer of police behavior. The shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by one of his white officers, Darren Wilson, is in of itself a glaring example of how racial bias influences police perceptions and procedures.
There are conflicting reports about what led up to Michael Brown’s demise, but what we do know is that an unarmed teenager was shot 6 times by a white police officer in a city with palpable racial tensions and a police department that is disproportionately white in comparison to the majority black population. “Shooting situations,” as the chief euphemistically stated, seem to disproportionately involve black men — and increasingly, unarmed black men so the chief’s failure to acknowledge race as a factor impacting the situation in Ferguson is an admission by omission. Race has to be present in this situation. In a recent report shared by the editorial board of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it was explicitly stated that “Last year, for the 11th time in the 14 years that data has been collected, the disparity index that measures potential racial profiling by law enforcement in the state got worse. Black Missourians were 66 percent more likely in 2013 to be stopped by police, and blacks and Hispanics were both more likely to be searched, even though the likelihood of finding contraband was higher among whites.”
This report is statistical evidence of racial bias in police practices and yet, the chief failed to point out the obvious training that his department, and many others need. And, even without this report, there is copious research that supports the notion that all of us harbor racial biases, much like the way we harbor biases on the basis of gender, age, height, weight, beauty, etc. Therefore, to believe that police officers are exempt from this natural phenomenon is absurd. And in the case of police officers, to ignore this fact has been proven deadly.
Nevertheless, while I agree with the chief’s assertion that his police department has to examine their force tactics, my suggestion is to address the problem that exists long before any type of force might be necessary – racial profiling. All police officers NEED to be trained to recognize, acknowledge, and address their racial biases and how these biases influence and impact their perceptions and preconceived notions of black men and people of color in general. So when the dust settles after this unfortunate situation, I hope Chief Jackson will find the courage to first admit that his department has issues with race, and second, begin to train his officers in this area.