How diversity affects police work? Traci Ann Fuchs August 16, 2013 SS 310 Cultural Diversity DR. Don Kirk Macon The role of the police is to enforce the law, not to question it. This means that the police have been used to do society’s racial dirty work–to return runaway slaves to their masters and to enforce segregation in the South. We have only to think of Southern sheriffs like “Bull” Connor to remind us of how the white power structure has fought to maintain its privileges. However, it also pays to remember that it is always easier to admit the sins of the past than it is to identify those of today.
Few people today would defend a sheriff like Connor, but while there is widespread agreement today that racism is a serious problem, that consensus dwindles when people are asked to confirm specific examples. People will admit to the problem in general, but balk at attributing racist motives to any example that cuts too close to home. The police today must contend directly with a number of issues that carry a racial subtext both in fact and in perception: crime, drugs, disorder, civil unrest, and police brutality.
While some can look at the same glass and call it half empty, while others call it half full, there is ample reason to suggest that even the most optimistic observers would agree that the police face a major challenge in this era of racial anxiety (Trojanowicz ;amp; Bucqueroux, 1991). The purpose of this paper will be to explore the dynamics of the racially charged issues that the police must deal with. It will also explore how and why a nationwide shift to Community Policing is essential if law enforcement is to face the challenge of promoting greater racial harmony as we are in the 21st century.
It will also contend that Community Policing helps ensure that the police are not misused again, as they have been in the past. Given the daily interaction between law enforcement officers and the diverse public, diversity training for law enforcement workers aids a better understanding of different types of people and their situations. Such education leads to better interaction. Those whose professional ideal is to protect and serve people equally from all backgrounds must face the challenges and complexities of a diverse society.
A lack of communication effectiveness, coupled with little understanding of individuals’ backgrounds, can result in inadvertent violation of individuals’ rights as well as officer safety and risk issues. Officers, even more than others, must ensure that their prejudices remain in check and that they refrain from acting on any biased thought. Although our nation has been enriched by diversity, many police procedures and interactions with citizens can be more complex because of diversity. Racial tensions and communication challenges with immigrants, for example, are bound to complicate some police encounters.
It would be naive to preach to law enforcement officers, agents, and managers about the value of diversity when day-to-day activities can be complicated by diversity. At a minimum, a basic acceptance of diversity on the part of all criminal justice representatives is required as a precursor to improving interpersonal relations and contact across cultural, ethnic, and racial lines. (Robert M. Shusta, 2103) Law enforcement officers are affected by culture diversity each day as they patrol and interact with citizen within their jurisdictions.
Communities depend on law enforcement for measures of security, safety and service. Some segments of communities have felt neglected or misunderstood by local law enforcement, leading to a lack of trust and a sense of insecurity. With this being the feeling of the community, contemporary law enforcement on the local, state, and federal level has changed immensely from the practices used by law enforcement in the past. Today law enforcement officers receive education and training far exceeding any training implemented in history. Training and education focuses on cultural diversity, religion, and effective communication.
In addition, a demand for a more educated, professional, and level headed officer is sought-after by a system composed of rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and laws that if not followed can result in due process of law violations, loss of cases, civil litigations, and much more. These positive characteristics instilled in law enforcement officers alleviate behaviors considered unethical. Law enforcement officers educated in cultural diversity are less likely to apply bias, prejudice, and discrimination toward people of color, or one’s sexual preference, gender, age, and religious and spiritual beliefs (Harley, 2008).
Unfortunately, even with professionalism and equality at the top of law enforcement requirements individuals working within the criminal justice system are permitted discretionary powers that can be used in either a positive or negative manner. Law enforcement officers when encountering a situation can apply discretion based on personal, religious, and family beliefs. This, in return can be detrimental to the indigent and minority groups as ignorance appears to be a trait beneficial to an officer who engages in prejudice or discriminatory decision making.
Unfair treatment, such as racial profiling, continues to be problem indigent and minorities encounter throughout the United States on a regular basis. Racial profiling has led to numerous civil litigations, and criminal charges filed against individual officers, departments, and states. Not all bad comes from a culturally diverse Nation and criminal justice system. Contemporary law enforcement is considered an equal opportunity employer and seeks out minority to work as professionals within the system.
In addition, more minorities are attending college and receiving associates, bachelors, masters, and even doctoral degrees. Research proved by pairing law enforcement officers from different ethnic backgrounds community members are given the ability to witness firsthand different ethnic groups can, in fact coexist, and work together for the greater good of society. Moreover, in certain situations and under certain circumstances minority officers are better capable of understand and dealing with the actions of an individual from the same ethnic group than that of an officer from a different ethnicity.
This in return can alleviate the possibility of verbal and physical confrontation between the citizen and law enforcement officer. Understanding different cultures can further alleviate civil litigation against the individual officer, department, and state as departments can create policies and procedures that assist offices when encountering minority. Diversity within a law enforcement department can create an atmosphere, in which individual officers are permitted to share creative ideas. These ideas can produce a more effective and organized police department (Harley, 2008).
Community policing is a key feature that was used in the past and still is by law enforcement today. Officers concerned with and focus on obtaining good community policing skills are culturally diverse and realize establishing a rapport with members of society from the same culture and different culture is equally important. Community and law enforcement relations is crucial in more ways than not. A majority of investigations require the cooperation and assistance of community members for the successful detection and apprehension of criminal wrongdoers.
Without the cooperation of community members, law enforcement is left without eye witnesses, testimony, and other assistance much needed to save valuable time, money, and resource. The job of law enforcement requires a certain level of comfort and professionalism in interacting with people from all backgrounds whether one is working with community members to build trust or dealing with suspects, victims, and coworkers. Through increased awareness, cultural knowledge, and skills, law enforcement as a profession can increase its cultural competence.
Acquiring cultural competence is not an instantaneous process; it is multilayered and complex, and includes: • Exploration of officers’ belief systems and biases • Awareness of an officer’s perspectives and perceptions, especially as they may differ from those associated with minority viewpoints • Acquisition of cultural information relevant to the concerns of law enforcement, and the capacity to apply that knowledge in ethnic, racial, and other diverse communities • Increased communication skills leading to effective rapport building and communication with all community members Development of a set of principles, attitudes, policies, and structures that will enable all individuals in an organization to work effectively and equitably across all cultures and ethnicities. There are, of course, no guarantees that Community Policing can prevent civil disorders. But by reducing opportunities for police brutality and encouraging better relations between people and their police, Community policing can reduce the threat. Obviously, Community Policing cannot solve all the underlying economic and social problems, that poor neighborhoods face.
Community Officers also cannot close the income gap between whites and minorities, nor do they come to their beats bearing lists of high-paying jobs for unskilled workers. Community Officers also cannot undo the effects of past childhood abuse and neglect. They cannot single-handedly eradicate the scourge of substance abuse, domestic evidence, illiteracy, and poverty, though they may be able to do far more than their motor patrol counterparts. Yet even the most dedicated Community Officers cannot play both Mother and Father for all the children whose parents simply do not care.
The strategies an individual uses to approach and build rapport with his or her own cultural group may result in unexpected difficulties with another group. The acts of approaching, communicating, questioning, assisting, and establishing trust with members of culturally diverse groups require special knowledge and skills that have nothing to do with the fact that “the law is the law” and must be enforced equally. Acquiring knowledge and skills that lead to sensitivity does not imply preferential treatment of any one group; rather it contributes to improved communication with members of all groups. Robert M. Shusta, 2103) The American criminal justice system was based on the belief of providing equality to all individuals legal and illegal charged with a crime or suspected of committing a crime in the United States. Unfortunately, disparity and discrimination continues to occur from the time an individual of a low socioeconomic status or of color comes into contact with law enforcement right through the entire stages of a trial, and into the correctional facility.
Fortunately, with the increase in minority population the criminal justice system is witnessing a shift in balance. Even though whites still continue to dominate all aspects of the criminal justice system, minorities are entering the system at record speeds. Minorities employed in the system offer new ideas responsible for creating and implementing new policies, procedures, and laws. This in return, is creating a system open to culture and a Nation as highly developed and sophisticated as the United States cannot accept anything less. Harley, 2008) REFERENCES: Erickson, M. A. (2011, June 23). Changing Today’s Law Enforcement Culture to Face 21st-Century Threats. Retrieved from The Heritage foundation; leadship for America: http://www. heritage. org/research/reports/2011/06/changing-todays-law-enforcement-culture-to-face-21st-century-threats Harley, D. (2008). Rehabiitation Education. Social Justice and Cultural Diversiity Issues, 237-248. doi:EBSCOhost database Robert M. Shusta, D. R. (2103, July 23). Multicultural Law Enforcement: Strategies for Peacekeeping in a Diverse