1. Research Position Paper- Yoshi

Beyond Fatal Encounters

Some police officers react irrationally to a perceived threat. A threat is a declaration of an intention to inflict punishment, injury, etc. Police perceptions on threats are directed towards black people. Police usually kill more black people than anyone else, because they claim to feel more threatened by them. Overall, white people are killed more often than black people because, in America, there are nearly one hundred and sixty billion more white people than black people. But when the population is proportionalized black people are twice as likely to get killed in police shootings as white people. Common knowledge is correct: white cops brutalize black suspects often enough to be statistically relevant. The latitude of response, from an officer, for a black suspect is extremely-thin to nonexistent. Compared to citizens, police are always right, and will mostly always get favored in the jury system. Police, very often, get away with brutalizing innocent citizens, even if the incident is life-threatening to the citizen. About one in five Americans say they know someone physically mistreated or abused by the police, three in five of those people are black.
Police officers are more likely to shoot at a suspect, if they’re not white. This racial bias was apparent in New York City’s racial biased “stop and frisk” program. The Stop and Frisk Program was designed to allow police officers to stop anyone that they deemed suspicious. During the first three months of this 83% of the people that ended up being stopped and frisked were black or latino. Leaving only a maximum of only potentially 17% white people being stopped, which is tremendously less. This study speaks loudly on the very obvious targeting that happens from police.

Josh Correll, a psychology professor from the University of Colorado, ran test with a video game. His findings showed police officers avoid shooting unarmed targets of all races, but as soon as they were allowed to shoot, they would shoot more quickly against blacks suspects over white ones. This shows that officers do display some racial bias in shooting suspects.  Also, in another study by Correll, research found that the public and police are less likely to view black people as innocent. In the real world, this can lead officers to shoot black people more often than white people. According to Correll’s study, if a cop is inclined to shoot at a black suspect more quickly this can lead to fault such as, shooting a innocent suspect.

Eric Garner was approached by officers, as they accused him of selling a loose cigarette. Garner questioned why he was being arrested, the officers did not answer. Once Garner began to resisted arrest, claiming he did nothing wrong, Officer Pantaleo placed Garner in a chokehold, and officers then began to help wrestle Garner down to the ground, even though he was no longer resisting. Garner was held with his face down against the cement. Garner was not perceived as a threat to the officers, he had no weapons on him, and he wasn’t yelling or screaming. Garner was surrounded by other police officers, and also innocent pedestrians that were recording the officers abuse. Garner yelled, “I can’t breathe” to the officer holding him down; the officer did not stop. Eventually, Garner runs out of breath, and was later approached by street medics. Garner was pronounced dead from compression to the neck, from Officer Pantaleo’s chokehold, and compression of chest, from being restrained against the ground. More recently, police officers have been over reacting to a black man’s behavior as if their behavior were life threatening to the police officer.

Tragedy sparked across the nation after Eric Garner’s death. His final words, “I can’t breathe” became a national protest movement. The death of Garner is what sparked the questions of correlation between race and killing from law enforcement. He died in July, in November Officer Pantaleo appeared before the grand jury at court. Officer Pantaleo claimed he didn’t intended to choke Eric Garner, even though Garner repeatedly stated he could not breathe. The jury then declared there was not enough evidence to further continue an investigation, and Officer Pantaleo was sent free, case was dismissed. Garner was not a threat to police officers. He simply questioned why he was being arrested, and with no answer from the officer, he resisted arrest until the officer had a reason. The officers then overreacted to his decision to ask why he was being arrested, and choked him to death. There could have been many ways to avoid killing Garner. He was only asking why he was being arrested, with a simple explanation, he could have still been alive today.

In Missouri, Michael Brown was gunned down because he was under suspicion of stealing a cigarillo. He had no weapons on him, but he was perceived as a threat to the officer. The officer confronted Brown though his car, Brown proceeded to walk away. The officer gets out of his car, and shoots Brown six times, twice hitting Brown in the head. Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, was dismissed with no charges. These cases were two weeks apart, and protest across the United States broke out. Police are trained to miss their target purposely, just to scare the victim and have them surrender. In this case, the officer purposely shot him in the head, intending to kill him.

Similarly enough, Tamir Rice, a twelve year old boy was shot and killed at a playground, after playing with a toy gun. Someone called 911 telling the operator, a little boy was playing with a gun, they specified that it had an orange tag on it. The orange tags shows that the gun is a toy gun. The officer shows up to the park, and within two seconds the officer shoots Tamir Rice, leaving him dead at the park. The officers could have simply approached Rice, and calmly asked him to put down his gun. The officers posed Rice as a threat, but he was no more of a threat than, Garner or Brown, who were unarmed.This child should not have in any circumstance been shot and killed, although the cop could have taken his gun or taken him home, he did not. The officer proceeded to kill a helpless child and many would argue for no other reason then the his physical appearance.

A very apparent thing that the majority of all studies that relate to this topic is that white people are viewed less of a threat then latino or black individuals. John Crawford went into Walmart to purchase a toy gun for his son when police saw him and shot and killed him on site, still inside of the Walmart. Jonathan Ferrell was driving in Charlotte, NC when he got into an accident. He went to a nearby home and tried to knock on the door to ask for help but the residents inside were too afraid to let him in because he was black and called the cops. When the police officers arrived on the scene of the accident Ferrell approached them asking for help and he was shot dead. Akai Gurley was gunned down in his apartment staircase for no real reason at all, the officer only claimed it to be an accident. These are no accidents, these are people’s lives that are being destroyed and families being torn apart because of racism or fear and it’s out of control.

In a popular study, researchers wrote that their analysis of the 990 fatal shootings in 2015 “suggests the police exhibit shooter bias by falsely perceiving blacks to be a greater threat than non-blacks to their safety.” This is another topic that majority of studies all agreed upon, when cops feel threatened they’re more likely to fire and act irrationally. Unfortunately this happens to be in almost every encounter we hear about now. Not every encounter black people have with cops is deadly and not every encounter cops have with black people do they feel threatened, but enough of them are. This causes a very uncomfortable normal that we as a society should not stand for or accept.

The media and news stations often are to blame for this unjustified racism, as well. Often when there’s a black or latino shooting in which people are saying the cop is at fault, the media will flash a picture of the victim making them look bad. They often will use previous criminal photos, or photos of them on the streets with friends and try to portray them as criminals. The reasoning behind this is to spread mass agreement that cop was not wrong and the person who just became a victim for no reason was not really a victim but a criminal in everyday life. In result, this often causes people to leave negative opinions on the deceased and how they were somehow wrong, or how the camera did not show everything. When really cops do perceive non-white males to be more violent and a more apparent threat, which causes people John Crawford, Akai Gurley, Jonathan Ferrell and many more to die for no reason.

There are so many studies and cases showing in which a cop killed an innocent black male or child for no reason other than fear. A young boy playing with a toy gun in a public park or a male just minding his own business walking in a staircase leading to his apartment gets killed for no reason it’s a problem. But this has become so much more than that because there is hundreds of stories almost the same as these or very similar circulating the internet. The media is supposed to be on the same side as the public of the United States of America, but them turning on the victims of these unfair killings is making the problem so much larger.

My worthy but mistaken opponent believes that, police officers kill more black people because they come in contact with them more often. Traffic stops are very random, for the most part officers pull you over for doing something wrong. The officer can not profile the victim, because they do not see the victim until the officer has walked up to the car.  In Cincinnati, Officer Tensing pulled over a 43 year old black man, Samuel DuBose, for not having a front license plate. DuBose began to drive away from the officer, and three officers pursued on foot. After running for a block or two officer Tensing shot DuBose in the head, killing him instantly. In court, Officer Tensing claimed, “I meant to stop the threat, I didn’t shoot to kill him. I didn’t shoot to wound him. I shot to stop his actions.” There was not threat in this situation, police officers exaggerate the word threat and use it in defense for their actions. Officer Tensing had many other decisions to make while in pursuit. He could have shot the tire, this way the car would stop moving. Officer Tensing could have called for back-up this way a police officer could chase DuBose in a car. There were many other options to avoid killing a citizen, there were many other options in order to avoid killing a father, but instead the officer decided to shot DuBose in the head and taking his life away.

My faulty opponent would claim that black people are more likely than white people to flee from police, resist arrest, and attack police and that is why they get brutalized more often. Police are trained to be racist, and they are trained to fear black people. Josh Correll, a psychology professor from the University of Colorado, ran test with a video game. His findings showed police officers avoid shooting unarmed targets of all races, but as soon as the conductor of the experiment told the officers to shoot anyone deemed suspicious, the officers would shoot more quickly against blacks suspects over white ones. This shows that officers do display some racial bias in shooting suspects. His research found that the police are less likely to view black people as “innocent.” In another study of Cornell’s, police officers were challenged to make fast impulse shooting decisions with speed and accuracy. The data from this experiment showed a racial bias in the speed of their shooting. The police shot more black targets than white targets, and the police shot so fast that it was deemed an impulse, which demonstrates how police develop a bias in their training.

America has had a problem with racism for centuries now. Everyday black people have to overcome their racial-based discrepancy in schooling, employment, economic status, etc.. Black people are more likely than white people to be unemployed, less likely to finish high school, and more likely to live in poverty or go to jail. A study done by a sociology major, shows that employers are less likely to hire someone with “Black sounding names” than someone with a “white sounding name” even when their applications were identical. Similarly enough, only a racial bias can explain why a white man with felony charges is more likely to get an interview than a black man with the same qualifications and a clean record. Even black children get treated unfairly compared to white kids. Tamir Rice for example a little boy that was playing with a gun, at the park that had an orange tag on it. The orange tags indicates that the gun is a toy gun. The officer shows up to the park and within two seconds the officer shoots Tamir Rice, leaving him dead at the park. In the same instance two boys from Ohio were playing on the street with BB guns. The police was called but this time they did not see an orange tag on the boys gun. The officers did not draw their weapons on the two boys. Instead, the officers approached the boys and arrested them. The same incidents in both situations, but the single black boy with a specified toy gun was killed in two seconds; while the two white boys were calmly approached and arrested.

Black people are seen as a threat in not only police related situations, but also in communities. 27% of all black people live in impoverished communities compared to the 11% of Americans according to Black Demographic studies. 1 out of 3 impoverished area is crime ridden. Black people get shot more because police are usual in crime ridden areas; so there are more encounters with black people over white people; but the reason they do get shot is because of the racial bias police have implemented throughout their training and work life not because they are doing something wrong. Research shows that police officers gain a cognitive bias based on their instinct. Police are more inclined to shoot at black males over white males even if the reasoning is the exact same.

Victims of the excess abuse and their families deserve an approach towards a resolution to this problem. The justice system is dishonest towards citizens and indefensibly supports law enforcement every time. It is difficult to play the victim when going against someone in law enforcement. A three year $263 millions package for police officers’ use of body cameras and an improvement of law enforcement changes was announced, in order to build public trust and to examine police violence with more evidence. This is a great step to coming to a resolution, but unfortunately it doesn’t help much. Better police training to overcome racial bias would be the best resolution for the families and victims. Humans have stereotypes for every different race. One of the most common is linking blacks to crime and aggression, and to get rid of this stereotype a lot of time and training would be required. The training would consist of shooting stimulations, such as body language, cues, and what it seems like someone is holding in their possession. This would help officers focus more on indications opposed to race. This type of training is not required by law, but it is becoming more common with racial profiling growing in the justice system. Also, another effective training that is becoming more popular is called deescalating. This requires officers to try to calm down the victim and reduce the intensity of the situation, before they result to their guns. There is not a single quick fix to this situation. But with a systematic approach and time the correlation between law enforcement and racial bias will begin to diminish.

Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, John Crawford, and Samuel DuBose have unfortunately become well known victims of the racist police hatred. Although these are by no means all of the victims or situations that have unfolded, they have become some of the more popular. Through their tragic stories as a nation we need to strive for unity and equality for all men and women, regardless of race. People’s lives are hanging in the balance along with unneeded fear that has been instilled in the majority of black males. A failure to signal or a simple few MPH over the stated speed limit should never leave the driver in fear for what may result out of his encounter with an enforcer of the law. Police officers are supposed to uphold the law for the safety of the general public in addition to making people feel safe. There’s no reason as well as no excuse for a legal citizen to feel fearful of a conversation he must have with a cop and something must be done about this. The only way we can fix this is by spreading awareness and collectively as a nation agreeing it’s wrong. Once everyone agrees it needs to be solved then it will, but until all we can do is statistically prove there is an epidemic-like problem growing that needs fixing. When we finally achieve this level of understanding and unity as a society we will have lower police caused death rates as well as us not having individuals worried for their lives.

Works Cited

Brooks, Rosa. “America’s Police Problem Isn’t Just About Police.Foreign Policy, Foreign Policy, 5 Jan. 2016, foreignpolicy.com/2016/01/05/americas-police-problem-isnt-just-about-police-guns-violence/.

Adams, Kenneth, Geoffrey P. Alpert, Roger G. Dunham, Use of Force By Police: Overview of National and Local Data Series [Research report]. Washington, DC: U.S. National Institute of Justice.

Black, D. (1976). The behavior of law. New York: Academic Press. Google Scholar. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0734016805275675

Graham, David A. “The Mysterious Death of Freddie Gray.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 22 Apr. 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/the-mysterious-death-of-freddie-gray/391119/.

Police Misconduct: Experience and Perception.” Cato Institute, CATO Institute, http://www.cato.org/policing-in-america/chapter-3/police-misconduc-experience-and-perception.

Lowery, Wesley. “Study Finds Police Fatally Shoot Unarmed Black Men at Disproportionate Rates.The Washington Post, WP Company, 7 Apr. 2016. Web.

Pages, The Society. “PATTERNS OF POLICE SHOOTINGS: One Year after Ferguson – Sociology Toolbox.” Sociology Toolbox PATTERNS OF POLICE SHOOTINGS One Year after Ferguson Comments, thesocietypages.org/toolbox/ferguson/.

Pages, The Society. “POLICE KILLING OF BLACKS: Data for 2015, 2016, 2017 – Sociology Toolbox.Sociology Toolbox POLICE KILLING OF BLACKS Data for 2015 2016 2017 Comments. Web.

Al Baker, J. David Goodman And Benjamin Mueller. “Beyond the Chokehold: The Path to Eric Garner’s Death.The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 June 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/nyregion/eric-garner-police-chokehold-staten-island.html.

Dianis, Judith Browne. “What Really Killed Eric Garner Was More than Just a Chokehold.”MSNBC, NBCUniversal News Group, 5 Aug. 2014, http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/what-killed-eric-garner.

nydailynews. “Eric Garner Video – Unedited Version.YouTube, YouTube.

Press, Associated. “Samuel DuBose Shooting: Second Mistrial Declared in Officer’s Murder Trial.The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 23 June 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/23/samuel-dubose-shooting-ray-tensing-trial-mistrial.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: