Impacts of Discriminatory Policing in NYC
For example, a videotape of Rodney King being beaten by Los Angeles police officers or reports of the torture of Abner Louima by New York City police capture the public’s attention and raise troubling questions regarding the limits of legitimate police authority in a democratic society. Are such events isolated occurrences in particular police departments or extreme examples of a more general problem plaguing police departments across the United States? Does the fact that such abuses often involve minority victims reveal important disparities in the way that law enforcement officers treat members of certain racial, socioeconomic, or cultural groups?
Particularly in urban areas, suspect race interacts with neighborhood characteristics to animate the formation of suspicion among police officers Police are more likely to view a minority citizen as suspicious—leading to a police stop—based on nonbehavioral cues, while more often relying on behavioral cues to develop suspicion for white citizens. Whether racially disparate stop rates reflect disproportionate crime rates or intentional, racially biased targeting by police of minorities at rates beyond what any racial differences in crime rates might justify lies at the heart of the social and legal controversy on racial profiling and racial discrimination by police.
Although some of the more egregious historical practices ended a long time ago, others ended later and within the living memory of many Americans—and all are remembered as part of the collective history shared by Black and other non-White communities. From this perspective, it is easy to see how the nation’s history is intrinsically linked to misgivings some non-White Americans continue to have about possible police animus and racial bias. And it is by no means clear that explicit animus-driven biases against non-Whites, or examples of racial animus by the police, are a thing of the past.
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