America has a history of unfair justice based on the color of one’s skin. Claims of unfair police practices occurred mostly in the South following the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation that finally abolished slavery. More than a century later however, African Americans do not seem to be treated equally. Examples of inequality and discrimination based on race continue to occur throughout the U.S. This is true regarding education, housing, employment opportunities, and especially in the administration of justice.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In a speech not long before his untimely death, Dr. King spoke to a large crowd about his “dream”—that one day his people—people of color—would enjoy the same rights and freedoms that are enjoyed by all Americans. That dream is still not real for many persons of color.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) is committed to a policy of protecting the civil rights of all persons and against racial profiling in law enforcement.
Despite police departments’ commitment to “justice for all” and policies that discourage racial profiling in law enforcement, police actions in many cities and states continue to disproportionately focus on racial and ethnic minorities. A U.S. Department of Justice study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that police stops are still marred by racial discrimination. Based on 2015 survey data the study found that police stops and use of force are racially discriminatory and affect the public trust of the police.
Findings of the national study of police discrimination:
- Black residents were more likely to be stopped by police than whites or Hispanics.
- Black and Hispanic residents were more likely to have multiple contacts with police than white residents.
- Police were twice as likely to threaten or use force against Black and Hispanic residents than white residents.
- Fewer than half of Black and Hispanic residents stopped by police thought the stop was legitimate, while 2/3 of white residents did.
- White residents have more trust in police than Black and Hispanic residents: are more willing to report a crime, a non-crime emergency, or to seek help from police.
The study concluded that the national findings have serious implications for public safety, crime prevention, and law enforcement in communities and neighborhoods populated largely by racial and ethnic minorities. Effective crime prevention and law enforcement depends greatly on good police-community relations. Police chiefs and city leaders have always known about the importance of positive relations between citizens and police. It seems clear that efforts to improve police-community relations must be a priority for city leaders, police officials, and members of the community.