Monday, June 29, 2020

Myth No. 2 A diverse police force leads to better policing.

Could addressing performance appraisal with community input, and departmental funding review and allocation play a role in changing the paradigm?

After the 2014 killing of Michael Brown, observers commonly noted that the Ferguson police department was substantially whiter than the population it policed. Both the Justice Department’s 2015 report and local activists called on the city to recruit more officers of color. Similar proposals have surfaced in recent weeks: Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has emphasized hiring “more black and brown officers” and “making sure that the police department actually reflects the community at large.”
Yet numerous studies show that the race of officers has no effect on the quality of policing. Having more diverse police forces does not reduce racial disparities in police killingscitizen complaintsvehicle stops or arrests to maintain order. A 2017 Indiana University study did find some modest improvements related to diversity, but only in a very small number of big-city departments; the rest of the departments in the study showed worse outcomes as diversity increased. While some recent research shows minor advantages to having more diverse police departments, the overall trend remains negative, in part because institutional pressures on black officers require that they not show any deference to black citizens. “It’s a blue thing,” writes Michigan State University criminal justice professor Jennifer Cobbina.

Alex S. Vitale is professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College and the author of “The End of Policing.”

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