American police culture is one that has been exposed by the recent death of George Floyd. Many believe the American police culture has to be reformed in order to prevent deaths and increase safety for the citizens of America. It has been recognized that America has one of the most militarized and aggressive police forces in the Western World. Over many decades America has displayed a history of rapid expansion of the police force and different attitudes in various areas of the country. Historically, the decision for the police force to be armed has still remained to the present with the idea that the service needs to protect themselves from the criminals they could be facing.
As most Western citizens now carry smartphone technology, the brutality of the American police force has been shared around the world through the power of technology. The aggression of the police force has been captured towards many low level criminals compared to some higher level criminals that have seen to be arrested in a calmer manner. The Black Lives Matter movement highlights the frustration from the black community of suffering the most aggression from the police force, whether that be for low or high levels of crime. Kate Andrews, an author of the Spectator shares the statistic that an unarmed black man is four times more likely to be fatally shot than his white counterpart.
The recent death of George Floyd, a man that was killed under the brutal aggression and force of a police officer whilst saying ‘I can’t breathe’ has exposed a culture that many Americans have not confronted before.
But the question remains current, how can the police force reform and change their culture of aggression and violence?
Rosa Brooks, a writer for the Atlantic expresses the idea that the culture of aggression begins with the recruitment of the right candidates. She explains the idea that the focus needs to be on police academics, those who are training the next generation of the police force and those who can make a real change for the future. The American police force needs to have a training process that introduces policing measures in a calmer way rather than a military operation. As reported in the Atlantic, Rosa explains“They indicate devotion to duty and attention to the smallest detail…. You are required to maintain boots that are polished to a luster … In the most exceptional cases boots can be shined so that a person’s reflection may be seen in the finish”. These expectations are those of which people would expect in an army training scheme however some argue, this engraves a form of basic discipline which is essential for a role in the police, however others understand there are other skills that should be focused on more. As new recruits of the police force are often refrained from sharing their opinion or showing any emotional attachment to the role, they see mocking those of more power as an acceptable reaction. The militarized recruitment process could be the reason for this action.
Aside from recruitment changes, what else can be done?
The author German Lopez for VOX reports criminal justice experts have shared some ideas of how the American police culture could be reformed. In order to move forward in attitudes, it is essential the police acknowledge to communities the unnecessary use of force that has happened for many years and understand that minority communities have suffered the most from this. After acknowledgement, the journey to stopping this unnecessary force can begin. The police force must work to regain the trust of the people by increasing their efforts to show positive actions within communities. As Richard Rosenfield criminologist at the University of Missouri in St Louis explains to VOX “In order to overcome lack of trust and confidence, the police have to make contact — door-to-door, face-to-face contact — with members of their community,” he continues “The police will be rebuffed on occasion, but that’s the only way I see to, in the long run, rebuild trust or, really, build it for the first time in the police in members of these communities.”.
Another way to reform the American police culture is to train police to avoid using force rather than seeing it as their first option. Police officers should refrain from using force unless the criminal individual is going to act harmfully towards citizens surrounding them. It can be suggested that many situations in previous years could have been avoided if the use of force was not as accepted as it is. The death of Tamir Rice in 2014 was approached with aggressive force when officers believed he had an actual firearm weapon but in fact it was not a real gun. An approach where police officers are not able to put their hands on the suspect before a backup team is in place, could reduce the need for force in situations.
It is evident that transparency, training, trust and community cooperation are all essential aspects to a safer and optimistic future for the American people.