Why police can get brutal

Racism permeates the U.S. culture. In basic social indicators like income, health, education, housing and employment, most ethnic minorities appear at or near the bottom. This is structural racism – the result of millions of interactions over centuries based on covert, and not so covert, racist attitudes.

There are geographical consequences; minorities become concentrated in particular urban areas because of low rents and poor services. This concentration also intensifies emotions, such as frustration and anger. These conditions draw the attention of both predators and police (and sometimes it’s hard to know the difference).

The police, as individual products of the same culture, also harbor covert racist attitudes (and not so covert, at least among themselves). However, in their role as “public servants” they are the physical vanguard of State Authority and endowed with the power of the State.

It is exactly at this point that society experiences friction and conflict. This is where the “rubber meets the road,” so to speak – where the State confronts its citizens. And in moments of action and passion, covert racism can very quickly become overt and vicious.

It seems obvious that all police recruits need training beyond the use of their weapons and gadgets: They need re-education in ethics, diversity and common sense.


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