In the Police Pursuit of the Common Good, Dr. Ginger Charles examines the current issues facing law enforcement and marginalized communities. She presents reasons why our police communities appear to be in constant conflict with marginalized communities for the last several years. In the book, she explores the behaviors in the police culture from a social psychological perspective, illustrating the importance of understanding police behaviors in order to change the culture of conflict. It is her experience as a police officer that provides the reader with a unique understanding from inside the police community and as an observer of that community. Dr. Charles concludes with potential solutions to reform and restore the police culture, as well as heal the divide between our communities and the police.
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Police Pursuit of the Common Good
Reforming & Restoring Police Community
By Ginger Charles
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 Ginger Charles, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The history of law enforcement began with captured Nubian slaves in Mesopotamia. These slaves were considered the first police force and were used as praetorian guards, marketplace watchmen, or mercenaries (Berg, 1998). I have always found the early history of police interesting, particularly when we examine current issues in our police communities and the conflict with marginalized communities. Our history in law enforcement tends to demonstrate that we (police officers) come from marginalized communities as well.
In the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, "night watchman" and the "rattle patrol" were used to protect merchants from vagrants and thievery. As cities expanded and people congregated, those who were privileged needed individuals to protect their belongings and property. Some of these night watchmen were punished for their own crimes and assigned as night watchmen as atonement. Many times I have heard police officers say, "To be a good cop, you have to think like a criminal." Certainly this behavior appears to be part of our history.
Yet we evolved out of this behavior and early beginnings to become more professional, thanks, in part, to Sir Robert Peel. In 1829, Sir Robert Peel was instrumental in the passage of the Metropolitan Police Act in England, which created a new police force of men who were professional, educated, and disciplined. We in the United States began to follow the "Peel Principles" of law enforcement in the nine-teenth century. However, this was also during a time of race and industrial riots involving Irish immigrants and Native Americans. Police were trained to think they were better than the working class, which instigated conflict between police and community. Yet most of these officers were recruited from this very same culture. Here is the beginning of conflict with who we are and whom we serve.
Perhaps if we view our history of law enforcement by looking at our behavior from the beginning to the present, we might discover patterns of conduct that help identify why we are experiencing such violence today. Additionally, we can look at police behavior from a social psychological perspective as a way of understanding that behavior, recognizing that our behavior can change when we actually view its effect in society and various situations. Finally, by examining police behavior from our earliest beginnings to today, we are afforded the opportunity to change the behavior because we have observed those patterns through our history.
In our evolution and adaptation, two law enforcement goals in the United States are paramount to good policing. The first is the prevention of crime and disorder and the preservation of peace. The second goal for law enforcement officers is the protection of life, property, and personal liberty. So what is currently happening in the United States with police and society?
There has been a clear demonstration in the United States since 2013 that our police culture has a significant problem. Some moments in history appear to demand change, and I believe we are experiencing one of those moments. If we choose to ignore these moments or don't deal with them ethically, they shall rise again in intensity and quantity. This has occurred within the police culture and community over and over, until today we have reached a tipping point: our police community is under the microscope, the public trust has been severely damaged, and many of our communities are demanding change.
Earlier incidents have certainly illustrated the tension between law enforcement and marginalized communities. Look no further than the time of the Civil Rights Movement to see the tremendous clashes between "people of color" and law enforcement. What has changed from that time to the present day? There were changes to laws and guidelines. People were forced to integrate.
Yet, most people were angry about integration and change. It did not matter whether it was the individuals forced to integrate or the individuals "accepting" the integrated person. Everyone was uncomfortable, familiarity was gone, isolation increased, resentment and divisiveness became pronounced. This example in our history illustrates our inability to "teach" each other through these critical events, such as integration. It is typical of us to simply "tell" our communities that they must change, "force" or impose new laws without much explanation, and then fail to educate when punishment is easier.
In my opinion, our process of educating people about civil rights and integration was basic, reactive rather than reflective. In the United States, we still have not done a good job of actually teaching people how to integrate. We have enforced/demanded and punished people into integration. Clearly, this approach only fosters tension and conflict. Changing ourselves at the cellular level to find acceptance with each other requires time and work on every individual's part. But it also requires money, so instead of truly taking the time to explain why we must change, we institute laws and rules to enforce our new behaviors while underneath, the issue of inequality remains and may be passed down through generations and families on both sides of the issue.
So we are still faced with the issues of inequality, racism, and marginalized communities. The police community usually is the first place where this conflict begins to show. When tension and frustration reach a boiling point, the police are often the first to encounter that frustration. Because, unfortunately, the police community is also at a breaking point, when conflicts with marginalized communities arise.
As a nation, we demand that our law enforcement officers confront human destructiveness and suffering, defend our communities, and stand between chaos and order. All of these demands necessitate a unique type of individual. If police officers experience isolation, feel undervalued, or suffer from the effects of stress, then we cannot protect and serve our communities. In fact, a dysfunctional environment may provide the perfect opportunity for corruption and violence within our police culture and towards community.
The police community is currently facing a crisis of spirit — the loss of meaning and purpose. This is apparent from the extensive friction we have seen between our police officers and communities. The behavior does not represent a healthy environment. When reviewing the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and the choking death of Eric Garner in New York, FBI Director James Comey has described our law enforcement community in the United States as at a crossroads.
The city of Baltimore has also experienced a significant increase in activism, rioting, and unrest since the death of Freddy Gray. He was chased by officers and then arrested. At some point during the arrest, his spine snapped. He was then put inside a police transport van un- restrained. Freddy Gray asked for medical help and then quickly fell into a coma. His death in April 2015 has been described as "revealing a rupture" in the city, where protests grew and violence increased for several weeks (Wallace-Wells, 2015). Currently, six police officers are under indictment for several criminal charges, including murder.
Unfortunately, we have seen many more recent examples of police violence and corruption. More recent is the Chicago Police Department's issues with charging one of their own, Jason Van Dyke, for first-degree murder. In 2014, Van Dyke shot a young black male sixteen times. The young male was armed with a knife but was not approaching the officers. Several officers were on scene with Van Dyke and did not fire their weapons, but some reported that the male approached the officers with the knife, contrary to the captured video. According to news reports, Van Dyke had at least twenty use-of-force complaints since 2002. Three of those complaints were for excessive force, yet no discipline was given.
With the current and continual confrontation between police and marginalized communities, the levels of stress and distress in the profession, and the hidden layers of corruption and inequality in our police organizations, police officers may have lost meaning in their profession. Officers who have detached from humanistic pursuits can become mechanistic, cold, and calloused. When the organization does not care for police officers, we (police) do not have the capacity to care for those we serve.
In an article entitled Seven Reasons Police Brutality is Systemic, Not Anecdotal, Kristian (2014) states that many departments do not provide sufficient training for police officers in non-violent situations. Additionally, the standards of what constitutes excessive force or brutality vary from agency to agency and state to state. When an officer is found to be at fault for some type of misconduct, the consequences are usually minimal. It then becomes the responsibility of the taxpayer to pay for the settlement for any police misconduct. Kristian (2014) notes that police militarization and the targeting of minorities add to systemic brutality as well. Finally, the police culture itself reports that misconduct is very widespread.
The Department of Justice reported that 84 percent of police officers have observed other officers using excessive force on community members. Sixty-one percent of those officers admitted that they did not report the use of force. During my experience as a police officer, I witnessed another police officer using excessive force. I reported that force without hesitation, as it was morally right to do so and it was the law. I remember that my police chief and the assistant chief were very concerned about my safety, fearing retaliation by the police community.
So there are several issues facing our police communities. Additionally, there are a multitude of reasons to address these issues. The current problems and events unfolding in our communities and police culture are the coalescing opportunity to correct what is happening. Finally, our work together to change this in our communities provides the opportunity for all of us to work towards health and wholeness in our world. I am a firm believer that if our police officers are healthy and thriving, they will be the first contact with those they serve who may be in crisis. By educating and disciplining without brutality, they can create further healing in the communities, promoting humanism and compassion.
Our police culture can choose to react to the current issues and find some temporary solution to bandage the gaping wound between the police and the communities they serve. If our police organizations decide to find a quick fix, the issues we are currently facing will resurface again. In fact, it is highly likely that the conflict between our police and communities will be even more violent and disturbing than what we are currently experiencing. We have a choice to look at long-term solutions to the conflicts before us. We have never been challenged to fix these issues of violence and conflict as we are today. It is imperative that we explore healing resolutions for our communities and our police officers.
I am repeating an earlier point. This book is not about assigning blame or finding fault with anyone. Blaming or finding fault only creates tension, which inhibits learning. This is about responsibility. This is about demonstrating why it is good for law enforcement to change.
Finally, I am incorporating questions for the reader throughout the following chapters. It offers the reader an opportunity to apply the information from the book and evaluate whether that information provides insights or further discussions. They are simply another tool to use or ignore.CHAPTER 2
Understanding the Problem
"He who fights monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
The problem before us in the police community is the increasing number of violent police contacts involving marginalized communities. What was the tipping point when the violence in our police culture became so pronounced? This may be impossible to pin down. However, let us walk back to New Years Day 2009 and the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station in Oakland, California. The end result of this conflict is the police officer mistook his handgun for his taser and he shot and killed Oscar Grant. The police officer was charged and convicted of manslaughter.
After an investigation, other officers were fired and the Chief of Police of the BART transit system resigned. The fatal shooting is the final snapshot in a disturbing video between law enforcement and that marginalized community. This is significant as it did not appear that the officer's intent was to kill Grant but the officer was still held accountable for his mistake. His actions caused the death of Grant. Use of force experts later determined the officer's mistake to be a substantial training problem as the officer's taser was carried on the same side as his firearm. However, the case is memorable because, regardless of intent, it demonstrated a significant conflict between the police and a marginalized community. The incident may have shown the development of a problem between police and community.
Cellphone videos showed an angry encounter between police officers and Oscar Grant and his friends. So what was the precipitating event? Many readers will have their own idea of what "caused" the final shooting. Again, all participants in the event have responsibility in the event. But what could be changed? This question may allow us to explore the root of the problem rather than blaming one group or individual.
According to Webster's Dictionary, the defintion of "marginalized" communities is "to treat a person, group, or concept as insignificant or peripheral." Marginalized communities are made up of individuals who are between their original culture and the new culture they are trying to assimilate. Some of the reasons these individuals remain inbetween cultures can be lack of acceptance, lack of resources (financial), and lack of understanding between the culture and the individual, which may be very painful for people who are in these marginalized communities. Often, resources are limited and the lack of understanding about how to integrate and become part of the culture can be illusive. Additionally, the marginalized culture may perpetuate itself generation after generation.
We should remember, police officers did not create these marginalized communities. These communities are created by inequities in our government, society, and economy. However, law enforcement may foster marginalization by enforcement actions and inequitable or unjust beliefs. When human beings group together and become a community, there are always those "outside" of the community who desire to be in the community. From a social psychological perspective, this behavior has been around since humans have gathered together in groups. The police are there to preserve peace and protect life. And, many times there are variables that interfere with police accomplishing these two goals. Many of those variables are created by the dysfunction of the police culture.
In October 2015, there were over 800 police shootings in the United States. But before we attack that number, let's look closer. Many of these shootings were justified uses of force, such as officers responding to deadly force and shooting to protect their lives or the lives of others. For example, police officers responding to the mass shooting at the Navy Recruiting office, the many school shootings, or deadly force events at theatres represent justified uses of deadly force. In addition, there are those shootings where police officers were faced with lethal force and must defend themselves. These are obvious and appropriate uses of force. Only five percent of these 800 police shootings are considered questionable.
There are over 655,000 police officers/law enforcement officers in the United States. Additionally, there are over 100,000 Federal officers. To date, there are less than ten police officers who currently have been charged with murder. While there is much debate about whether other police officers should have or could have been charged with murder, the numbers illustrate that we are looking at the "outliers" when exploring this tragic problem in our communities. However, the "outliers" are very important from a research perspective and can shift our world, demanding attention.
Excerpted from Police Pursuit of the Common Good by Ginger Charles. Copyright © 2016 Ginger Charles, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction, 1,
Chapter 2: Understanding the Problem, 7,
Identifying a "tipping point", 9,
Never Giving Up Ground, 14,
Chapter 3: Social Psychology & a Culture of Evil, 20,
Social psychological effects in policing, 24,
Dispositional vs. Situational Attribution Theory, 26,
Prejudice and Implicit Bias, 34,
Chapter 4: Policing as a "Business", 40,
Managing vs. Leading, 47,
Egoic Goals, 48,
Lowering of Standards, 51,
Chapter 5: Stress & Service, 54,
Burnout & Compassion Fatigue, 60,
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 61,
Psychology of Police, 64,
Chapter 6: Compassion & Re-engagement, 69,
Importance of Compassion, 69,
Challenge & Change of Police, 75,
Systemic vs. Individual Changes, 77,
Chapter 7: How Do You Want to Be Policed?, 80,
Barry Graves, 82,
Professor Albert Smith, 88,
Common emerging themes, 98,
Chapter 8: Solutions for Our Police Community, 104,
Individual & Systemic Reformation, 104,
Toward Resilience, 109,
Awaken the Spiritual Warrior, 116,
Chapter 9: Conclusion, 127,