How militarized are your police?
This map by the NY Times gives a break down of how much our country’s police forces have become stocked with military surplus weapons and gear. The trend started in the 1990s from a program designed to deal with extra equipment during the winding down of our wars.
This has no doubt added to the tensions with situations in Ferguson, MO. The St. Louis region has had many issues with racial profiling in the past. In fact, UCLA’s Center for Policing Equity is actually in the middle of a study in St. Louis to explore this very issue.
These researchers have studied departments all over the country. Recently in Las Vegas they found the lack of diversity training in their police department was causing officers to exhibit racial bias when using force on an individual. In their survey asking officers to anonymously talk about how they view diversity training one said:
All diversity training basically states that if you are white you are wrong, and that everyone else’s culture takes precedence over society’s established norms.
So what can these researchers recommend? and how much sway do their recommendations have? In the Las Vegas case they recommended the police department integrate diversity training with its training on use-of-force situations. They also said an outside group should be monitoring incidents where officers stop pedestrians.
While this type of research may inform policy/policymakers, it also affects citizens at the ballot box. John Gaskin from the Missouri NAACP discussed the historic lack of voter turnout among African-American Ferguson, MO residents:
We warned people about these kinds of things. Who hires the police officers? The police chief. Who hires the police chief? The mayor. Who hires the mayor? Who elects the council folks?
You can read more about UCLA’s Center for Policing Equity here and about the debate to demilitarize the police here.