*Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn says he “guarantees” there will be changes in policing after the Stephon Clark shooting.
Clark was shot multiple times in the backyard of his grandparents’ house, and Hahn stressed in a Facebook video after the incident that his officers were trained to prevent biased behavior and learn the history of “atrocities committed by policing around the world.”
He also promised to examine the Starbucks case to see “what we can do better.”
His is one of the numerous police departments in American that have long struggled with allegations of racism and issues of brutality and trust when it comes to dealing with urban communities and black folks.
As noted by nbcnews.com, “protests in 2014 after two black men, Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, died in confrontations with white officers, and riots a year later after another black man, Freddie Gray, died of wounds suffered in the custody of Baltimore police, touched off a renewed sense of urgency” as police chiefs grapple with officers’ treatment of young black males.
Many believe a more diverse force could help curb police abuse in black neighborhoods.
The most recently available government report from 2013 found that local police departments were 12 percent black and 73 percent white, according to the report.
“What diversity alone does not solve are the biases many officers bring to their work — perceptions of black men as more threatening, for example — which are heightened by a police culture that emphasizes strength and power. That drives racially disparate arrests and the use of force, researchers say.”
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As we all know, “the more an officer feels threatened, whether the officer is in legitimate danger or not, the more likely that officer is to use force on a suspect, particularly if an encounter occurs as part of a “zero-tolerance” approach to crime and disorder.”
“It’s institutionalized,” said Nelson Lim, a RAND sociologist who studies recruitment and diversity. “You can swap out the people but the system itself is set up that way.”
Bard, the Cambridge chief, agreed.
“Even if we recruit a diverse population of officers, it’s still incumbent on us to train them to be the types of officers we want them to be,” he said.
Bard, who has written about eliminating racial profiling, said that police culture has to change to send a message to officers that departments “won’t tolerate the slightest amount of abuse” of civilians.
“And then you have to increase the costs for bad behavior, including use of excessive force,” he said.
African-American police chiefs told NBC News that their personal experiences helped them understand the need to earn trust from the public.
“I don’t see any correlation between the race of these chiefs and these recent incidents,” said Vera Bumpers, the chief of Houston’s transit police and first vice president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. “We all wear uniforms.”
She warned against drawing quick conclusions about encounters captured on video.
Gina Hawkins, the police chief in Fayetteville, North Carolina, said her ability to empathize as an officer stems from her struggles growing up black and Hispanic, including encountering discrimination.
“It’s an extreme honor and opportunity, and I know the weight that comes with it,” Hawkins said of the expectations she feels as an African-American police chief. “I know people are always watching.”
Hahn said he was troubled by the notion, expressed in many black neighborhoods, that “when you’re blue you’re not black anymore.” That “erases” his upbringing and identity, he said, and undermines the goals of increased diversity.
At the same time, he sees diversity “for diversity’s sake” as worthless.
“There are bad black officers, bad gay officers, bad female officers,” Hahn said. “Just because you’re a certain race or have a certain experience doesn’t automatically mean you have the character to be a good police officer.”
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