Injustices Towards African-Americans Affect How Cops Are Seen In Society

American culture has been wrestling with the role of law enforcement in minority communities.

Sage P.

American culture has been wrestling with the role of law enforcement in minority communities.

Ella F. and Razan A.

As Black History Month came to an end, many people around the country were encouraged to take a real look at African-American history and culture. Perhaps they also reflected on more recent tragic events that have caused national discussion about justice and equity. Due to several high-profile incidents that have occurred over the past years involving law enforcement, different ethnic groups have cemented strong views about the role of policing, and whether or not they’re really being protected.

The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as the recent passing of Tyre Nichols this year, have caused multiple protests and continued calls for stronger law enforcement oversight and reform.

In a graph from ABC News, Americans’ confidence in local policing dropped from the fifty percent range to the forty percent range between 2014 and 2020. Multiple incidents occurred between these years, including the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Only three years later, current percentages reflecting confidence in law enforcement have continued to decline, now in the high-thirties/low-forties, an all-time low for our country. High-profile police incidents involving mainly African Americans directly correlate to the belief that citizens aren’t fairly and adequately protected.

ABC News

Although these deaths haven’t occurred in the same city or state, news reports and social media have spread the word much faster than the traditional media of years past. In addition, these events are increasingly caught on cell phone cameras whereas prior generations were limited to newsroom photography.

“The combination of smartphones, video recording apps, and social media platforms have generated a revolution in public empowerment. Rather than having to take the word of African Americans over the police, people can see the violence for themselves and demand justice,” said Brookings.

Because the footage is often captured and posted by body cameras and bystanders’ phones, a much stronger and more immediate opinion is often the result. According to Daedalus, the rapport between citizens and police departments has been affected. 

“I’m not so sure [if I trust the police or not] because, in past incidents, they’ve killed innocent people. But, they do [also] help people, so I’m kind of in between,” said middle school student Jade W.

Stories of beatings and death have caused some people’s perspectives about the police to change.

“I don’t [personally trust the police] because I see a lot of things that happen to people because of the police. I also feel like the police take advantage of their power. I also have had one personal experience with cops [that contributes to why I feel this way],” said Brooklyn C.

Not only has seeing such deaths affected viewers, but it has also had a significant effect on police officers.

“When deaths like that happen, specifically the big one that people talk about being George Floyd’s, it makes national news and is upsetting for viewers and for us too, especially since 99.9% of police officers don’t do those things. It does make all of us look bad based off of a couple people’s actions,” said Deputy Vigil, Day Creek’s school resource officer (SRO).

As social media posts reach mainstream awareness, all police officers are looked at negatively. This creates a domino effect as other issues become problematic.

“We have a certain level [of the public’s] trust, and when events like these happen, we go down two steps. And it takes a lot of work to get back up to the same level of trust. The issue is, a lot of times, especially in the media, only the bad things are focused on. So a lot of people don’t see the good things we do daily,” said Deputy Vigil.

Abuse of power shown in the media has brought about diminishing trust in the police which has proven difficult to recover. Local law enforcement finds itself working to earn back the confidence of their citizens, oftentimes due to incidents that occur in cities far across the country. The same people who may need to dial 911 are sometimes fearful to call.

“Most police officers are overwhelmingly good people who care about our community. When instances like these happen, we are just as upset as anyone else. The events caused by such a small group of people have a huge effect on us. But we just want people to know that we want nothing but the best for our communities,” said Deputy Vigil.