What Exposes African Americans to Police Violence?
31 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2016
Date Written: October 10, 2016
The tragic deaths of African Americans at the hands of police officers have generated a public debate about race and policing. This is not the first time police violence against African Americans has been the predicate for a nationwide conversation about race. Likely, it won’t be the last. Yet, for all the discussions we have had about race and excessive force over the past decade, our understanding of the phenomenon has not much improved. In part, this is because we continue to frame excessive force as a problem that derives from rogue police officers who harbor racial animus against African Americans. That some police officers employ excessive force as a means through which to express their racial animosity is undoubtedly true. But, to lump all or even most police officers in that basket obscures the structural dimensions of police violence and ignores significant findings from the field of social psychology suggesting that conscious racial animosity likely accounts for only a small percentage of racially-inflected police conduct. This Article broadens the analytical frame. More specifically, the Article presents a theoretical model that articulates racialized police violence as a systemic and structural problem that cannot be solved by simply looking for and punishing “bad” police officers.
Keywords: Racial profiling, police violence, racial segregation, marginalized communities, Fourth Amendment doctrine, underlying causes of police violence
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