White Police Officers Receive Longer “Punishment” Than Black Counterparts

Last week, police officers with the Cleveland Police Department filed a federal lawsuit for the racial discrimination against them following a fatal car chase that happened two years ago. “The officers – eight white and one Hispanic – claim the department has a history of treating non-black officers who shoot black residents “more harshly” than black officers involved in shootings” (Shaffer).

The case involved Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams who led police on a high-speed car chase. Apparently more than 90 officers participated in chase and both of the African American individuals were shot more than 20 times while a total of 137 shots were fired. At the end of the chase, no weapon was found in the suspects’ car. Both families of Russell and Williams filed a lawsuit that was settled by the city for $3 million (Shaffer).  The nine officers primarily involved in the shooting were immediately placed on administrative leave with full pay.

The officers were ordered to serve a 45-day “cooling-off period” in the department gym where they would perform simple tasks. “Additionally, during this period, officers are not allowed to accrue overtime hours or seek out other employment; they are not compensated for court appearances, nor are they eligible to apply for promotions or transfers of any kind” (Griffin). The officers called the duty “menial” and “unpleasant” in the formal complaint.

I would like to hear your thoughts regarding this issue. Do you think that a longer “treatment” for non-African American officers who shoot black individuals is just over a similar situation that involves African American officers?

Bibliography:

Griffin, Tamerra. “Cleveland Police Officers Sue Department For Racial Discrimination.” BuzzFeed. Buzzfeed, 1 Dec. 2014. Web. 05 Dec. 2014.

Shaffer, Cory. “Cleveland Police Officers Accuse Department of Racial Discrimination in Wake of Deadly Chase.” Cleveland.com. Northeast Ohio Media Group, 29 Nov. 2014. Web. 05 Dec. 2014.

2 thoughts on “White Police Officers Receive Longer “Punishment” Than Black Counterparts”

  1. To answer Nina’s question: No. I absolutely, under no circumstances think it is justifiable to require non-African American police officers to face a longer period of restrictive duty than African American police officers following an incident in which deadly force is used. I do not think race should play any role in the determination of an officer’s punishment or treatment in any way. If what they nine officers involved in the Cleveland car shooting in 2012 claim is true, and the police department does treat non-African American police officers more harshly than African American officers, than they are doing so seemingly under the assumption that all non-African American officers are more likely to target all African Americans for reasons based on racial prejudices. If the leaders in the police department are making these assumptions about their officers, they are holding their own racial prejudices and are under the same guilt that they have placed on the officers. The police department is also making the assumption that African American police officers are not subject to racial prejudices against people who share their skin color. This is an offense against the African American officers in that it suggests they are likely to overlook incidents that require action because the person committing the crime is also African American, or that they are somehow more capable of accurately judging the extend to which force is necessary because the individual causing the incident is their same race. African American’s are just as capable of having prejudices against people of any race as their non-African American counterparts are.
    The Mike Brown case and the Grand Jury’s failure to indict Darren Wilson has brought the issue of police brutality, specifically violent acts by white police officers against black victims, to the public eye in an unprecedented way. I believe there is ample evidence to support the argument that some more unnecessary force is used by non-African American officers against African Americans than against those that are not. I also believe, however, that the way to combat this and to eliminate any existing prejudices held by officers of any race is to address it as an entire department rather than issuing subjective punishments as incidents occur.
    It is clear that our country is far from achieving racial equality and the absence of prejudice. I don’t think anyone knows what we need to do in order to prevent another tragedy like Mike Brown’s death from ever occurring again. What I do know is that addressing police actions according to the officer’s race is not the way to solve the problem.

  2. I do not believe that a longer “treatment” for non-African American officers who shoot individuals is in anyway just or solves issues between the police force and African Americans for multitudes of reasons. The issue is more than individual and based on subjective opinions of who is more deserving of what. These are the patterns that got us into this issue in the first place. To combat it , we must look at the system of internalized implicit associations of race and design ways for the police force to overcome those internalized stereotypes.

    First being, African American officers who shoot and kill individuals are usually not granted the “menial” and “unpleasant” “45-day cooling-off period in the department gym” that these individuals were granted. They may not have been compensated for the 45 day period, but they were still on administrative leave with full pay for at least several days. The fact that they view administrative leave with pay and a 45 day break as discriminatory , when African American officers who shoot and end up killing unarmed civilians are more often than not arrested and detained or fired from their positions, makes the accusation of discrimination even more absurd to me. This is not the case of them receiving harsher off-time than their counterparts ceteris paribus. Their complaint is juxtaposed with the actions of an African American Detective who failed to “communicate his contact with the Russell vehicle…and was not disciplined in anyway”(Brown, 2014). After a shooting, all officers are required a 45-day cooling off period. Their suit emphasizes the fact that they find the tasks menial and emotionally distressing, not the fact that they shot two unarmed civilians. They are upset they are not back on duty, but they clearly don’t understand why they are off duty, or why their “mental anguish” is misplaced.

    If this was enacted throughout the country, it would surely do no good for police and citizen relations. The officers, even in this case, seem to show more remorse and sadness for their ‘lost wages and earnings’ than the fact that they killed innocent human beings. It’s difficult to make financial ends meet when you are withheld from making money, but ironically, they don’t see how that relates to the prison system and the many people they arrest and hold in jails. They have no empathy for others but are asking for sympathy in this situation. I do believe, if we truly want to change the way police handle situations, we need to change the internalized racism which saturates their unconscious and leads to these rash behaviors. However, to single out groups to give this training to, is no better than the police singling out minorities based on stereotypes. Every person has room to improve and fix problematic beliefs they may not realize they hold. With that, addressing implicit associations within the police force, and in the system, may be the first step in actually combating the use of unnecessary or deadly force.

    Brown, Doug. (2014). Group of Caucasian Cleveland Police Officers Sue City Department Leaders for Discrimination. O’Donnel et al. vs City of Cleveland. 1-16

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