Many times, police officers are attacked or the prisoners themselves are injured during this booking process. The deaths and injuries, specifically of prisoners belonging to ethnic minorities, have triggered conflicts between the police and the community in recent years. Studies showed that the separation of the arresting officer and the suspect appeared to lessen the rate of reoccurrence. The studies recommended an evaluation of procedures and reinforcement (Community Relations Service).
The police also get into trouble with the way they deal with the mentally impaired (Community Relations Service 2003). They need to become more familiar with current-day approaches in the field of mental illness. One way this need can be met is to obtain training from area health professionals on what to do when encountering mental illness cases while fulfilling their police functions. The channels of communication should remain open, upgraded and active among the police, the mental health professional and the local treatment centers. The police need to become aware that not all mental illnesses are permanent or debilitating. Some of those they encounter may appear normal but, in reality, could be experiencing great stress or pressure. Because of the lack of familiarity and training in handling such cases, the police figured in major confrontations with the community in their mishandling of the mentally impaired (Community Relations Service).
Police are also mandated to handle hostage and barricade situations (Community
Relations Services 2003). In the team is a negotiator whose task is to make the deal with the hostage-taker without injury to anyone. But when the hostage-taker or barricader is a member of a minority group, any use of force is generally deemed as discriminatory (Community Relations Services).
And one more major area of concern to the police is drug and gang activity (Community Relations Services 2003). Handguns and other deadly weapons have become more readily available today and get into the hands of organized criminals and youth gangs. These weapons and the amount of money involved have splintered communities as well as police and the communities they are mandated to protect. The central figures in these communities are persons of color. Latest statistics also show that homicide rates have gone up among the youth in minority and ethnic groups (Community Relations Service).
Newspaper reports said that an Austin police officer fatally shot an African-American
and wounded another one at an apartment complex parking lot recently on Springdale
road (Plohetski 2009). The neighborhood reacted to the incident with rage and cast bottles and other objects and broke the windows of patrol cars. The incident rekindled suspicions of racial discrimination in using deadly force against ethnic minorities among neighbors and other witnesses. City officials quickly restored order and calm to the situation and the people. They said they would look into the situation and make the appropriate recommendations to correct it (Plohetski).
Police chief Art Acevedo said that senior police officer Leonardo Quintana was investigating a series of gunfire incidents in the apartment complex at the time (Plohetski
2009). Quintana came upon and suspected a champagne-color Mercedes Benz station wagon, which the two African-Americans and a third man occupied at that time. The police chief narrated that Quintana first arrested the driver, also an African-American.
Returning to the car, Quintana saw the victim asleep and with a handgun. Quintana said he shot the victim because he groped for the handgun. The other African-American was
roused from sleep and attacked Quintana who fired again. Both of them were later taken to the University Medical Center at Brackenridge. The victim died at the scene of the incident (Plohetski).
The victim, Nathaniel Sanders II, was previously arrested and charged with robbery by assault and was released on bond from the Travis County Jail (Plohetski 2009). In
2008, he was arrested for possessing crack cocaine, according to court records. It was not certain that anyone actually witnessed the shooting. According to preliminary review of the facts, Quintana's actions were lawful. Police chief Acevedo compared the incident to the 2007 shooting of Kevin Alexander Brown by then Sgt. Michael Olsen. The incident highlighted the poor judgment and tactics by Sgt Olsen, who was later fired from his post (Plohetski).
Acevedo said that Quintana's patrol car video was turned off at the time of the shooting when it was supposed to be on to video tape all stops (Plohetski 2009). A patrol car camera should automatically begin recording when the overhead lights are activated. Quintana has been an Austin officer for more than 8 years. He has been on standard administrative duty. He has also received many commendations in his career. He was, however, suspended for 15 days in August 2006 when he had a fight with his girlfriend and forcibly entered her house (Plohetski).
The incident was one among many in recent years, which produced community tensions, particularly among African-Americans (Plohetski 2009). The outcry was against human rights violations. In June 2005, a Hispanic named Daniel Rocha, was shot by white officer Julie Schroeder, who was later dismissed for the action. In response to these occurrences, the Justice Department this year issued recommendations. These included reviews of incidents of the use of force and insuring proper evaluations of such encounters (Plohetski).
Police officers make a profile of individuals who are likely to commit certain crimes
(American Law Library 2009). Profiling is drawn from observations of these persons'
activities. For example, poor persons who frequent a neighborhood where rich people live are suspected of possible criminal intent to steal. If an obviously poor person keeps many expensive items in his possession, he can be profiled as being involved in some crime, like theft and drugs. Profiling may not always be fair, but the police find it necessary in identifying or predicting criminal activity before it causes harm to others (American Law Library).
Profiling is controversial if it is based solely on race, ethnicity or national origin (American Law Library 2009). According to statistics, African-Americans are many times likelier to be arrested and imprisoned than white Americans. As of 2000, there were more African-American men in prison than in college. Black children were nine times likelier to have at least one parent behind bars than white children. The most common form of racial profiling consists in stopping, questioning and searching African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, or other racial minorities more often because of their race or ethnicity. A 1996 ABC television network report, entitled "Driving While Black," sought to expose the discrimination. Lawmakers and the court found difficulty controlling the influence of racial profiling. Constitutional law says that a police officer who stops a car for a minor traffic violation may search it and its driver if he consents. Many searches result in arrests if the officer finds drugs or weapons. This, however, has become a controversial approach even if conducted not as part of racial profiling. In the meantime, racial profiling against minorities has risen to the point of arousing an outcry for civil liberties from civil rights groups (American Law Library).
Observers said that the solution to the problem may be the setting up of democratic restraints. Despite the best efforts at preserving individual civil rights and liberties, the police and law enforcement as an institution cannot be abolished (Inbau 1999). They are essential to an orderly society. Too many restrictions can deprive them of the power they should possess in order to fulfill their responsibilities of preventing crime and apprehending criminals. The only democratic alternative is to improve the quality of their service, their efficiency and respect for individual civil rights and liberties. An efficient system of selection must be devised and used to select the police force according to more rigid and realistic criteria. They should be selected and promoted on merit, properly trained, sufficiently compensated, well supervised internally, and protected from political interference and influence. Under such a system, a policeman will be minimally inclined to resort to abusive practices in dealing with suspects, whether on the basis of race, color, creed or social status. Under this system, individual rights and civil liberties will survive and flourish. The public can enjoy the protection it seeks and needs. Observers advise that an abusive policeman be reported promptly. But if he performs his tough, dangerous job well for the sake of the entire community, he should be allowed to use his full authority (Inbau). #
American Law Library. Racial Profiling: Should Police Practice Racial Profiling?
American Encyclopedia, Vol 8. Net Industries, 2009. Retrieved on May 15, 2009
Community Relations Service. Principles of Good Policing: Avoiding Violence between
Police and Citizens. U.S. Department of Justice, 2003. Retrieved on May 14, 2009
Inbau, Fred E. Democratic Restraints upon the Police. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology: Northwestern University School of Law, 1999. Retrieved on May 14,
2009 from http://www.findarticles.com/p/mi_hb6700/is_4_89/ai_n28753981/?tag=content;col1
O'Connor, T. The Police Component of Criminal Justice. Austin Peay State
University, 2008. Retrieved on May 14, 2009 from http://www.apsu.edu/oconnor/1010/1010lect03.htm
Plohetski, Tony. Man Fatally Shot by Police Officer.…