THE U.S. PRESIDENT AND POLICE MISCONDUCT
A prominent African-American Harvard professor is arrested by a police sergeant in Massachusetts. The President comments about the arrest, and the nation is riveted by the issue for the following several days. Truth be told, people are arrested for “disorderly conduct” in every city in the nation , every day of the year. The single most valuable statement made by the President with respect to this incident is that it offers all of us a “teachable moment”.
For those of us dealing with Police Misconduct on a daily basis, the circumstances of this case are exceedingly familiar. Several valid points can be made with respect to this type of an arrest:
— Police will often take offense at conduct that they deem disrespectful toward themselves. Cooperate fully, or suffer the consequences, is a widespread rule among police.
— Depending on the amount of emotion involved, and in the absence of any actual crime being committed, an officer may choose to “have the last laugh” and place the person annoying him under arrest, usually for Disorderly Conduct. This, at the least, results in handcuffing and a visit to the police station.
—This happens to whites, blacks and Latinos. However, it is incontrovertible that vastly more minorities are both stopped and interrogated, leading to many more opportunities for “confrontations” to occur, which in turn leads to many more “Disorderly Conduct” arrests among minorities.
— The history of police-minority relations, especially between police and African Americans, cannot be erased from the collective memory of those who have suffered, and from their descendants who have heard the stories of their forebears’ experiences. It stands to reason that such collective memory will influence the perceptions concerning police actions.