The Philadelphia Department of Police is charged with the responsibility of maintaining law and order within the city of Philadelphia. The department is expected to work with the utmost fairness in the delivery of its services to residents. The police department is supposed to work in tandem with policies that can reduce crime effectively, without a disparate impact on ethnic/racial minorities within the city. The process of promoting equality in the justice system in Philadelphia begins from the initial stages of policing citizens to the ultimate prosecution of law-breakers. Nevertheless, the Philadelphia Department of Police can reduce crime without causing disparate effects on ethnic/racial minorities by engaging the entire community in law enforcement, eliminating racial profiling, enhancing cultural-competency training, and utilizing probation as the alternative to incarcerations. There should be a reduced target on minority groups within Philadelphia. Balanced community policy would ensure that law cuts across the board for everyone in the city.
This paper recommends a set of policies that the Philadelphia Department of Police can use to alleviate the level of crime without causing a disparate impact on minority/racial groups within the city.
Background of the Issue
The disparate treatment of minorities by the Philadelphia Department of Police has been prevalent from time immemorial. It is worth acknowledging that the discrimination of minorities in the Philadelphia Justice System begins at the initial stages of policing. In most instances, police officers disproportionately target minorities within the city. Most patrols are concentrated in the areas occupied by racial and ethnic minorities including African Americans and Latinos. Police officers strain interactions with members of minority groups hence making their arrests simpler in cases of any crime. This results in many arrests and the subsequent incarceration of a large number of African-Americans and Latinos in the city. More so, policemen tend to employ tactics that aim at arresting minorities in the city without fair consideration of their position in the alleged crime. Weich and Angulo (2010) affirm that this explains why most prisons in Philadelphia have over 80% of inmates from minority groups, especially African-Americans. The unfair treatment of minorities by the Philadelphia police has also been exhibited by the high rates of juvenile arrests composed of African-Americans. Kutateladze, Lynn, and Liang (2011) opine that about 50% of juveniles in Philadelphia correctional facilities are mainly made up of African-Americans. The frequent police stops, frisks, and searches have been mainly aimed at African-Americans and Latinos hence leading to their continuous arrests. However, there have been interventions geared toward ensuring that the police adopt better strategies to reduce crime without necessarily causing a disparity impact on minorities.
Analysis and Discussion
Community policing in Philadelphia has been mainly concentrated in the areas occupied by minorities hence leading to the unfair treatment of these individuals by the police in the area. It is worth noting that most policing practices have been skewed, and they have directly targeted both adult and juvenile minority groups because of the assumption that they are potential criminals. The stereotypes developed toward minority groups as potential criminals have been at the center stage of leading to more arrests among them. Skewed policing practices that focus on minority groups tend to expose most of them to crimes that would have been avoided easily with a sense of fairness on the part of the police. For instance, the absence of critical awareness on the cultural aspects of minorities enhances the level of stereotypes developed by the police during their patrols in Philadelphia. The unfair approach to community policing has been one of the most significant factors contributing to unnecessary losses of lives among most African-Americans. Community policing focuses on cultural generalizations of crime has also been a key contributor to the unfair arrests and shooting of most minority groups in Philadelphia. There is always a focus on crimes such as drug abuse and fighting among members of the minority groups.
Frequent racial profiling also leads to a disproportion of different racial groups on the roads. Motorists from minority groups suffer severely because of the unfair stops they experience on the roads. Police tend to stop their vehicles with intense suspicion that they might be on the verge of committing particular crimes that are not acceptable in Philadelphia. Vigne, Lachman, Matthews, and Neusteter (2012) reiterate that the stop and frisk checks are mostly conducted on members of the minority groups hence denying them any shred of fairness in the justice system. Surprisingly, representatives of the minority groups are usually arrested for petty crimes compared to their white counterparts who get fair treatment on the roads. The zero-tolerance level of crimes committed by members of cultural minorities has contributed to disparities among them. Therefore, more blacks have been arrested, prosecuted, and jailed because of the unfair approach in which police handle motorists from minority groups.
It is crucial to note that the employment of tactics based on racial discrimination and assumptions is not only unfair to minority groups, but it also exposes them to physical dangers. According to Greene, Piquero, Hickman, and Lawton (2004), many individuals from the African-American and Hispanic communities have suffered from police attacks brought about by the unfair profiling of minority groups in Philadelphia. Continued racial profiling has also increased the level of police brutality and corruption as they collect money from minor offenders from these groups. North Philadelphia has experienced instances of gross misconduct among the police in terms of dealing with the region dominated by blacks and Hispanics in the area. In tandem with the research conducted in Philadelphia, most citizens came to accept the fact that the police are likely to handle blacks and Hispanics more brutally compared to the manner they handle whites with similar crimes. Thus, this is a matter of concern and needs to be addressed within the most appropriate time. Weich and Angulo (2010) assert that the Mollen Commission revealed that racial profiling has been rising in North Philadelphia and it has contributed to the gross misconduct witnessed among the police. Relevant authorities within the State and other groups advocating for equality should stand out to be counted in the fight for equality and fairness for the police treatment of everyone.
Findings and Recommendations
Findings on the disparate treatment of minorities by the Philadelphia Department of Police indicate the systemic causes of racial disparities include inequitable access to resources, higher levels of crimes, overt racial bias, and unbalanced legislative decisions. Noisette (2008) agrees that inadequate access to resources leads to increased disparities because most individuals from minority groups do not have the chance of accessing essential resources to help them sustain their lives. This exposes them to higher levels of crimes hence increasing the level of surveillance in most areas they occupy. Higher crime rates are mainly associated with the high level of drug abuse among these individuals hence making it difficult for them to be treated similar to whites who are deemed to be involved in fewer crimes. Legislative decisions that do not accommodate all groups in Philadelphia also tend to increase the level of disparities because they target minority groups in the area. This enhances the disparate effect on minority groups in Philadelphia, as they have no defense for the different crimes they commit. They always do not have a chance to defend themselves from the police who tend to act with extreme brutality when handling them.
It is vital for the Philadelphia Department of Police to embrace a set of policies to reduce crime rate while avoiding the disparate effect of their actions on minority groups. Firstly, it is recommended that the department engage the community in its overall policing and crime oversight in the area. There has been an assumption that the police can make independent decisions to reduce the level of crimes in Philadelphia. In most instances, decisions have been made without the involvement of the public, which may play an instrumental role in the reduction of crime in the area without experiencing unfair treatment. It would be vital for the police department to engage members of the community in policing to build stronger and trustworthy relations with members of all races and ethnic orientations. Noisette (2008) holds the view that this involvement would offer everyone the opportunity to participate in community policing and the subsequent reduction of crime in Philadelphia. Again, this accommodative approach would eliminate the disparate effect that is mainly suffered by minority groups’ members. A transparent police service would give all individuals a sense of security hence enhancing a sense of equality. People from diverse ethnic/racial backgrounds would have a better chance of benefiting from this fair system that involves them in the process of decision-making relating to the management of crimes. Therefore, the efforts to fight crime would be fostered, and there would be reduced instances of unfair treatment of minorities.
Secondly, it is recommendable that the Philadelphia Police Department eliminates unnecessary racial profiling. Racial profiling has been one of the factors contributing to the disparate impact on minority groups within the area. The police department has the chance of reducing the crime level without relying on racial profiling. On most occasions, police in Philadelphia rely on suspicion of the minority groups in the course of their duties. For instance, they tend to act according to their notions about African-Americans when stopping people and conducting searches. Feder (2012) is of the opinion that there has been massive reliance on suspicion pointing to the fact that African-Americans are potential offenders in relation to the carriage of dangerous weapons and drugs. The police are supposed to act with a high level of professionalism and fairness when dealing with members of diverse ethnic communities. The elimination of racial profiling will ensure that minority groups’ members are not monitored strictly unlike their white counterparts. This would undoubtedly reduce crime in Philadelphia and boost racial and ethnic fairness. The elimination of racial profiling should ensure a fair approach to the determination of criminals in Philadelphia. Thus, there would be reduced crime rates in instances where effective measures are embraced to ensure that all minority groups are treated well without racial profiling.
Thirdly, it is recommended that the police department embrace cultural competency training for all its officers. The relationship between police officers and minority groups is always strained because of the cultural misunderstandings that the police tend to exhibit. Nevertheless, the Philadelphia Department of Police could reduce crime while maintaining racial and ethnic violence by promoting cultural competency training. Senior members of the police department should ensure that their officers understand the behavior and mode of operation among minority communities. An advanced level of education for police officers would play a vital role in enhancing security and ensuring that balance is achieved for all groups in Philadelphia. Crimes would significantly reduce as better relationships are built by the police in handling them within Philadelphia. The vetting would also ensure that police officers act in the most competent manner with a high level of integrity as they interact with minorities in the area. A high level of competency and understanding of security matters would boost the fight against crime without necessarily causing the disparate treatment of minorities in Philadelphia. The cultural competency education should be administered carefully to ensure that police officer understand the nature of crimes and the manner in which to handle all groups within Philadelphia.
Lastly, it is recommended that the Philadelphia Department of Police adopt probation and community-based alternative to incarceration that tends to be against minority groups. The police department could reduce crimes by seeking alternatives to unfair incarcerations of minority groups in cells where they are always treated with severe brutality. It would be crucial for the department to utilize probations and community-based alternatives to incarceration because of their impact on reducing crimes and eliminating the disparate effect suffered by minority groups. White (2011) opines that the supervision of criminals on probation should also be conducted in a fair manner to ensure that everyone understands the negatives associated with criminal activities. Additionally, training facilities and the overall development of criminals should be put in place to boost their recovery and positivity in relation to crimes. This will lead to the realization of reduced crimes and fair treatment of all groups within Philadelphia.
Overall, the Philadelphia Police Department has the chance of reducing crimes while eliminating the disparate impact on minorities. The department should introduce these changes carefully and should ensure that all police officers are prepared for the imminent changes. This will lead to a tremendous reduction in the level of crime within the area. Apart from that, the aforementioned actions would gradually eliminate the disparate impact of the justice system on minorities in Philadelphia.