Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Call of Duty: Black Cops Edition

            “I would expect that from a white officer, not from a brother.” Ten-year veteran of the Chicago police, Officer Isaac Lee, hears this statement all the time, and responds with, “Like what, I’m supposed to overlook your crime because we are both black” (Hill 1). However, Officer Lee is not alone in dealing with the internal struggle that arises when African American police officers must differentiate between their professional and personal duty when dealing with people of their own race. This “Call of Duty” holds black police officers to a higher standard, considering they are forced to choose between their department and the black community.
            African Americans have been oppressed by white police officers frequently and severely throughout history. Therefore, one major aspect experienced by black police officers is the expectation placed on them by black civilians to understand their dilemma and go easy on them. While, African American officers are often hired to make policing fairer for black communities, many citizens of these communities believe black police officers oppose their own race and even consider them traitors. However, as residents of black communities, and often as victims of police misconduct and brutality themselves, black police officers frequently understand the poor relationship between African American police officers and civilians. Consequently, because African American police officers recognize the rationale behind the poor relationship between cops and black citizens, they realize they must work extremely hard to convince the African American community that they are not a sellout, and instead are there to strictly do their job and help them.
            However, at times still despite their effort African American civilians continue to accuse black officers of being programmed instruments by white authority. African American Police officers not only experience tension from black civilians, but also face internal conflict concerning contributing to the stereotype or statistics in reference to arresting African Americans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, African Americans account for 12.6% of the United States population, however in 2009 they made up nearly 39% of the jail inmate population. Therefore, some black police officers feel like a contributing factor to the statistics, that some believe have been majorly impacted by white officers, when arresting African Americans. Another aspect of the internal struggle black police officers often experience refers to feeling the need to fight for the injustice and brutality that African American citizens have dealt with from white police officers, and still continue to deal with today. For example, in 2010, a routine traffic stop turned into a nightmare for an African American male named Melvin Jones. After being pulled over by white police officer, Jeffry Asher, Jones ended up in the hospital with severe injuries to his face resulting from being beaten by a flashlight. This horrible occurrence left Jones with a broken finger, partial blindness in one eye, and fractures to the bones in his face, which required reconstructive surgery (Johnson 1). This situation also left Americans with the realization that African American brutality by white police officers is an incredibly serious issue that is still very existent. Incidents like these are a major factor in creating the internal struggle police officers often experience; as they realize they are in a position that has the opportunity to fight back for individuals like Melvin Jones.
            Another aspect of the difficulties concerns the racial barriers that exist inside the police department. Black police officers often experience pressure from white supervisors to not go easy on individuals of their own race. Marcus, an African American officer who preferred not to give his last name, states, “Your supervisors, who are mostly white, are watching you to make sure you are not just going easy on your own people, while your own people are looking at you to see if you are a sellout, doing the “white man's” will” (Hill 1). Therefore, in order to prove that they in fact are not going easy on African Americans, black police officers must force themselves to think and act as a white police officer would. They must develop a “go along, get along” attitude that matches white police officers in order to satisfy their supervisor and persuade their white colleagues that they valuable to the force.
           African American officers experience great difficulty when protecting and defending their community. African American citizens, Caucasian citizens, fellow officers, and supervisors bring on this difficulty resulting in black officers to choose between their professional and personal duty.

Hill: Chicago Tribune Article
Johnson: Melvin Jones case and video


  1. This is a very interesting and well composed blog. We see this issue a lot in movies, where the black officer feels we must act more partial to his black community. I can see how this would play a serious role in their moral and ethical obligations and put added stress on their decision making process. The percentage of African Americans to the percentage of African Americans is an extremely startling statistic and places even more stress on black officers. However, perhaps by my own blindness, I would have thought that police would be more advanced regarding racial discrepancies. The story about Melvin Jones is shocking, however; I feel that there is more to the story than that. I do not feel that type of interaction would occur solely from a "routine traffic stop:" None the less, this is an interesting issue which needs to be addressed with seriousness. If our countries African American population falls away from policing there will be risk of much further racial profiling and interactions.

  2. I have to assume that any black person who seeks a career as a law enforcement officer knows before they even put in their application that they will more than likely have to deal with this social dynamic. As a black man myself I know that I would have mixed feelings about working as an officer. After touring some of the correctional facilities recently I know that I could never work in that field.

    Recent events in my hometown show the opposite side of the issue that you've so brilliantly named "Call of Duty: Black Cops." Back home they have created an anti-crime task force that is going to target specific areas with high levels of gun crime. The task force is highly controversial in the black community because not one officer on the team is black. If rumors are to be believed then most of the officers on the team are from surrounding areas with little to no minority population. I think this story ties in with your blog post because it is an example of how although black officers (or officers of any minority group) might face issues that their caucasian peers might not ever have to think about the black community does want to see officers that look like them policing their neighborhoods.

  3. You put together a great blog. I live on the southside of Chicago in a middle class neighborhood. I have seen on a number of occassions police officers harrass young black males in the neighborhood and some of the them have been African American. I am guilty of some of these thoughts. I certainly do not expect an officer of the law to go easier on an offender because they are the same race. Howvever, when I see Black officers use excessive force on these young black men it does disgust me. Many of the young men in my community are in school, have jobs, or attend community college. My neighborhood is not perfect but we rarely see a lot of crime. Is it the fact that these officers feel like they have something to prove to their superiors or are they trying to distance themselves from these offenders who happen to be the same race as them. I do understand that these men and women are put in a compromising position but they have to realize that they don't have to prove anything to anyone.

  4. I like this article, It make you really think about someone else and how they sould or should not act according to a set standard. All police no matter what race should treat others how they would want to be treated, inaccordance with the law. Yes I get that some indidvduals feel that an officer of their same race should go easier on them (the suspect), but would that be really be justice? I believe that this topic sould be looked into more with research. Further research would open more doors to finding and concluding what is really occuring.

  5. I have also heard that black cops are more likely to be tougher on black teens. Since I am not an African American I can merely speculate on why I think this is. I would assume that black police officers have a strong attachment to neighborhoods that are mostly black. In doing so, they probably see a lot of criminals who also happen to be black commit crimes against the people from their own community. For this reason they are tougher in order to set forth a higher standard for their community.