by: Cherie R. Brown on December 11th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
Many are rightfully outraged by the recent killings of unarmed African American men by police officers. As a result, there is an important national movement now to protest the killings, to demand that Black lives matter, and to address a criminal justice system that continues to target Black men with little accountability. From my thirty years of experience with the National Coalition Building Institute, I offer one perspective on how to effect institutional change among law enforcement agencies to make them more responsive to Black and Latino communities.
Community residents and local police officers are often both victims of larger institutional racism. When theNational Coalition Building Institute first started leading local training programs between law enforcement agencies and community activists, it became clear that neither side completely understood the other. Community leaders felt under siege by the police, recounting their experiences of constant racial profiling. They understandably organized against the violence from the local police, but sometimes with little awareness of the daily struggles that law enforcement officers face. Police officers in the U.S., like the rest of us, are a product of centuries of racism. They have internalized a great deal of unconscious bias that informs their actions. When the police are called to account for their racism, instead of facing it and changing, they often react with enormous defensiveness, retreat inward, and shut off important contacts with the community.