Thursday, May 21, 2015

These Three Articles Speak for Themselves....Article 2

Image result for Freddy Grey
Freddy Grey

In the 2nd article, Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of history and education at New York University, goes over the checkered history of race and policing in America.

This article appeared in today’s (Friday, May 15th, 2015) Daily News.

The Other Racial Divide in Policing: Throughout History, Departments Have Discriminated Against African-American Cops

By Jonathan Zimmerman
Friday, May 15th, 2015

Image result for Caesar Goodson
Baltimore Police Officer Caesar Goodson, charged with murder

In 1898, African-Americans in Baltimore demanded that the city’s all-white police force hire black officers. The police commissioner issued a curt reply: no. Employing “colored policemen” would result in the “humiliation of Anglo-Saxon blood,” he warned, especially if a black officer were to arrest a white citizen. Baltimore didn’t hire its first black policeman until 1938.

I’ve been thinking about this history during the recent crisis in Baltimore, where six police officers have been charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Three of them are black, leading some observers to contend that the killing of Gray — who was also African-American — was “not about race.”

But when it comes to urban policing, everything is about race. And nobody understands that better than African-American police officers, who have faced brutal discrimination across our past. As we seek justice for Freddie Gray, then, we also need to ensure just treatment of the accused black officers.

Before the Civil War, whites-only police forces helped maintain slavery by arresting black runaways. During Reconstruction, a few Southern cities started to hire black police, triggering white outrage.

In New Orleans, critics worried that an “Africanized” police force would not defend laws that segregated blacks on streetcars. In Vicksburg, Miss., seven recently hired black officers were forced to resign after whites protested. “Law enforcement means domination,” one politician explained, “and the white man is not used to being dominated by Negroes.”

In the urban North, where party patronage machines thrived, some political bosses hired black police to lock in the African-American vote. But that drew the ire of white policemen in places like Detroit, where the entire force threatened to go on strike if blacks were employed.

So Detroit established a numerical ceiling for African-American police officers, who could never exceed 3% of the force. Other cities kept blacks out of policing via specious medical examinations, which could be challenged only by an outside doctor — if the candidate could afford one.

African-Americans stepped up their efforts to desegregate police forces after World War II. Protesting in front of Atlanta’s City Hall in 1946, 300 black veterans noted that they had served their country in the fight against Nazi Germany, but they could not serve their city as police officers.

Southern cities relented during the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and early 1960s, hiring small numbers of black officers. But black police were restricted to African-American communities and prohibited from arresting whites, or even from issuing speeding tickets to white motorists.

Such invidious rules fell away in the 1970s and 1980s, when urban police forces began actively recruiting minorities. But blacks remain underrepresented among police, especially in smaller cities. In Ferguson, Mo., the majority-black city where the police shooting of Michael Brown sparked riots last year, only 5.6% of police were African-American.

And even in cities that made more progress in hiring black police officers, they continued to suffer discrimination. In Baltimore, where roughly half of the police force is black, African-American officers joined a lawsuit claiming they were disciplined more harshly than their white peers were. The city settled the suit in 2009, paying $2.5 million to more than a dozen officers.

Given this history, it’s fair to ask what role race has played in the post-Freddie Gray prosecutions. Of the six defendants, only one — the African-American driver of the van that carried Gray — has been charged with murder by the state’s attorney (who is herself black). The other officers face less serious charges, including manslaughter and assault.

Unjustified killings by cops should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But the law has long been tilted against black police officers. We can’t erase that ugly history. And if we rush to judgment, we could end up repeating it.

Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University.

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