U.S. Department of Justice probes police department

But what will happen afterwards?

By Benjamin Land

Police brutality cases keep trending on social media and on news channels throughout America. While the police-related shootings of Michael Brown and Vonderrit Myers Jr. in Missouri have justly garnered most of the public scrutiny on police brutality, Baltimore was recently added to the cities affected last month.

The Anniversary of Tyrone West’s Death Protest. Photo credit: http://www.themsuspokesman.com
The Anniversary of Tyrone West’s Death Protest.
Photo credit: http://www.themsuspokesman.com

Last month, the incident involving Baltimore resident Kolin Truss and police officer Vincent Cosum made local headlines as the latest addition to police brutality altercations from the Baltimore City Police Department. This particular incident found itself spotlighted in local publications across the city, which in turn reminded readers of similar cases in the past. These incidents were frequent enough that it provoked the Department of Justice to initiate a probe into the BCPD for police brutality as well as officer misconduct.

The DOJ’s probe’s hasn’t been released to the public, yet, but the sheer fact that there is a probe to begin with has galvanized local civil rights leaders into calling for a more invasive one. According to the Baltimore Sun, the local branch of the NAACP is spearheading the move for the second probe, citing reasons such as distrust of the current mayoral administration as to why a federal investigation should be carried out. The current probe is a “collaborative review” that was agreed upon by both the mayor’s office and the DOJ.

At the moment, opinions on the outcome of the probe and what it means are mixed. But all concerned parties seem to agree on the need for an internal reform of the current police department. Cases like the above, and several settlements that are currently being paid from the city to residents, are indicative of the threat that violent cops who remain in the department pose.

Earlier this month, the city released a report that discussed on- going changes within the BCPD. The report stressed two suggestions: increased staff to man the Internal Affairs Division and the Force Investigative Team, as well more equipment that will assist in the investigation of police misconduct. The second suggestion is equipping officers with body cameras for a more “in-depth” view of any altercations with residents.

The latter suggestion is widely popular with the City Council and criminal defense lawyers, as well as being supported by activists and citizens via the social media coverage of the Missouri protests. If implemented completely, the suggestions could be the first step in repairing the relationship Baltimore City residents have with the BCPD in the immediate future.

Is diversity in politics and law enforcement worthwhile?

By Benjamin Land

In the wake of repeated police brutality cases making the news, public scrutiny has turned to whether our police forces and political representatives truly represent the diverse bodies that they serve. This is especially the case in the aforementioned fields, as the police are tasked with the duty of upholding the laws passed by our politicians, who are themselves elected by the public to be “face” of their state. So does diversity in both politics and law enforcement makes a difference with establishing the trust between those that serve and represent the people and the public?

Research shows that diversity isn’t as prolific as one might assume. A recent analysis by the Associated Press of the racial makeup of police agencies around the U.S. have shown that Hispanics are more underrepresented than Blacks, in communities that consists largely of minorities. These communities include Anaheim, California, where more than half of the community is Hispanic versus the 23 percent of Hispanic police officers.

In East Haven, Connecticut, the Hispanic population is nearly 9 percent with a 1 percent representation in the police department. Providence, Rhode Island has a 40 percent Hispanic population compared to the 11 percent on the force. These disparities are particularly interesting due to the narrowing of Blacks being represented in police agencies over the years. Baltimore has a higher percentage of white officers patrolling the city (48 percent), with only 28percent of the residents being white.

Yet, even in cities where the police force’s diversity is indicative of the represented areas, discrimination still occurs, thus creating mistrust that plagues so many police departments. This mistrust is again evidenced in the case of Kolin Truss, who received a beating from an onduty officer while unarmed. At the time of publication, Officer Vincent Cosum was suspended following this incident while facing a seven-count lawsuit from attorneys representing Truss.

This larger sociological issue seems to also play out into the game of politics as well. A 2012 Gallup poll shows an overwhelming trend of the Republican Party consisting of mostly white individuals, with Democrats showing a more diverse electoral body. Hispanics are more represented when they identify as independent voters than when they claim either one of the two dominant parties. This diversity, or lack thereof, carries over to the ethnic and racial groups that vote for their representatives into office. Meanwhile, the recovering economy has led to a rise in voters shifting their default political leanings as independents.

The lack of diversity within the GOP is a source of constant concern for the Republicans, who are looking to rebrand the party in an effort to attract more minorities in the future. But by the looks of things, it seems that mistrust is the main roadblock to the rebrand being successful. And even among communities in the U.S., mistrust of the authorities is a major problem that needs to be addressed for diversity to truly make an impact.