Policing the Police: A Brief History

By Carla Murphy Sep 12, 2014

With Ferguson still on the national conscience, ThinkProgress reporter Nicole Flatow looks at how three cities have dealt with their high profile police violence cases–Rodney King in Los Angeles, 1991; Amadou Diallo in New York City, 1999; and Timothy Thomas in Cincinnati, 2001–and whether reforms worked. It’s a mixed bag. In New York City after the Diallo reforms, largely considered cosmetic, it appeared that things had worsened. And in Cincinnati, at least for one resident, the Collaborative Agreement implemented after the 2001 unrest helped end the feeling that she lived in a police state

Over at Jacobin, writer Stuart Schrader connects policing to empire-building and cautions against the reforms themselves: "The reform program of imposing rigorous standards of behavior, divisions of labor, and doctrinal guidelines does not subject the police to public scrutiny or oversight but instead insulates them, further enabling rule by discretion."

Reform expert Philip Atiba Goff in a piece by Rinku Sen, publisher of Colorlines, cautions that reforms are incomplete without examining hiring practices as well as key police identities like race and masculinity. He tells Sen, "An officer who feels a need to demonstrate his masculinity may be more likely to use force in general, but particularly against people who threaten his self-concept as a man. If African-Americans are seen as hypermasculine, then the officer will feel more threatened."

Since no one knows how many police shootings occur nationally each year, there are ambitious efforts underway by ordinary citizens to fix that. Learn more about them–and how to help–on Deadspin. Albuquerque, for example, has seen 47 police shootings since 2009 in which 32 people died.

Diallo and Thomas also died at the hands of police officers. King was badly beaten.

(h/t ThinkProgress)