White and Black and Blue: In 49 of 50 Cities, Cops Whiter Than The Communities They "Serve"
Baltimore. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Stunning visuals in a sweeping new report from the Center for Public Integrity offer one vital if unsurprising reason that police abuses - in Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore - are rampant across the country: In all but one of 50 big American cities, largely white cops are policing largely black communities, with all the ensuing ethnic and racial differences that demographic gap suggests. The one exception is Atlanta, where reverse racial ratios - 35% of cops are white and 58%, slightly higher than the population, are people of color. The report features charts that show the most notable discrepancies in cities with large communities of people of color. In Baltimore, whites are 28% of the population but 50% of police; Philadelphia has 37% white population but 58% white cops; in Sacramento, whites comprise just 36% of residents but 72% of police. Another study finds another key source of racial estrangement: Out of the 75 largest cities, about half of African-American and Latino police live in the cities they serve, while just 35% of white cops - in Detroit, make that 8% - do. So much for any shared sense of empathy, commonality or community.
Police departments, it's often noted, have made some strides toward education and diversity. And in an admittedly backhand sort of accomodation, they have proved to be equal-opportunity abusers - of the mentally ill, including "combative" children, of other cops who happen to be black, and of poor whites. Thus do white residents of Baltimore's so-called Pigtown say of police who don't necessarily see color, "We all get treated the same - badly....It's a poverty thing." At the same time, many charge the institutional racism of the policing culture is so powerful it often even poisons black cops, to whom "the color blue becomes more important than black and white." Meanwhile, the sometimes Israeli-trained forces to whom they give their allegiance become ever more militarized into a modern-day domestic counter-insurgency army that views the residents they "serve" as enemy combatants. The 1968 Kerner Commission, appointed after riots in Los Angeles, Chicago, Newark, and Detroit, reported that to many blacks, “police have come to symbolize white power, white racism and white repression.” It further warned that an "abrasive relationship between police and the minority communities has been a major - and explosive - source of grievance, tension, and disorder." After 45-plus years, after Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray ad nauseum, heartbreakingly little has changed. At her fiery press conference, Baltimore state's attorney Marilyn Mosby told the righteously furious of her community, "Our time is now." And really, if not now, when?
Baltimore. Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA