Police display deep prejudices in UK, US - GulfToday

Police display deep prejudices in UK, US

Police officers stand guard towards George Floyd protestors in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (UnSplash)

Police officers stand guard towards George Floyd protestors in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (UnSplash)

Three years after the gruesome killing of Black American, George Floyd, in Minneapolis when police officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee for nine minutes on Floyd even as he was pleading that he was not able to breathe, the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) had released a report which was ordered then. The report as Attorney General Merrick Garland had pointed out was not about an officer as such but that that of the Minneapolis police and its system of functioning. The system was anything but fair. There was blatant racism shown towards Blacks and Native Americans, and there was hostility towards those who stood up for protection of free speech, especially the media and the activists. Garland said, “Our review focused on MPD as a whole, not on the actions of any individual officer. We observed many MPD officers who did their difficult job with professionalism, courage and respect. But the patterns and practices we observed made what happened to George Floyd possible.” So, there is racism and even abusive language on the part of the Minneapolis police force.

A similar issue of discrimination and racism is brewing on the other side of the Atlantic. In March this year, Dame Louis Casey had submitted a 300-page report on the London Metropolitan Police after police officer Wayne Couzens kidnapped, raped and killed Sarah Everard, and she revealed in the report that there is rampant misogyny, homophobia and racism. There was a similar report three decades ago when Stephen Lawrence, a black youth, was left to bleed to death after the police ignored him because of his race. It was then admitted that the London police force was institutionally racist, and it has less to do with individual biases and bad behaviour. A similar behaviour pattern has been detected in the Department of Justice report on the Minneapolis police force, though in America they do not use the term ‘institutional racism’. While accepting the findings of the Casey Report, Met police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley while accepting that there are misogynists, homophobes and racists in the force he would not accept the description of ‘institutional racism’.

It is more than a quibble over words. The racist attitude is built into the system, whether it is in Minneapolis or in London. The democratic principle that all persons equal before law is given a go by, and police officers on both sides of the Atlantic are shown to be indulging in unbridled prejudices which are much too common among people at large but which cannot be allowed a free rein in a police force. And this cannot be seen as a shocking revelation about the police force in the two democracies of the United States and Great Britain. People of colour in America and in England, LGBT communities in London have experienced the rough and prejudiced treatment at the hands of the police continuously and for a long time.

The prejudiced behaviour could not have been a secret. It just goes to show that the authorities at the local level in Minneapolis and London had just failed to nip the toxic work culture of the police in the bud, and allowed it to persist until an outrageous incident like that of Floyd and Everard comes into the open. Racist attitudes have been allowed to go unchecked for a long time, and it will take a long time before the bad habits can be rid of. One of the solutions that has been mooted time and again is that diversifying the police force, getting more Blacks, more Asians and more women into the force. It might go a long way in remedying the toxic culture, but what is needed is the education of the white police officers that racism is inherently wrong and it goes against the spirit of the rule of law.

Related articles