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Black Police Leaders Face Challenges In Addressing Racism Within Police Forces, Despite Increased Representation

Black Chief
Black Police Chiefs ( Photo: ClickOnDetroit )

Black police officers in the US have called for more accountability from their colleagues and departments following the high-profile killings of Tyre Nichols and Irvo Otieno.

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Police Officer ( Photo: CNN )

Terrance Hopkins, president of the Black Police Association of Dallas, argued that many Black police leaders “walk on eggshells” and are hesitant to address racism and bad policing

While increasing numbers of Black law enforcement professionals leading major police departments have shown that diversity can foster better relationships, make policing fairer, and save Black lives, excessive uses of lethal force, racial profiling, and routine brutality still continue, often at the hands of white male officers. Brenda Goss Andrews, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, said that although sometimes it seems like an unfair burden, dialogue with the community and discussions surrounding the issues will make positive change.

The group will hold its annual CEO symposium in Detroit, where Black police chiefs, commissioners, sheriffs, and commanders from across the country will gather to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion, best practices for mental health responses in policing, and managing the response to mass shootings.

The symposium takes place amid a renewed focus on police use of force, police abuses in Memphis, and police discrimination in Louisville, all of which have been investigated by the US Justice Department

Many of the largest US police departments are led by veteran Black law enforcement professionals, such as Commissioner Keechant Sewell in New York City, Chief William Scott in San Francisco, Chief Troy Finner in Houston, and Chief Elaine Bryant in Columbus, Ohio.

In 2020, about 47% of major city chiefs were white, 38% were Black, and 13% were Hispanic, a stark contrast to four years earlier when 65% of major city chiefs were white and 19% were Black. The percentage of local police officers who were Black remained at 12% from 1997 to 2020, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

While modern-day policing in the US has origins in the slave patrols used to control the enslaved population, Black men and women have served as law enforcement professionals since abolition.

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