The role of race in the criminal justice system

BCJ 4201, Race and Ethnic Relations 1
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit VII
Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
1. Identify the key challenges for law enforcement related to the increasing multicultural populations in the United States.
1.1 Discuss the role of race in the criminal justice system.
1.2 Discuss changes to the criminal justice system to improve relationships with minorities.
2. Explore the historical perspective of women and ethnic minorities in law enforcement retention and recruitment.
2.1 Discuss how relationship diversity within a law enforcement agency impacts community relations.
2.2 Discuss the importance of a high retention of minorities in law enforcement.
4. Explain the key law enforcement concern that could arise when interacting with minority populations within the United States.
4.1 Discuss the police-citizen relationship from a minority perspective.
4.2 Discuss recommendations to improve police-citizen interactions.
5. Examine law enforcement response strategies to the War on Terror within multicultural communities.
5.1 Discuss the relationship between race and domestic terrorism.
Course/Unit Learning Outcomes
Learning Activity
1.1, 1.2, 4.1, 4.2, 5.1
Unit VII Reflection Paper
2.1, 2.2
Unit Lesson
Article: “Diversity in Municipal Police Agencies: A National Examination of Minority Hiring and Promotion”
Article: “Gender and Public Agency Hiring: An Exploratory Analysis of Recruitment Practices in Federal Law Enforcement”
Unit VII Reflection Paper
Required Unit Resources
There are no chapter readings for this unit. Please review the following required unit resources.
In order to access the following resources, click the links below.
Gustafson, J. (2013). Diversity in municipal police agencies: A national examination of minority hiring and promotion. Policing, 36(4), 719–736.
Yu, H. H. (2018). Gender and public agency hiring: An exploratory analysis of recruitment practices in federal law enforcement. Public Personnel Management, 47(3), 247–264.
Minorities in Law Enforcement
BCJ 4201, Race and Ethnic Relations 2
Unit Lesson
In prior lessons, we have looked at interactions between various components of the criminal justice system and minorities. In this lesson, we will consider the relationship between the system and its minority employees, specifically in policing.
Women in Law Enforcement
In 1905, Lola Baldwin was hired by the Portland Police Department as a plainclothes patrol officer (Archbold & Schulz, 2012). Shortly thereafter, in 1910, Alice Stebbins Wells was hired by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) after acquiring the support of various local women’s organizations and petitioning the city government (Appier, 2005). After being hired, Wells established the International Association of Policewomen (IAP) and became an advocate for female officers in 16 other cities across the United States and Canada. By 1935, almost 300 departments employed approximately 850 policewomen (Appier, 2005).
In the first several decades, policewomen were concerned primarily with coordinating crime prevention activities, working with female and juvenile victims, and heading social service efforts. The differentiation in the type of work conducted by male and female officers was even more apparent as cities established separate women’s bureaus, which were often in entirely separate physical locations from the main police stations. In the women’s bureaus, female officers assisted victims, provided counseling, and provided other tangible assistance in a home-like environment. Policewomen were supportive of this delineation and agreed with decisions that female officers were not permitted to wear uniforms. The women identified the need to be viewed differently than the authoritative and aggressive persona of male officers (Appier, 2005).
It was not until after World War II that female officers began to push for the opportunity to serve in the same function as male officers (Archbold & Schulz, 2012). These women came to the force with more education, different views of equality, and career aspirations. In 1956, the IAP became the International Association of Women Police (IAWP), allowing only sworn officers to be members, further removing social work as being the focus of female policing (Schulz, 2005). It was not until the mid-60s that females were permitted to take promotion exams, which was only allowed after numerous legal battles across the country. Finally, legislative and executive orders in the form of the 1963 Equal Pay Act, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the Crime Control Act of 1973 prohibited discriminatory practices and provided equal rights for all employees (Archbold & Schulz, 2012).
Assimilating women in law enforcement has been a slow transition. Women have been working regular patrol assignments for only the past 60 years (Lonsway et al., 2003). According to the 2013 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS as cited in Reaves, 2015) Survey of 15,388 agencies, females made up approximately 12% (n=58,000) of sworn officers; almost 10% of first-line management positions, such as sergeants; and approximately 3% of local police chiefs were female.
BCJ 4201, Race and Ethnic Relations 3
While this inclusion has been slow, it does seem to have some impact on police culture. Early police researchers viewed police culture as being monolithic; in other words, researchers once believed that police culture was the same across all officers and all organizations. However, just as policing is no longer a homogenous occupation of White males, the police culture is also not homogenous. Haarr (1997) studied the effects of gender on policing, surmising that officers interact differently based on their demographics, specifically their gender. While portions of her research were not clearly defined and small samples were used, Haarr’s (1997) findings concluded that there is variation in police socialization based on gender, notably that female officers may be excluded from the typical socialization process (i.e., the process of acclimating to the police job and the police organization). Paoline (2003) stated that police cultures would begin to change and lose their similarities as departments became more diverse and less homogeneous. As more minorities, females, and college-educated persons join law enforcement, their perspectives and attributes are likely to alter the collective police culture (Paoline et al., 2000).
Interestingly, women often come to policing with more education at a much higher rate than men do. Carter and Sapp (1990) found that while women made up only 12% (n=124,921) of the 345 law enforcement agencies surveyed, almost 45% of female officers held a college degree. Additionally, 30% of female officers held a graduate degree as compared to only 3% of male officers. The authors attributed this disparity to the possibility that women are potentially scrutinized more in the hiring process; therefore, those selected hold higher degrees or enter policing after already holding a career with higher education requirements (Carter & Sapp, 1990). This was particularly supported by their finding that many women had transitioned from public school teachers to police officers.
Just as the hiring of women is essential to the improvement of law enforcement, so is the retention of female officers. Research has indicated that when departments and their chiefs place priority on recruiting women, implement strong anti-sexual harassment policies, and have legal protections and dispute resolutions for those who report wrongdoing in their department, they experience an increase in both the recruitment and retention of female officers (Lonsway et al., 2003). Through organizational change, departments can increase their diversity and their effectiveness.
Minorities in Law Enforcement
Little information is available regarding the first Black police officer in America. Many police historians begin their narrative by looking at urban police departments; however, as explained by Williams and Murphy (1990), there is often a lack of recognition of the minority view of the history of policing. For example, Dulaney (1996) attributes the first Black officers to the New Orleans City Guard where free men of color were employed to police slaves and capture runaway slaves as early as 1805. Officially, it is documented that Chicago hired
Women have not made much headway
Women have not made much headway in policing, considering that in 1987, in policing, considering that in 1987, females made up 8% (females made up 8% (nn=27,000) of the =27,000) of the nation’s police forcesnation’s police forces (Reaves, 2015)(Reaves, 2015). . TherefoTherefore, there has been only a 4% re, there has been only a 4% increase in female officers in over 25 increase in female officers in over 25 years.years.
(Reaves, 2015)
(Reaves, 2015)
BCJ 4201, Race and Ethnic Relations 4
their first Black male officer in 1872, though his name is unknown. Over the next 20 years, other cities, such as Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York, employed numerous Black officers (Walker, 1977). The first Black female officer in the United States was hired by the LAPD around 1916 (Rennison & Dodge, 2015). However, just as female officers were treated differently, Black officers were also given alternate responsibilities. They, too, were frequently assigned to minority neighborhoods. Black officers began to gain promotions to sergeant positions in the late 1890s, but these were primarily detective sergeant positions. This meant that they held a higher rank but were in a nonsupervisory role. It was not until the 1920s that African American police sergeants held supervisory responsibilities (Dulaney, 1996).
Similarly, little information is recorded regarding the introduction of other race and ethnic groups to policing in the United States. According to Rennison and Dodge (2015), the first-known Hispanic police officer was George Garcia, who became a New York police officer in 1888. Uncertainty also surrounds the presence of Asians and American Indians in policing. It is believed that the first Asian police officer in America, Jim Beltran, was hired by the Seattle Police Department in 1958.
In comparison to women, other minority groups have experienced a greater increase. The 2013 LEMAS Survey indicates that officers of race or ethnic minority made up approximately 27% of sworn full-time law enforcement officers (Reaves, 2015). These numbers have nearly doubled since 1987 when only 14.6% of officers were minorities. Looking at a breakdown of individual groups, in 2013, 12% of the officers in the United States were Black, 11.6% were Hispanic, and 3% were of other minority groups, such as Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander (Reaves, 2015). Diversity in police departments is more prevalent in those serving in larger jurisdictions.
Police and Community Relations
In a push toward bolstering police legitimacy and procedural justice, it is frequently suggested that police-community relations can be improved through diversity in policing (Tyler & Huo, 2002). However, research findings have been inconsistent regarding the importance of officer race. Brunson and Gau (2015) found no relationship between officer race and respondent race, whereas Weitzer (2000) found that while there was not a neighborhood effect, individually, African Americans prefer racially mixed police teams. Alternatively, Chenane and Wright (2018) found that cities with higher ratios of minority officers experience lower rates of violent crime in immigrant neighborhoods. Further research is essential to continue to explore the importance of police diversity on community relations.
In this unit, we have reviewed the history and introduction of different minorities to policing in America. The road to diversity in law enforcement has been long and still has room to improve. Looking forward to the last unit, we will look at another special topic, the relationship between minority youth and the criminal justice system.
Appier, J. (2005). Preventative justice: The campaign for women police, 1910-1940. In M. Natarajan (Ed.), Women police. Routledge.
Archbold, C. A., & Schulz, D. M. (2012, September). Research on women in policing: A look at the past, present and future. Sociology Compass, 6(9), 694–706.
(Reaves, 2015)
(Reaves, 2015)
BCJ 4201, Race and Ethnic Relations 5
Brunson, R. K., & Gau, J. M. (2015). Officer race versus macro-level context: A test of competing hypotheses about Black citizens’ experiences with and perceptions of Black police officers. Crime & Delinquency, 61(2), 213–242.
Carter, D. L., & Sapp, A. D. (1990). The evolution of higher education in law enforcement: Preliminary findings from a national study. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 1(1), 59–85.
Chenane, J. L., & Wright, E. M. (2018, May 22). The role of police officer race/ethnicity on crime rates in immigrant communities. Race and Justice. Sage Journals.
Dulaney, W. M. (1996). Black police in America. Indiana University Press.
Haarr, R. N. (1997). Patterns of interaction in a police patrol bureau: Race and gender barriers to integration. Justice Quarterly, 14(1), 53–85.
Lonsway, K. A., Moore, M., Harrington, P., Smeal, E., & Spillar, K. (2003, Spring). Hiring and retaining more women: The advantages to law enforcement agencies. Women and Policing.
Paoline, E. A., III. (2003). Taking stock: Toward a richer understanding of police culture. Journal of Criminal Justice, 31(3), 199–214.
Paoline, E. A., III, Myers, S. M., & Worden, R. E. (2000). Police culture, individualism, and community policing: Evidence from two police departments. Justice Quarterly, 17(3), 575–605.
Reaves, B. A. (2015). Local police departments, 2013: Personnel, policies, and practices [NCJ Report No. 248677]. U.S. Department of Justice.
Rennison, C. M., & Dodge, M. (2015). Introduction to criminal justice: Systems, diversity, and change. SAGE.
Schulz, D. M. (2005). Policewomen in the 1950s: Paving the way for patrol. In M. Natarajan (Ed.), Women police. Routledge.
Tyler, T. R., & Huo, Y. J. (2002). Trust in the law: Encouraging public cooperation with the police and courts. Russell Sage.
Walker, S. E. (1977). A critical history of police reform: The emergence of professionalism. Lexington Books.
Weitzer, R. (2000). White, black, or blue cops? Race and citizen assessments of police officers. Journal of Criminal Justice, 28(4), 313–324.
Williams, H., & Murphy, P. V. (1990, January). The evolving strategy of police: A minority view. Perspectives on Policing.

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