There are many instances where minorities are not given the chance to prosper in American society. The same system that promises all men equal opportunity has turned its back in the face of minorities. We plan to examine some segments of this system, namely the media and the criminal justice system, exposing injustices burdening minorities in America.
The media, in particular broadcasting news, has catered to stereotypes of non-whites by over-representing minorities as the assailants in violent crime. These types of practices are clearly detrimental to the advancement of those who have been handicapped by the ignorance of the past. In the first part of the paper we examine the effects of the rise of local news, charting specific studies geared toward presenting its damaging effects.
The second section of the paper is comprised of cases documenting apparent discriminatory treatment of minorities in the criminal justice system. Racial cues about crime that have been embedded into the minds of the public lead to unfair cynicism about suspects based on race. Practices such as police corruption aimed at minorities highlight this portion of the paper.
These are just a few of the ways that the America has cloaked the face of justice with the veil of race. Bias against minorities is apparent in all of America's systems and must be uncovered before any type of action can be taken. Though in some cases it is more easily discovered than others are, the first step is making these problems aware to the public.
THE RISE OF LOCAL NEWS AND ITS EFFECTS ON PERCEPTIONS OF RACE POLITICALLY AND SOCIALLY
In todays realm of receiving information, it is almost evident that people learn about the larger world beyond their immediate experiences primarily through television news broadcasts. Since these findings have come to light, many have attempted to determine the effects and significance of the shift from print media to television as the dominant media for information.
Despite the fact that television is still the dominant source, there have been shifts involving the consumption of news programming. There has been a significant fall in the reliance of the networks and their national newscasts for America's news. Today more people are relying on the reports given by local news programs than on that of the networks. Several surveys have recorded this shift as early as 1993, denoting that much of America cites local news on television as their major source of information.
An even stronger argument than media usage surveys is the relative share of viewing audience commanded by either network or local news programs.
Based on Nielsen audience ratings from the countrys two largest media markets (Los Angeles and New York), it is clear that the number of Americans who tune in to local news programs on a daily basis far exceeds those who watch national newscasts. Averaging across both markets, the cumulative audience for evening local news easily surpasses the cumulative audience for national news. (Iyengar &Reeves, 1997)
The immense audiences for local news show basic changes in television programming. All over the country today, local news programs air in the morning, afternoon, evening, prime time arid even late night. The weekly total of hours devoted to local news programming in Los Angeles and New York are 97 and 91 hours, respectively. These figures greatly surpass time allotted for network news programming which is around twelve hours per week (Iyengar & Reeves, 1997). This shows how in terms of the volume and availability, local news is dominating the day's broadcasts. One study examined twenty-two media markets; for eighteen of them, the local programs attracted more viewers by and average margin of four gross ratings points (a gross rating point represents approximately 920,000 viewers) (Hess, 1991).
When the dominating local news covers serious topics, the focus is predominately on crime and or other threats to public safety. Since these local broadcasts are able to compete with their network counterparts, the exemplification of crime related stories, are viewed by the majority of audiences. This dominance of local news has important consequences for the viewers, as well as the American society at large. Local news is defined by its unique perspective on issues and events affecting the public, by its emphasis on (and frequent over-exemplification of) conflict, drama and violence. Everything is done to make sure the public gets its share of "blood and guts." The broadcasters have discovered that for local news to be economically successful, it must put an emphasis on violent crime. At the same time, the demand for personalized news that gave birth to local newscasts means, more and more, a suspected perpetrator will occupy center stage in news stories about crime. This tactic forces the viewers' attention toward more salient and visible attributes of criminal suspects, such as their race or ethnicity. Through the course of watching this crime script the audience notices that criminal suspects are generally non-white males.
The great prevalence of violent crime in local news and the tendency of crime reports to feature non-white perpetrators raise questions about two major kinds of media effects, agenda setting and framing. Media agenda setting refers to "shifts in the public's political priorities induced by the amount of news coverage accorded particular issues" (Ansolabehere et al. 1993) s far as local news in concerned, the most evident prediction is that unyielding attention to violent crime has heightened the importance of crime on the viewers' political agendas. In addition, the paradigm of agenda setting postulates that viewers have become more dependent upon crime related beliefs and opinions when creating their own political attitudes. This process is often referred to as priming (Ansolabehere et al., 1993).
Local news coverage of crime may also be examined as a particular case of framing "subtle alterations in the definition or presentation of judgement or choice problems and the changes in decision outcomes resulting from these alterations" (Iyengar, 1991). It is well known that broadcast news outlets rely on an "episodic" frame for public affairs in which political issues are depicted in terms of concrete instances. Thus, in the case of crime, the focus of the typical local news report is directed at a particular act of violence by a specific (usually non-white) perpetrator. Prior research suggests that episodic framing of issues of public order (crime and terrorism in particular) encourages viewers to advocate a more punitive approach to criminal justice (Iyengar, 1991). The evidence also indicates that episodic framing of crime, when accompanied by racial imagery, evokes racial stereotypes and race-based reasoning about policy issues (Iyengar, 1991). Based on this evidence, it can be anticipated that exposure to local news will strengthen public support for punitive approaches to crime and encourage the expression of racist attitudes.
Local news has emerged as the ordinary citizen's major source of information. The content of local news programming is marked by two themes: crime is violent and those who engage in crime tend to be non-white males. As I will describe later, these themes, are likely to make their presence felt in the viewers' minds.
AGENDA SETTING & PRIMING EFFECTS
Americans consider crime to be "the most important problem facing this country today" (Gallup Poll 1998). One must ask what role has the media played in increasing public fear of crime? Several studies have shown that in fact, the rate of crime (and violent crime in particular) has dropped dramatically overt the past decade. This implies that the public's beliefs about crime are not based on some personal experience as a crime victim. These ideas come from "what they see in the news media, namely that violent crime is a frequent daily occurrence" (Iyengar & Reeves, 1997). In the Los Angeles area, a report on violent crime airs every three minutes during local newscasts. Murder accounts for less than one percent of all crime in Los Angeles but makes up twenty percent of all local reports (Iyengar, 1998). Los Angeles well represents the normal population. In a study conducted in fifty-six different U.S. cities, violent crime accounted for two-thirds of all local news (Klite, 1997).
In keeping with the notion of media agenda setting, the research evidence suggests that exposure to news coverage of crime is contributing to the perception that crime is a serious problem. Iyengar and Kinder included illegal drugs as a "target" in one of their experiments on network news coverage. Examining various indicators, they found that viewers exposed to news coverage accorded significantly greater importance to drug abuse (Iyengar and Kinder, 1987). In a series of similar experiments, this time manipulating the amount of local news coverage, Iyengar and Reeves found that exposure to a single crime-related story heightened viewers' fear of being victimized (Iyengar & Reeves, 1997). Comparable results have been obtained in studies of newspaper coverage. Erbring and his colleagues, for instance (Erbring et al. 1980) found that crime was the only issue for which the amount of news nationwide correlated with the level of audience concern. This body of experimental correlation evidence thus helps explain the enigma of continued high levels of public concern for crime in the face of declining rates of criminal activity. Crime may be declining overall, but information about specific acts of crime is all too visible.
Along with the estimation of the net impact of news coverage on the prominence of crime related issues, agenda setting researchers have tried to pinpoint the factors that moderate the effects of the news. The major question to be asked is do people differ in their susceptibility to coverage of particular issues? Iyengar and Kinder hypothesized that:
agenda setting would be enhanced when manipulation of news coverage to specific personal characteristics of their participants so that the issue under investigation would be especially under investigation would be especially compelling to one group of viewers" (Iyengar & Kinder, 1987)
For instance, news reports about the financial difficulties facing the social security system were shown to elderly and young participants. In general, their results revealed a significant interaction between personal relevance and news coverage. In other words the impact of the news was greatest for viewers personally affected by the issue. The identical pattern was uncovered in a study of newspapers about attention paid to crime related stories. "Readers most likely to be at risk (women and elderly) were especially receptive to news stories dealing with crime" (Erbring ci al., 1980).
The evidence supported by these moderators of agenda setting suggests that the impact of local news will be conditioned by viewers' personal experiences with crime. In addition to factors know to be correlated with exposure to crime (such as gender, race, age), we might expect the news to exert greater influence among viewers who live in areas infested with high crime rates. In addition to such factors, several other moderators are worth considering, including patterns of media use (people who rely exclusively on local news versus those who view a variety of news shows), evaluations of the credibility of local news, level of political involvement and expertise, just to name a few.
From the research stated above, it can be said the coverage of crime by local news has contributed significantly to the current heightened concern of crime. Most people do not experience crime first-hand. However, they receive a generous daily dose of crime news. With increasing numbers of Americans tuning in to local news broadcasts, crime has been pushed into a high-priority position on the public agenda.
The fact that that crime is a prominent issue has important effects on the public opinion. The priming effect refers to changes in the weight individuals assign to their specific opinions on issues when they make political evaluations and choices as a result of the amount of news coverage accorded to those issues. The relevant finding is that the more important an issue in the daily news stream, the more impact of that issue on political and social attitudes.
In the category of election campaigns, the main implication of priming is that issues in the news become the most talked about voters. In 1980, for instance, the media's sudden preoccupation with the Iranian hostages in the closing days of the campaign caused voters to consider the candidates' credentials on the issue of terrorism when choosing between Carter and Reagan. Naturally, this logic proved disadvantageous to President Carter. More recently, the fact that news of the economy drowned Out news of the Gulf War at the time of the 1992 election cost President Bush dearly. Had the media played up military or security issues, of course, the tables would have been turned given Bush's advantage in reputation over Clinton on matters of national defense. (Brannon & Krosnick, 1993).
The newsworthiness of crime has forced all candidates for elective office to address the issue. Given the state of public opinion (with large majorities in favor of "hard nosed" approach to crime), it is no coincidence that increasing numbers of public officials advocate the death penalty and stringent law enforcement. Where law and order was once a position dominated by conservative candidates, today the position is consensual with liberals taking stands as being tough against crime. As one can see, the impact of the news media on the audiences' political agendas has resulted in substantial shifts in the policy positions of the politically elite.
Not only is violent crime central to local newscasts, the episodic or personalized style of reporting means that the news is typically about specific crimes and perpetrators. Nearly sixty percent of the crime reports on local news provide some information about a suspect (Iyengar & Reeves, 1997).
Research into the framing effects of news coverage suggests that the episodic frame draws viewers' attention to the actions of particular individuals rather than societal conditions. For example, poverty being understood as a consequence of insufficient effort and motivation, or crime and terrorism viewed as a consequence of lawlessness and disregard for human life. When people are confronted with news coverage describing particular instances of complex issues, they reason accordingly by assuming that poverty and crime are caused not by deep-seated economic conditions, but by dysfunctional behavior. The appropriate remedy for crime is not improved job training programs and economic opportunity, but harsh and unconditional punishment. By shaping viewers' attributions of causal and treatment responsibility for crime, the episodic frame indirectly influences crime-related attitudes. People who subscribe to individualistic accounts of crime, for example, are more likely to favor greater spending on law enforcement and to express greater support for the police (Ansolaberhere et al., 1993). By influencing attributions of responsibility, episodic framing of crime also shapes attitudes towards the criminal justice process.
What is especially striking about the episodic news frame for crime is the frequency with which it conveys explicit racial cues. The focus on a particular perpetrator and the visual emphasis of television can cause those to view the news to infer that the principal antecedent of criminal behavior is race.
By associating crime and race, local news necessarily interjects racial stereotypes into the publics understanding of crime. Viewers are compelled to evaluate their racial beliefs in light of what seem to be empirical realities. Iyengar's framing experiments suggested that news of crime in black neighborhoods made viewers more likely to offer either individualistic (ie. character flaws) or punitive (le. insufficient attributions of responsibility for crime (Iyengar, 1991). Because attributions of causal and treatment responsibility for crime and poverty proved to be significant attitude cues, the racial component of crime news also contributed to public Opinion more generally.
The most unequivocal evidence concerning the racial element of the crime news script has been provided by Gilliam and Iyengar. Their experiments demonstrate that the presence of a black rather than white perpetrator in local news reports is meaningful to viewers. Specifically, the skin color of the alleged perpetrator matters to viewers opinions concerning both race and crime. Using computer-based editing techniques, the researchers present the same individual as either a white or African-American male. The results show that when the suspect in the news was African-American, significantly more viewers endorsed punitive criminal justice policies (the death penalty, 'three strikes, increased funding for prisons). In addition, the racial manipulation strengthened viewers' racial stereotypes (ratings of blacks as lazy and unintelligent) and lowered evaluations of black leaders such as Jesse Jackson (Gilliam and Iyengar, 1998). However, Gilliam and Iyengar found that the racial element of crime news was overshadowed by any exposure to crime news as an antecedent of racial attitudes. That is, viewers' tendency to stereotype African-Americans and their negative evaluations of black leaders became more pronounced in response to the crime-no crime rather than the white perpetrator black perpetrator manipulation (Gilliam and Iyengar, 1998). This result suggests that viewers have internalized the racial element of crime news, so much so that any reference to crime is sufficient to trigger negative racial attitudes.
Not only does exposure to crime news influence viewers' attitudes, we can expect that it will also serve to increase the relevance of racial stereotypes as a basis for judging the performance of elected officials or for choosing between candidates for elective office. In effect, local news programming puts a racial Overtone on public discourse by making policy choices increasingly intertwined with questions of race. A recent study by Mendelberg found significant priming effects of exposure to the 1988 Willie Horton" advertisement used by the Bush campaign. Among participants exposed to the Horton advertisement, racial prejudice was a stronger predictor of support for particular social welfare and civil rights policies than among control participants who did not view the ad (Mendelberg, 1997). Race-based news coverage of crime primed racial stereotypes. Of course (as the use of the Horton ad by the Bush campaign itself reveals), the audience 5 sensitivity to matters of race is important to vote-seeking public officials. We can only anticipate that racial appeals, either explicit or coded, will become even more frequent during political campaigns. In short, the prominence of local news makes race an even more central component of American public life.
The political implications of agenda-setting and framing effects with respect to crime are all too clear. Elected officials must, of course, take heed of their constituents political concerns. In response to the media-induced public outcry' over crime, elected officials, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, running for executive and legislative office, have endorsed law and order as an immediate policy goal. Heightened attention to the issue of crime necessarily means reduced attention to other pressing problems, such as education. The frequent association of crime with race in the news also means that exposure to the news could trigger racial identity and the resulting in-group bias. It is well documented that people categorize themselves into groups instinctively and that group identity exerts powerful attitudinal consequences including the expression of discriminatory effect for in-group and out-group members. The current journalistic system will not provide help for the state of race relations; white viewers of the news will only become more likely to stigmatize black Americans, while black viewers will increasingly malign the motives of a "hostile" media.
The psychological implications of agenda setting and framing effects are no less significant. The fact that a mere three second insertion of a photograph into a fifteen minute news segment significantly alters viewers racial attitudes and their views about the appropriate means of controlling crime suggests that there is much more to race relations and political attitudes than acculturation and ones formative experiences. No doubt racial prejudice is deeply rooted in American culture, and there is considerable evidence suggesting that racial and other group-related sentiments are acquired early in life. Moreover, core values such as individualism and the work ethic encourage citizens to hold individuals rather than societal factors responsible for issues such as poverty or crime. The research summarized above, however, suggests that despite the history pro vided by such life-long socialization processes, the daily flow of news could provide significant added value. People seem to resort to a more dynamic process of reasoning about racial groups in which the frequency of particular actions by individual group members is taken as revealing about the group as a whole. In this sense, shaping their stereotypes to correspond to the latest round of news stories.
Not much is being done today to combat these lacking qualities of local news broadcasting. This is because of the lack of research done on the topic. This problem is a relatively new discovery that is long overdue. Now that some research has been done, there must be action taken to return local news to a medium that serves the public's need for information. The press that caters to sensationalism, drama, and violence is detrimental to all non-whites. They will continue to be stereotyped, and will never get a fair shake in any of America's public systems. These are the very systems that promise everyone equal opportunity.
Ansolabchere, S., Behr, R., Iycngar, S., 1993 The Media Game, Needham Heights, Massachusetts: Allvn and Bacon
Erbring, L., E. N. Goldenberg, and A. H. Miller. 1980. "Front-page news and real-world cues: a new look at agenda setting by the media," American Journal of Political Science, 24, 16-49
Gallup Poll, 1998. www.gallup.com
Gilliam, F. Jr., S. Iyengar, A. Simon and O. Wright. 1998. "The Corrosive influence of local television news on racial beliefs," Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.
Hess, 5. 1991. Live From Capital Hill: Studies of Congress and the Media. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.
Iycagar and R. Reeves eds., Do the Media Govern?, 1997 Oaks arid Sage Publications.
Iycugar, S. 1991. Is Anyone Responsible? How Television Frames Political Issues. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Iycugar, S., and D. R. Kinder. 1987. News that Matters: Television arid American Opinion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Klite, P., R. A. Bardwell, and I. Salzinan. 1997. "Local television news: getting away with murder," Press/Politics, 2, 102-12.
Krosnick, I. A., and L. A. Brannon. 1993. "The impact of the Gulf War on the ingredients of presidential evaluations: multidimensional effects of political involvement," American Political Science Review, 87, 963-75.
Racism in the Criminal Justice System
by Mark Sanders and Chuks Amajor
Racism in police treatment of minorities has created great disparities in incarceration amongst the races. Blatant cases of racist law enforcement that are covered in the news are a testament to the fact that racism within police departments exists from coast to coast. However, these are only the cases that people find out about; there are countless other cases of police racism and brutality that are not reported.
A series of reports that have been published in the last few years have shown that young black men are being incarcerated at a rate far greater than their number in the overall population. In the fall of 1995, Vincent Schiraldi, executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco, released a study that found that nationally 33% of the black men in their 20~s were under the control of the criminal justice system in some way, shape or form. This shows an increase from 1991, when 25% of the black men nationwide ages 20 to 29 were incarcerated, on probation, or on parole (Butterfield 1996).
Schiraldi, attributed the higher incarceration rates for black men to tougher punishment for the use of crack cocaine than for other drugs; harsh new sentencing laws; the prison construction boom; and poverty, lack of good jobs and poor education in inner cities. We will address how tougher punishments have resulted in worse treatment for minorities in the criminal justice system. The tougher punishment for the use of crack cocaine, which is prevalent in minority neighborhoods, and the harsh new sentencing laws are a result of a new, stringent brand of law enforcement in which officers are trying to arrest as many people as possible. Unfortunately, as a result of this new brand of law enforcement, minorities, who are disproportionately thought to be suspects of crime (see "The Rise of Local News and its Effects on Perceptions of Race Politically and Socially" by DeRonnie Pitts), are getting the short end of the stick This can be seen in the high incarceration rates of black males (Butterfield 1996)
Pail I: Police Profiling and The Phenomenon of DWB: Driving While Black
The racism that contributes to the disproportionate incarceration of blacks starts before people get arrested It begins with the disproportionate targeting of blacks as suspects Consider the following scenario:
James Phelps doesn't like to drive late at night. While on the highway, he is overly cautious and always keeps his speed in check with cruise control He avoids neighborhoods where police patrol often, but when he does encounter an officer, he becomes nervous and expects to be pulled over James behaves this way not because of any criminal activities or intentions on his part, but because he is black, and he knows there's a good chance he will be pulled over accordingly All of his African-American friends have been stopped, and they too share his apprehension. "It's a way of life, says the highly successful electrical engineer, "You get used to it."
Being stopped by police for no apparent reason is unfortunately a common complaint among people of color The phenomenon is known as "driving while black (or brown)," and it is so widespread that the complaints are now basically routine news.
It led to the tragic death of Jon Gammage, cousin of former Pittsburgh Steeler Ray Seals. He was pinned down and suffocated by white officers in suburban Pittsburgh after a routine traffic stop (Orseno 1998).
It happened in San Diego near Qualcomm Stadium when professional football player Shawn Lee and his girlfriend were handcuffed and detained by police for a half-hour. Authorities said Lee was pulled over because he was driving a vehicle that matched the description of one stolen earlier that evening. Lee was driving a Chrysler Jeep Cherokee, a sport utility vehicle. The missing car was a Honda sedan (Orseno 1998). Over the years, police departments throughout the nation have pulled over a host of minority celebrities and professionals. Actors Wesley Snipes and Blair Underwood, and athletes such as Joe Morgan and Al Joyner have all been detained. These incidents although, disturbing, are helpful because they bring about public awareness of the issue (Orseno 1998).
Such embarrassing episodes make it easy to point out the fact that at least some racism exists in police departments. And it must be noted that for every highly publicized documentation, there are countless other incidents that don't make front-page headlines.
Wilkins v. Maryland
In 1993, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Robert Wilkins, an African American attorney, who was stopped by the Maryland State Police (MSP) for no apparent reason. Wilkins claimed he and his family were targeted because they are black. The police denied the allegations but agreed to settle. The settlement included an agreement to maintain computer records of motorist searches to permit monitoring for patterns of discrimination. When the records revealed racial disparities, the ACLU returned to coui4 contending that the police were violating the Wilkins' settlement. The judge agreed and ordered the MSP to produce its investigative and disciplinary files; extended the record keeping requirements for a year; and expanded the record keeping to include all motorist stops, in addition to detentions and searches (Rose 1999).
Charles & Etta Cuter v. Maryland State Police
In 1997, the ACLU won a $50,000 out-of-court settlement for Charles and Etta Carter, an African American couple from Pennsylvania who were stopped and searched by MSP troopers with drug-sniffing dogs. The police found no drugs and did not issue any tickets. The ACLU contended that the department's conduct toward the Carters was part of its continuing pattern of racial discrimination in drug interdiction efforts (Rose 1999).
NAACP et al. v. Maryland
In June 1998 the ACLU filed a class action suit on behalf of the Maryland NAACP and ii minority motorists charging state troopers with pulling over a disproportionately high percentage of African American motorists on 1-95 to search for drugs. The ACLU found that the MSP continues "to use discriminatory racial-profiling techniques in stopping drivers along Interstate 95. It was noted that four out of every five 1-95 motorists the MSP detained and searched were minorities, even though minorities comprise only about 22% of motorists traveling on 1-95. The lawsuit identified 13 troopers who consistently stopped and searched black motorists. The data also revealed that the MSP searched black motorists traveling 1-95 more than twice as often as black motorists traveling other Maryland roadways. In spite of the disproportionate number of minorities stopped, the rates for drug finds were the same for black and white motorists (Rose 1999).
Indiana. Smith v. City of Carmel
Last April, the city of Carmel settled a suit brought by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. The plaintiff named was Sgt. David Smith, an African American police officer. He was driving an unmarked police car when a police officer pulled him over. The suit charged police officers with conducting traffic stops without probable cause and targeting motorists because of their race, age, and place of residence. As part of the settlement, the police agreed to a permanent injunction prohibiting them from stopping motorists without cause. The department must also maintain computer and videotaped records of traffic stops for specified periods and allow the ACLU to periodically access them. Sgt. Smith received an undisclosed financial settlement (Rose 1999).
Pennsylvania: Wilson v. Tinicum Township
In 1991, a police officer stopped four African Americans travelling along 1-95. After examining the driver's license and registration, he called in two more police cars, including one with a police dog. The officers used the dog to search the car as well as the driver and his friends. After a fruitless search, the officer gave a warning for an obstructed rear-view mirror, even though only a used air freshener string was attached to the mirror. When the driver asked the officer why he had been stopped, the officer said, "because you are young, black, and in a high drug-trafficking area, driving a nice car." In 1992, the case was settled for $250,000 in damages and a consent decree requiring the police to send Pennsylvania' s ACLU monthly records for stops and searches for three years (Rose 1999).
These cases are just a few examples of the problem at hand. Clearly, better protection of citizens rights, particularly those of minorities, is necessary. Despite this need, a 1996 Supreme Court decision has given police even greater powers in this arena. The court ruled that police could pull over motorists for minor traffic infractions, even if the officers true motive was to look for more serious offenses. The ruling has led to further abuse, and police now pull over motorists for the most obscure reasons. Young blacks and other minorities suffer the most, simply because they meet the profile of what many police officers believe to be criminals (see "The Rise of Local News and its Effects on Perceptions of Race Politically and Socially" by DeRonme Pitts). Using race as a reason to pull someone over is illegal, but it's hard to prove an officer's motives. The officer can simply claim a violation was spotted.
There's been a shocking lack of commitment to solving this problem. Other than the few small studies that have been forced upon selected police departments due to court injunctions, little official research has been done on this subject.
Part II: The Stanford Survey and Its Results
To further increase the research done on the matter, we conducted our own survey of individuals on the Stanford campus (see back for sample questionnaire). In our survey, thirty minority students and thirty white students were asked a total of 10 questions. Of the 10 questions, only 4 were pertinent to our investigation: I - do you have a car; 2- have you ever been pulled over by a police officer on campus before; 3- if so, why were you pulled over; 4-did you receive a ticket. The other six were designed to disguise the actual intent of the survey.
The results of the survey were staggering. At the onset, we expected to find at least some evidence of a disparity. However, the data was far more polarized than we would have thought. Among the thirty white students surveyed, 25 had cars and only one of these students (roughly .5%) had been stopped on campus. Among the thirty minority students surveyed, 19 had cars and 12 of them (roughly 63%) had been stopped. In further analyzing this data we found an even more startling statistic. Twelve of the minorities who had cars were males. Of these twelve individuals, ii (roughly 92%) had been stopped.
Many would argue that more minorities get stopped, because they are more often the one's that are committing the crimes. This argument is flawed for at least two reasons. One, our survey was conducted on the Stanford campus, with only Stanford students. Minorities in this setting do not commit more crimes than whites, so an unequal number of stops could not be for this reason. Two, such an argument advocates stereotyping and racism, two concepts we one day hope to abolish. Although we are far ~m the day where these things have no part, our society in general would like to think we are striving for it.
Our informal survey unquestionably supports the DWB theory. It also goes further in pin-pointing the sex of people who are stopped. Minority women in the survey have been stopped much less frequently than men (although still higher than the white population). It could be that our research suggests a DWBM (Driving While Black Male) phenomenon. As discussed earlier, the media has done much to effect the mentality of individuals in our society (see "The Rise of Local News and its Effects on Perceptions of Race Politically and Socially" by DeRonnie Pitts). African American and Latino males have been portrayed in a very negative light. And because of this, a number of people (police officers included) either consciously or subconsciously believe that minority males are likely criminals. The Stanford survey does much to support our argument.
Although our results are revealing, it must be understood that they are in no way exhaustive. One of the drawbacks of such a small-scale effort is that there is room for error. With the number of individuals surveyed, it is possible that our sample was not representative of the campus. However, it is for this reason that larger scale projects should be undertaken. The easiest way to accomplish this would be through the police themselves. Gathering comprehensive statistical information regarding the race and ethnicity of all drivers who are stopped - not just those who are arrested - is the first step in devising an effective approach to eliminating the problem.
Part III: The Struggle for Large Scale Research
Attempts at enacting larger-scale programs have been under way for some time However, opposition, especially in the political arena, has been fierce. Early last year, Governor Pete Wilson's vetoed AB 1264, a bill that would have provided the first comprehensive data on routine traffic stops in California. Sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin Murray (D-Culver City), the "California Traffic Stops Statistics Act" would have mandated that data on race and traffic stops be collected by police and reported by the department of Justice for a period of three years. The bill, which passed with wide margins in both houses of the state Legislature, was also supported by minority law enforcement organizations such as the National Black Police Association and the National Latino Peace Officers' Association (Alexander 1998).
Law enforcement is already required to collect data regarding the race and ethnicity of the 1.5 million people arrested in California each year. That information is presented in highly detailed statistical charts published by the California Department of Justice (Alexander 1998). Of course this information has been paiticulai4y helpful in highlighting the alarmingly high number of minorities in jail. The vetoed bill undoubtedly would have revealed similar findings.
A second wave of efforts to mandate record keeping is currently being legislated. In the meantime, the San Diego Police Department recently initiated such a program in an effort to restore public trust in their law enforcement. In doing this, they became the first department in their the nation to research the matter. And following in footsteps, the San Jose Police Department will begin its own version of the program in May (San Jose Mercury News 1998). The program comes in the wake of an incident that took place in March 1999, in which a youth minister was stopped by officers for a non-existent traffic violation, assaulted, and then released without a citation.
Currently, 12 state legislatures are considering laws requiring police departments to enact what the San Jose police department has just announced it's going to do voluntarily (Alexander 1998). Whether or not the current bills are passed, San Jose's program will proceed. In this pilot project, the race, gender and age of each driver, as well as the reason the motorist is being stopped will be entered into the computer terminal of the patrol cruiser. The information will then be examined to help determine the extent of inappropriate stops (Alexander 1998). If the program supports what has been said all along, then further steps will be taken to correct the problem. The department will also create a policy calling for officers to identity themselves and notify the drivers exactly why they are being stopped. Additionally, San Jose intends to increase officer training in ethnic sensitivity and individual rights under search and seizure.
Programs such as the ones in San Diego and San Jose are hopefully just the beginning of a nationwide effort. In a series of lawsuits brought in Maryland, New Jersey, California and other parts of the country, the ACLU has succeeded in exerting serious pressure to end the negative effects of DWB (Rose 1999). And in response to mounting criticism of discriminatory police practices, Representative John Conyers, D-Michigan, has sponsored a federal bill, "The Traffic Stops Statistics Act, H. R. 11 8, " to study the issue on a national level (Orseno 1998).
The perception of racial profiling in traffic stops is eroding public trust and needs to be addressed if community policing is to be successful. The most powerful weapon police have to fight crime is community trust, and if a group is treated unfairly, that trust will be destroyed. Addressing the problem at hand is of critical importance for our society.
Part IV: Racist Police Corruption in Philadelphia
Corruption in the Conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The case of Mumia Abu-Jamai is a case in which an individual has been convicted of murder within a criminal justice system that is corrupt along racial lines. Mumia AbuJamal was an ambitious, talented journalist. In the late 1970's he was one of the top names in local radio, interviewing such celebrities as Jesse Jackson and the Pointer Sisters, and winning a Peabody Award for his coverage of the Pope's visit to Philadelphia. He was president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and called "one to watch" (Abu-Jamal 1997) by Philadelphia magazine. However, Mumia was still a radical; he had a history of involvement with the Black Panther Party. The Philadelphia Inquirer called him ~an eloquent activist not afraid to raise his voice, (Abu-Jamal 1997) and this fearlessness was to be his undoing. His uncompromising life-style lost him jobs at black radio stations, and he was forced to moonlight to support his family (Abu-Jamal 1997).
In Abu-Jamal's original trial, which ended in 1982, the jury found him guilty of murder and sentenced him to death. In 1995, a court was reconvened without a jury to hear arguments requesting a new trial based on new evidence and false testimony that had been delivered at the original trial. The first notice of corruption can be seen in the fact that both cases were presided over by Albert Sabo, a former member of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), former sheriff, and a judge notorious for favoring the prosecution in all of his rulings. No other judge has presided over more cases that have resulted in a death sentence. Branded as a "defendants nightmare" (Abu-Jamal 1997) by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Judge Albert F. Sabo has sentenced more men to die (31 to date, only two of them white) than any other sitting judge in America. A fellow judge once called his courtroom a "vacation for prosecutors" (Abu-Jamal 1997) because of his bias toward convictions. This judge, who was obviously biased toward all prosecutors (tins would be especially applicable in a case about the murder of a police officer) rejected Mumia's appeal for a new trial in 1995 (Abu-Jamal 1997).
Contradictions and inconsistencies in witness testimony create the greatest debate in this case. Because of the staggering evidence in favor of overturning Mumia's conviction, or at least granting him an appeal, Judge Sabo's unwillingness to grant Mumia's appeal points to a bias on Sabo's part (Abu-Jamal 1997).
One of the only certainties regarding the case is that Officer Faulkner, who was shot on that fateful night, stopped a small orange Volkswagen "Bug" because the car had a broken taillight. Four witnesses including Veronica Jones and Dessie Hightower claim that after Officer Faulkner was shot, they saw two men fleeing the scene. This testimony is somewhat shaky because as these people witnessed this, they were protecting themselves from possible stray gunfire. As a result neither of them saw who shot Faulkner (Abu-Jamal 1997).
One of the men fleeing the seen was Mumia Abu-Jamals brother, William Cook. Cook was arrested for assault the night of the shooting, but was never brought into court to testify about the shooting. It is also believed that he did not testify at the 1995 hearing because of threats made against him, presumably by Philadelphia police (Abu-Jamal 1997).
Another witness, William Singletary, is one of the only witnesses that provide a complete account of the shooting involving the occupants of the Volkswagen. According to him, one occupant came out of the car and was placed against the wall by Officer Faulkner to be frisked and questioned. A second occupant got out of the car and was told to return to the vehicle by Faulkner. As Faulkner turned his head to issue the command, the second occupant shot Faulkner in the face (Abu-Jamal 1997).
After the shooting, Mumia arrived in a taxi cab. As a freelance journalist, Mumia made little money and needed another source of income and served an overnight shift as a cabdriver in order to supplement his income. As Mumia approached Officer Faulkner to offer his aide, Faulkners gun discharged, and Mumia fell against a nearby car (Abu-Jamal 1997).
Although this statement seems to offer a pretty clear explanation for what happened that night, later inconsistencies with this story weaken the account. In 1990, Singletary added to his story. He suggested that the shooter left a .22 caliber gun under the Volkswagen; a gun which was never recovered. He also claimed that Faulkner actually intentionally shot Mumia Abu-Jamal and that Officer Faulkner spoke to Jamal. Although, considering the state Faulkner was in after being shot in the face, experts reject this suggestion as "impossible." Interestingly, these inconsistencies which link Mumia to the crime coincide with reported harassment that Singletary received from police. Singeltary has admitted that he was told to rewrite his story four to five times, because it was incorrect. According to Singletary, his parents and his business were threatened by Philadelphia police officers as an incentive for his cooperation with detectives. Eventually, Singletary gave an account of the incident that satisfied detectives (Abu-Jamal 1997).
Veronica Jones, originally told police that she had seen two men running from the scene of the crime after Officer Faulkner was shot, and identified Mumia as the shooter. However, her testimony is questionable, because according to Jones, police promised to alleviate her legal problems at the time in exchange for her cooperation. Jones legal problems were associated with prostitution and a robbery charge that carried a sentence of up to ten years in prison. Further incentive to assist the police was offered by the fact that Veronica Jones was a mother of three who found the idea of prison deplorable (Abu-Jamal 1997).
The manipulation of Veronica Jones continues with her testimony at the original trial. While she was talking to police, Jones was introduced to two detectives who she was told were her lawyers. On another occasion, she was taken to court under the impression that she would be answering for her robbery charges. How-ever, she was put on the stand at Mumias trial instead. The officers who had previously threatened Jones with jail time if she did not cooperate, were standing in the back of the courtroom. This frightened Jones enough for her to point the finger at Mumia (Abu-Jamal 1997).
At the 1995 hearing Jones recanted her testimony despite the possible consequences, in order to clear her conscience. Amazingly enough, despite this change in testimony, it was found that while Jones9 new testimony was "incredible" the change in her story would not have altered the verdict of the original trial (Abu-Jamal 1997).
Debra Kordansky witnessed the scene from the window of a hotel across the street. Unlike the other witnesses, she is a white woman who does not have the potential to have a racial bias in favor of Mumia Abu-Jamal. In her original statement she testified that she saw two men fleeing the scene after shots had been fired. However, this statement was withheld from the defense until late in the trial. Oddly enough, when the defense finally received her statement, any information that could have been used to contact her had been removed (Abu-Jamal 1997).
Not only were there problems with the witnesses in the trial, but there were problems with the lawyer defending Mumia Abu-Jamal. Anthony Jackson was Mumias public defender. However, he was a reluctant, incompetent lawyer who was later disbarred. As a matter of fact, since the original trial, Jackson has gone as far as to file an affadavit in Mumias support detailing his delinquencies and inadequacies. Mumia had requested self-representation early in the trial, because he did not have faith in Jackson (Part of the reason for his doubt of Jacksons abilities was his failure to secure Debra Kordansky's testimony.), however this request was denied. Sabo wouldnt allow Mumia to defend himself because according to Sabo, his dreadlocks made jurors "nervous." Mumia was kept in a holding cell and read about his own trial in the newspapers (AbuJamal 1997).
In order to make Mumias jury as unsympathetic as possible, a black juror was removed for violating sequestration, while a white juror was given a court escort to take a civil service exam. In the end all the black jurors but one were removed (Abu-Jamal 1997).
On top of receiving a biased and unfair trial with incompetent representation, Mumia was also a victim of police brutality. He was near death when he was brought to the hospital after being shot, showing signs of much more abuse than what a gunshot wound could inflict. At the original trial, Sharon Smith testified that she saw police arrive at the scene and begin beating Mumia while yelling, "Kill the black motherfticker!" Mumias head was shoved into a pole during this police beating. Pictures of Mumia taken when he arrived at the hospital show his head and face thickly wrapped (Abu-Jamal 1997).
Another controversy that was uncovered at the hospital surrounded an alleged confession to the murder that the prosecution claims Mumia made while receiving treatment in the emergency room. According to the prosecution, Mumia exclaimed, "I killed the motherfucker and I hope he dies (Abu-Jamal 1997). Newspapers reported that almost a dozen people witnessed this confession including nurses, security guards, and police officers. However, Anthony Colleta, the doctor who treated both Officer Faulkner and Mumia, and who claims he was with Mumia from the time he entered the emergency room, maintains that he did not confess in any way shape or form. The police officers who were in the emergency room did not report the alleged confession until two and half months after the crime. Officer Gary Bell blames the emotional trauma he suffered surrounding the shooting as the reason he could not remember Mumia's alleged confession. On the other hand Officer Gary Waksul, who was also in the emergency room, noted, "the Negro male made no comments (Abu-Jamal 1997). Unfortunately, during the original trial, the defense was denied the opportunity to bring Waksul to the stand because he was on vacation. Judge Sabo refused to grant a continuance until Waksul returned from vacation. Strangely enough, Gary Waksul now denies that he ever was a police officer even though his family confirms that he was! (Abu-Jamal 1997)
Thus, with the aid of a judge that is well known to be biased toward police officers and prosecutors, Philadelphia police officers were allowed to frame a black man for the murder of a police officer. This follows the mentality of officers who, in the tradition of harsh law enforcement are looking for a conviction as opposed to searching for justice. Often this is one of the reasons behind the DWB phenomenon. Once these officers were presented with a radical, dreadlocked, black male (fitting of the stereotype of the typical criminal) suspect, these officers jumped at the chance to incarcerate a scapegoat. They secured a conviction by coercing and threatening witnesses. One of these coerced witnesses was a police officer that could testily that Mumia Abu-Jamal did not confess to the murder and oddly enough this officer later caught amnesia. All of this took place while the criminal justice system and its poor public defenders allowed Mumia Abu-Jamal to languish in jail while he was being defended by an inept lawyer. Despite the evidence of coerced witnesses including a prostitute trying to get out of a robbery charge carrying a 10 year sentence, this man was 5t~ll denied an appeal and has been wasting away on death row. This is a testament to the injustice that a black man can go through within a racist, corrupt criminal justice system. However, tins corruption is not an isolated incident. Unfortunately, cases of police framing blacks are widespread and they are being perpetuated by the new, stringent brand of law enforcement that is being endorsed by those who want to get tough on criminals, many of whom are black (Abu-Jamal 1997).
Philadelphias 39th Police District
The 39th District in North Philadelphia was a police district that was home to 5 extraordinary police officers. At least that is what their paperwork indicated. Their records included more than 40 arrests or searches of suspected North Philadelphia drug dealers and their properties, and the confiscation of thousands of dollars worth of drugs, cash and guns. However, these police officers were using their own private stash of money, drugs, and guns to plant contraband on the people they arrested. The five officers were indicted before a federal grand jury on February 28, 1995 for planting evidence on "suspects" and pocketing more than $100,000 in cash and property from those suspects. They used fabricated police reports to hide the entire scheme. Another disturbing fact associated with this case is that the vast majority of these "suspects" were black (Slobodzian 1995).
Unfortunately, cases of racism like this are not uncommon according to Joe McNamara, a Hoover Fellow and former police officer. In a lecture that he delivered for the EDGE seminar, McNamara stated that racism in general, and racist police corruption run rampant in police departments all over the nation (Slobodzian 1995).
The prosecution of these five former police officers on conspiracy, theft and criminal civil rights charges was the biggest federal indictment of Philadelphia police officers on corruption charges since the "Five Squad" cases of the 1980s. The original Five Squad scandal rocked the Philadelphia Police Department in the late I 980s. In addition to accepting bribes from dealers, four Five Squad members were accused of using their badges to steal drugs and about $280,000 in cash seized from drug dealers during searches between 1980 and 1984, when the unit was disbanded. The four were convicted and in January 1990, three were each sentenced to 15 years in prison and a fourth to five years. The following year, a federal judge reduced the three terms to five years and the fourth to the 10 months already served. This history of police corruption in Philadelphia is a testament to McNamaras assertion that racist police corruption is not uncommon (Slobodzian 1995).
The indictment of the officers involved in the 1995 case covers a period between February 1988 and April 1991. The indictment also charges that the five conducted their activities both inside and outside of the 39th District and sometimes beat or threatened individuals. The five officers maintained a stash of various drugs and drug paraphernalia to use to falsely accuse someone of drug possession or to boost the amount confiscated from a suspect so he or she could be charged with a felony. At least ii other officers in the 39th District were investigated. Some assisted in the drug activity while others falsified statements to investigators (Slobodzian 1995).
The officers who were convicted received sentences from 10 months to five to 10 years. These officers include:
* John Baird: a 40-year-old (all of the ages of the police officers are contemporary with their indictment in 1995), 14-year veteran of the Philadelphia police force. He was suspended after the 1991 incident, but was trying to get reinstated through arbitration.
* Thomas DeGovanni: a 44-year-old, 22-year veteran of the force. DeGovamn was relieved of duty in 1991, but reinstated by an arbitrator two years later. DeGovamij was working as a patrol sergeant in Philadelphias 18th Police District, but he retired amidst the scandal.
* Steven Brown: a 48-year-old patrol officer who had been assigned to the 39th District, but retired amidst the scandal.
* James Ryan: a 39-year-old, 14-year veteran of the force who was working as a highway patrol officer at the time of the indictment and had no intentions of retiring.
* Thomas Ryan: a 38-year-old officer who retired on disability shortly after the 1991 incident (Slobodzian 1995).
With the exception of Thomas Ryan, who had retired on disability, all of these corrupt officers were still working or planning to work as police officers. They would all have been able to continue their illegal, racist activity. As a matter of fact, Baird, who had been suspended in the wake of the 1991 incident, was pending reinstatement through arbitration, and DeGovanm, who had been relieved of duty after the incident, had been reinstated. If this scandal had not been discovered it definitely would have continued, and a few of these officers had the potential to continue this corruption because they were still working (Slobodzian 1995).
Unfortunately, in an interview from behind bars these officers said that much of their illegal activity was part of the system that police everywhere use in the "War on Drugs." They were just doing what they believed their commanders, politicians and, yes -you the public wanted: We didn't own and operate the system. We didnt invent it . We were just some of the many thousands of custodians. We inherited it (Fazlollah 1996). Much of their behavior was the result of the new brand of law enforcement being perpetuated by harsher sentencing and the emphasis on putting people in jail (Fazlollah 1996).
According to the officers, hundreds of their arrests were bad. Brown said that at least 700 of his arrests were bad. He says he never saw a legal drug arrest; they were all bad in some way, he says, ranging from minor technicalities to complete fabrications. Defense attorneys have stated that if the cases these officers participated in were thrown out because they admitted that they lied, then every one of their 1,400 arrests would have to be scrapped. These officers routinely illegally searched groups of black youths hanging out on corners, and when drugs were found police reports were fabricated to indicate that a drug sale had been witnessed (Fazlollah 1996).
They arrested so many people that they believe police officials knew, or should have known, that they were falsifying reports simply from the sheer number of arrests. However, instead of questioning the arrests, their supervisors encouraged them to make even more arrests in accordance with law enforcement's move toward harsher punishment (Fazlollah 1996).
In this so-called "War on Drugs" these officers brought a lot of hardship to many innocent people, who's only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time and having brown skin. The Rev. Betty Patterson, spent three years in jail for a crime she did not commit. After her release she settled a civil suit against the city of Philadelphia for about $1 million (Slobodzian 1995).
In one June 8, 1989 raid, Baird, DeGovanm, and Brown forced their way into an apartment and Baird simulated Russian roulette with his gun to the head of a "suspect" in order to encourage him to tell them about the location of drugs or money (Slobodzian 1995).
According to U.S. Attorney Michael R. Stiles, the joint investigation of these officers started after an incident on February 24, 1991, in which Arthur Colbert, an insurance worker and part-time college student, was wrongly arrested as a drug suspect after a car stop. Subsequently, Colbert was taken by some of the indicted officers to a crack house in ~orth Philadelphia, held hostage, threatened with death, and then thrown in jail in the 39th District while his apartment was illegally searched (Slobodzian 1995).
Colbert later filed a complaint, which was investigated by police and later resulted in the indictment of the officers. Police then began working with federal investigators on the conspiracy and criminal civil rights probe (Slobodzian 1995).
All told, 137 murder and drug cases were overturned in relation to this corruption scandal. One group of thirty-two cases that went to civil court averaged settlements of $65,000, and another unrelated settlement was as high as $2.44 million. However, these numbers are nothing compared to the mental anguish that the victims of this racist police corruption and their family members had to deal with. Innocent people were sent to jail for as many as 10 years. Is this what the "War on Drugs" is all about? Of course not, politicians and members of the public intended to legitimately put drug dealers in jail. However, the onslaught of policies designed to get tough on crime combined with stereotypes of the typical criminal that pointed the finger at young black males has perpetuated a system of corruption that is contributing to the disproportionate incarceration of blacks (Fazlollah 1996; Slobodzian 1995).
Part V: A Solution: Citizen Review Boards
Racism is hard to regulate, because it is an intangible quality. One cannot reasonably expect a racist police officer to admit his biases in a survey or under questioning. One successful method of protecting citizens from police corruption is to set up review boards that have the ability to review complaints registered by citizens and issue grievances or recommend punishments when appropriate. This serves as a check against the autonomy that police have had in the past and that has allowed racist law enforcement to continue.
One of the basic principles behind the concept of civilian review boards is that civilian investigations of citizen complaints are more independent, because they are not conducted by people who are sworn officers. This eliminates the possibility of police bias in an investigation of police wrongdoing. A civilian review board will not hesitate to compile and publish data on patterns of police misconduct within a particular precinct or district. They do not have anything to lose (Fight )
Civilian review boards also establish the principle of police accountability. Strong evidence exists to show that a complaint review system encourages citizens to act on their grievances. In addition, since police officers know that they will be accountable for their actions, they will be more cautious of their actions. In addition, police officers will not have to feel bad about alerting others about one officer S misconduct, because the review board will investigate any wrongdoing ("Fight ").
A police department can formulate model policies aimed at deterring and punishing misconduct, but those policies will be meaningless unless a system is in place to guarantee that the policies are aggressively enforced. That is where the review boards come in ("Fight ").
There is a history of success with policies that are aggressively enforced. Considerable progress has been made in the arena of police overuse of deadly force. Although the rate of use of deadly force by police officers is still intolerably high, national data indicates that the number of people shot and killed by the police since the mid-i 970~s is down as much as 35-40% in Americas 50 largest cities. There has also been a significant reduction in the racial disparities among persons shot and killed. Since the 1 970~s, the ratio is down from about six people of color to one white person, to three people of color to one white person.
These are encouraging signs that a citizen review board will have the ability to curb many of the police abuses that we have seen, from disproportionate police stops, to police corruption, to disproportionate incarceration of blacks, if it is aggressively enforced as the policies against overuse of deadly force have been. However, this will only be able to curb the problem. While impressive results have come from efforts to curb the use of deadly force by police officers, there is still a disparity between minorities and whites. The ration is down by 50%, but minorities still experience 3 times as much deadly force as whites. The problem of racism will never be solved unless society changes. The society that perpetuates the stereotype of the black criminal through its media must change, and in order for this change to occur, the vast majority of the people in the society must change. There will always be ignorant people who hate others for inane reasons, but that does not mean one cannot fight racism. Racism can be fought, and the first step in fighting racism in the criminal justice system is to give power back to the people who are being exploited by establishing citizen review boards.
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