Race and Police Brutality: Roots of an Urban Dilemma Notes (Eva)

Note: Work in progress

The Nature of Police Brutality

  • 1992 Los Angeles riots erupted because of the beating of Rodney King by four LAPD officers (pg 1)
    • All four officers were acquitted
  • Race riots in the 1960s prompted Lyndon B. Johnson to issue an executive order to establish the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (1968)
  • Arthur McDuffie–Miami-Dade County, 1979
  • In 1997 in, Abner Louima was “viciously sodomized with a wooden handle in a Bronx precinct house restroom following a questionable arrest” (pg 3)
  • Joe Campos Torres was arrested by Houston police in May 1977 for disorderly conduct
    • After arresting him, six officers drove Torres to an area behind a warehouse next to Buffalo Bayou
    • An officer pushed Torres off a dock into the bayou, saying “Let’s see if the wetback can swim”
  • “One side of America’s economic and social chasm is inhabited disproportionately by whites, the dominant majority for whom the American Dream continually holds out the promise of opportunity…The other side of the divide is populated disproportionately by impoverished racial/ethnic minorities for whom the American Dream offers little, for whom life is often a struggle merely to subsist” (pg 4)
  • Among the dominant group (in this case, white people), the popular belief holds that police uniformly enforce laws and do not succumb to racially enmity in their treatment of citizens
  • Black and Hispanic citizens view the matter quite differently, arguing that police protect the interest of the dominant group by whatever means necessary
    • Police systematically employ violence against minority citizens knowing that white citizens are unlikely to interfere with efforts to control populations stereotyped as inherently criminogenic (pg 5)
  • Very little research (keeping in mind that this book was published in 2008) has been done into police brutality compared to the correlation between race and crime
    • “What little systematic research is available suggests that our society, particularly minority communities, has good reason for concern about police brutality” (pg 5)
  • Is police brutality an issue of individual prejudice among police officers? Is the system flawed in and of itself?

What Is Police Brutality?

  • “Many citizens define police brutality broadly to include a range of abusive police practices, such as the use of profanity, racial slurs, and unnecessary searches, not entailing the use of physical force” (pg 6)
  • A number of studies indicate that police disproportionately practice degrading, restricting, and harassing against racial and ethnic minorities
  • Research also suggests that males from racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to be subjected to field interrogations and more likely to be frisked or searched after being identified as suspects
    • Piliavin and Briar 1964; Black and Reiss 1967; U.S. Commission on Civil Rights 1970; Bobomolny 1976; Chambliss 1994


Holmes, Malcolm D, and Brad W Smith. Race and Police Brutality: Roots of an Urban Dilemma. State University of New York Press, 2008.

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