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Ice Cube and the philosophical foundations of community policing

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The recent “First Step Act” is the most significant federal criminal justice reform in decades.  Still, it is a modest first step.  The law eases the sentences of some inmates in federal prison, but it will not impact the problem of mass incarceration significantly because it does not address the many inmates incarcerated in state and local facilities.  Nor does the law address problems within policing.  In fact, the United States is moving away from policing reform.  Despite the growing tension between many police departments and their communities, the Department of Justice has reduced oversight of cities that have demonstrated policing abuses and civil rights violations.  This recent trend is occurring at a time when it is difficult to open a newspaper without seeing a tragic headline about police violence. Prominent cases have involved officers shooting persons in the back who were fleeing and not an imminent threat, and these cases are often along racial lines (see, for example the cases of Walter Scott and Laquan McDonald).   The headlines are not only about shootings, but also about police officers who used unnecessary force—such as unauthorized chokeholds—that resulted in death (such as with Eric Garner).  Practical problems of policing raise a variety of philosophical problems, including the problem noted by rapper Ice Cube in a well-known N.W.A. song: “F*** the police coming straight from the underground, a young n**** got it bad cause I’m brown, and not the other color so police think, they have the authority to kill a minority.”  In so many words, Ice Cube raised a question about the police’s authority: On what basis do the police have the right to use deadly force, engage in deception, and exercise discretion generally?  One way to answer the question is to say that police have authority by virtue of the state’s legitimacy—the moral right to command and be obeyed.  Community-oriented policing is often described as a way to achieve legitimacy. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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