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African people and Police Discretion by Jeremiah Africa Donald

Our colleague Jeremiah from our Making Africa | Reloaded team is our reference in Black History and Psychology study and he is sharing some insights regarding police brutality towards Africans in the diasporas.

Discretion, stemming from the 1300c. word dyscrecyounne, meaning "the ability to perceive and understand". This word is more so the verb of the word known as "discrete". In classical Latin meaning "separation, distinction", and later times of the 1570's in which it meant, and or granted "power to decide or judge, power of acting according to one's own judgement".

Now as I begin to list and elaborate on some factors that influence police officer's use of discretion, it is best to remember the roots of this word. Considering the current unleveled conditions of this country; which is unfamiliarity of environment, as the ignorance, unawareness, and or unconsciousness of a zone. Second is Mobilization, which is the manner of how a police officer enters into a situation. Next is education, age, and experience; which is the factors of a police officer being of young age, lacking contact with (experience), and the absence of career, collegiate, and or cultural academics.

Lastly, race is a factor due to familiar acquaintances, which if similar it can enable ones doctrine or authority to be willingly subscribed by the other, or suspect in this matter.

So should police officers be able to use discretion? In response, I would ask if the securitizing occupancy of unfamiliar, and unrelated individuals is plausible for discretion.

This concept of discretion, has caused a universal negative effect; for example, from the book "police and society" it states on page 268 that "A senior lead officer on  regular patrol on a Friday night is especially attuned to various groups of teenagers  gathered on sidewalks and street corners. He has no legal means  to arrest or detain any of these youths, but he is bothered by their presence. He stops whenever he sees such a group and declares, "There is no hanging out around here." He never threatens to arrest them, because he has no basis for doing so. He merely hopes that his ongoing presence and harassment will convince the teenagers to gather someplace else, preferably inside". In this moment if this senior lead officer who is on “regular patrol”, has used his discretion correctly or not, is this officer truly well acquainted with the area.

Simply, because in one instance its a familiar patrol, but in the next instance he is bothered by their presence. Now if this is a regular patrol, and if he is a senior lead officer, surely he is aware that in most scenarios in which teenagers are gathered on street corners, usually this is an impoverished community, mostly occupied by African descendants; That's not a stereotypical thought, that is simply this countries reality. Lastly, I would have to question a lead officers desire to want to purposely harass young teenagers, because if he has perceived the environment in which you regularly patrol. Then it is logical to notice him seeking amusement from irritating youth. Also despite his "seniority", because of his clear unfamiliarity of environment, mobilization, education age and experience, and race. Clearly discretion should not be a power granted to police officers.

As it is obvious, that this has consistently been the root factors in how police discretion is not suitable for us as African people, to be policed by unfamiliar groups. However, the question is do we as a people continue to be in agreement with police discretion, understanding that is already a handicap procedure? Or do we implement our own system of unbiased, and honest measurements of self protection along with self correction?

As African people, if we do not utilize discretion upon ourselves, then we will always be put under the authority of our opposite, which does not understand our environment, cultural dispositions, or does not racially relate to us. Although many scholars suggest that race and specific community aspect alone is not enough to blame arrest on that, due to the other specifiers that result in arrest, it would be and I quote, stated in the article  “premature to accept this position”(Equity and Discretionary Justice: The Influence of Race on Police Arrest Decisions). Also, others mention that this does not exclude that race is a very key part in this, but to not forget about the covariates of it.

In all of that, the question that I pose to others in regards to the topic of discussion remains the same as asked before. In addition with the other covariates included, police discretionary encounters against blacks still remain far more consistent than other races. Although, a fog is used to cover up the topic of Police discretion in relation to Africans in America, it does not change the results, as known “Results indicate that suspect race continues to have a significant effect on the probability of arrest when other encounter-level covariates are held constant.

Thus, blacks still appear more likely to be arrested after controlling for demeanor, offense type, and other demographic characteristics.” (Equity and Discretionary Justice: The Influence of Race on Police Arrest Decisions). Ultimately, the way in which we address, or move forward with knowledge of this, is based on our conscious choice as Africans to measure out the opposites, understand our environment, cultural disposition; also apply this understanding in accordance with the next step we must take, to ensure the most logical way to dispose ourselves of police discretion coming from dissimilar people, and a system that is proven to be bias towards Africans, no matter what other covariates exist in the equation.

"As African people, we must do for self"  


Equity and Discretionary Justice: The Influence of Race on Police Arrest Decisions

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