It has been almost 60 years since the Civil Rights Movement yet underlying racial tensions and documentation of police brutality continue on in America. While criminal activity knows no race, there seems to be a correlation between increased use of force by police officers on people of color compared to their white counterparts (Spencer, Charbonneau, & Glasser, 2016). Whether it is media portrayal, or actual bias by officers, the number of deaths at the hands of police officers since 2014 has sparked outcry from the public.
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Much like the 1960’s and the height of the Civil Rights Movement, a grassroots movement, Black Lives Matter, has begun to take a stand against what is viewed as excessive policing. Currently there is no cohesive database documenting the number of police related shootings. Empirically based research and literature is limited regarding criminal homicide and police shootings (Bejan, Hickman, Parkin & Pozo, 2018). Current research also suggests an under-reporting or misreporting on governmental websites such as The National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) (Feldman, Gruskin, Coull, & Krieger, 2017).
The creation of the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) in response to the shooting of Trayvon Martin has pushed these types of incidents to the forefront of media. The coverage, negative or positive have sparked conversation and research into these matters. Though racism, racial discord and the use of excessive force by police officers is not a new subject area, the seemingly increase of unarmed individuals being shot by police, social media encounters of racism and misuse of police resources by individuals reporting people of color for infractions such as studying in their dorms (Wootson, 2018) or hosting a barbeque (Fernow, 2018) have opened the door for more research (Bejan, Hickman, Parkin & Pozo, 2018).
One area of research questions the role of implicit bias in racial interactions, particularly in regard to police interactions with persons of color (Plant & Peruche, 2005; Correll, Park, Judd, Wittenbrink, Sadler & Keesee, 2007; Spencer, Charbonneau, Glasser, 2016). Implicit bias holds to the idea that individuals are unaware of their own biases that affect their behavior, often in a discriminatory manner (Selmi, 2018). Due to the ignorance of their own bias, behaviors and responses can be attributed to external influences and events, rather than recognizing the internal workings occurring (Plant & Peruche, 2005).
Coupled with this underlying theory is a response on ways to counteract implicit bias, specifically in police training. Police departments themselves are seeking ways to better train their officers in an attempt to reduce fatalities. Researchers, as well, are considering the implementation of cognitive-behavioral based training as well as exposure-based training in an attempt to minimize implicit bias, therefore reducing the number of police brutality incidents (Kawakami, Dovidio, Moll, Hermsen, & Russin, 2000; Lai, Marini, Lehr, Cerruti, Shin,
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