As I begin working on this project, I can’t help but reflect on everything that has led up to now, on why I chose this topic in the first place. The issue of police misconduct is not only one that is very relevant in today’s social and political climate, but also is one that is very important to me personally for a number of reasons.
Police misconduct predominantly affects people of color, and as a minority woman, I have a personal stake in the issue. With no clear, implementable solution at our fingertips, it is only natural that I want to take it upon myself to develop a database that could theoretically be implemented by every police department in the country, increasing transparency, accountability, and citizen trust in the police force. Through my interviews with individuals on both sides of the issue, additionally, I hope to shed more light on the issue as a whole and why these kids of violent incidents are steadily rising in frequency.
One of the individuals I am working with, Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability, has been helping me to understand the issue more and has also helped to broaden my perspective by connecting me with actual police officers that I will be able to interview with my project. As a victim of police brutality herself, as someone who lost her family to unnecessary violence by an officer, she has been a great asset in expanding my knowledge and showing me all sides of the issue.
Through the course of this project I hope to tackle many important questions that currently exist without definitive answers: why does no official database exist at the present time? How do officers distinguish between situations in which force is required and situations that can be addressed without the use of force? Why do so many officers use deadly force in situations that do not require it? What is the background checking process for officers like, and how are the “bad cops” weeded out? How do police departments address corruption? At the end of my project, I hope that I will have shed more light on the answers to all of these questions, bringing more awareness to not only the issue of police misconduct, but the solution.
The first week of my project, I reached out to the various individuals that I wanted to interview: Philip M. Stinson, a former cop and current professor at Bowling Green State University, who created his own extensive database regarding police misconduct, Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability, Captain Paul Figueroa and Deputy Chief Leronne Armstrong of the Oakland Police Force, and Dr. Aaron Shapiro of the University of Pennsylvania, who specializes in policing and urban studies. I read a few academic books regarding the issue of police misconduct and accountability: The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement, which I finished, and The New World of Police Accountability, which I am about halfway through. Lastly, I did some research about creating a database, and gained an understanding of how I am going to go about creating the one for my project.