A West Virginia University expert on neighborhood dynamics and police procedures says that law enforcement actions in black communities will continue to be violent even if the officers involved in the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis are convicted and given a death sentence. Jim Nolan, professor and chair of the Sociology Department and former police officer, said police officers liken themselves to warriors who are focused on battle and are seeking an enemy.
“Unfortunately, firing the Minneapolis police officers for the murder of George Floyd will do nothing to prevent this from happening again-- and again. Even if the officers are convicted of murder and given a death sentence, this violence will continue to occur because it is exactly what the police intend to do. It is logical violence within the police bureaucracy. It is organized, scripted, protected, sanctioned, rewarded, and it appears necessary in the same way violence in war appears necessary. The only way to stop it is to end the war.”
“They go into communities not as friends, collaborators and problem solvers, but as warriors looking for enemies to arrest. A good cop is someone who makes lots of arrests. To ‘do policing’ means to enforce the law. Law enforcement appears as the natural way to do policing rather than a social construction that can be changed to make places safer.”
“’Law enforcement’ is internalized in a way so that officers leave headquarters and head into communities to enforce the law. They are looking for people to arrest. And they get status within the department and profession when they aggressively pursue criminal offenders, making arrests and seizing drugs and guns. In this world there are heroes and villains, good people and the enemy of good people, i.e., the dangerous and despicable ‘other.’ The police bureaucracy is set up to do this.”
“Warriors don't worry about creating peace. They focus only on the battle. And they get credit for heroics on the battlefield. In policing, officers are awarded commendations and ribbons recognizing heroics and their stellar record of enforcing the law. These awards have little to do with community outcomes at all. They are not determined by improved community safety, or trust in the police, or strong bonds in the community, or the problems that are solved or anything related to community safety. The dangerous places thirty years ago are still the dangerous places today regardless of the number of ribbons given to officers for doing the right things.”— Jim Nolan, professor and chair, Sociology Department, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
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CONTACT: Jim Nolan
Professor and Chair, Sociology Department
WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
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