Race and the Tragedy of Quota-Based Policing

By | November 3, 2016

Criminal justice reform divides into two seemingly irreconcilable camps: Black Lives Matter versus blue lives matter. On one side are racial minorities—often led by women—and allied whites who acknowledge that having black or brown skin can be a death-dealing hazard. These individuals are exasperated about lethal police violence and the resultant lack of accountability. On the other side are cops and their apologists. They reject the idea of police bias, are bewildered at the energy minorities spend protesting police brutality (as opposed to in-group violence), and argue that the only kind of “reform” necessary should tilt toward police.

Despite their sharp disagreements, there may be one issue on which these two groups might agree: the undesirability of quotas in police forces. By police quotas, I mean formal and informal measures that require police officers to issue a particular number of tickets or make a certain number of arrests, often within a specific time frame. Formally, a quota is an explicit policy that is either unabashed (“Officer Winslow, get X citations a month”) or masked with gentler, technocratic tropes like “goals” or “targets.” Informally, a quota may be an implied prod for police officers to increase their “activity.”

Across the country, police officers’ use of quotas have been investigated, litigated, and legislated against, but the perniciousness of the practice gets lost amid discussions about more imminent dangers such as fatal police shootings or the overreliance on incarceration as a punishment tool. (The American Prospect)

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