AMU Emergency Management Opinion Original Public Safety

Police Reform: Part of a Larger Issue with US Society?

By Allison G. S. Knox
Columnist, EDM Digest

In the wake of the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd, protests and civil unrest surged and equal rights for Black people are in greater demand. Over time, Black people have been collectively discriminated against by law enforcement and have been subjected to discriminatory standards that have not occurred to other Americans.

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As the protests swell, the main focus of these arguments has been to reform law enforcement throughout the country. Certainly, police reform has been a huge discussion, but it’s only part of a much larger issue in American society — social equity — that social scientists have discussed in academic literature for decades.

Video Has Proven the Need for Police Reform

Video footage of various incidents involving the treatment of Black people by law enforcement officers has certainly provided visible evidence of discrimination. Similar to the #metoo movement, Black Lives Matter is growing momentum as more and more Black people come forward and describe their unfair treatment with law enforcement.

Systemic Racism and Social Equity

In addition to systemic racism, there are other issues in the American justice system. Scholars have noted for quite some time that Black people are incarcerated far more than white people.

More worrying is that people who are wealthy have an easier time with the justice system than people who can’t afford to obtain their own lawyers. As the Black Lives Matter movement gains momentum, it’s drawing attention to social equity problems and the need for equal rights and dignity.

Public administration expert George Frederickson wrote a lot about social equity and what this means for various government programs and administration. The term “social equity” refers to people in society having equal resources. How administrations provide resources and create policies is particularly important because it affects their administration.

How Can We Truly Create Police Reform?

Working to reform law enforcement agencies is certainly a start, but it will not be the “be-all-end-all” of reforms our country needs. Working to improve social equity and eliminating systemic racism will help. But it will take complex social science research and understanding to create plans that would provide lasting change and correct America’s societal imbalances.

Allison G.S. Knox

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at the University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison works as an Intermittent Emergency Management Specialist in the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response. She also serves as the At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences, chair of Pi Gamma Mu’s Leadership Development Program and Assistant Editor for the International Journal of Paramedicine. Prior to teaching, Allison worked for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. She is an emergency medical technician and holds five master’s degrees.

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