Police Culture and the Shooting of Unarmed People of Color


By Mark Naison

Discharging multiple shots into an unarmed suspect is a reflection of a bad department culture, not just individual bad judgment.

A top NYC Detective, following the shooting of Amadou Diallo, told me that officers who knew the community and understood and respected its people could never have poured 41 shots into the body of an unarmed, non-English speaking African immigrant. Those who shot Amadou Diallo were part of a roving anti-crime squad who moved from neighborhood to neighborhood and completely misread his actions because they didn’t know that the neighborhood had many African immigrants from French speaking nations.



Deeply embedded and internalized racism can explain some shootings of this kind; but quotas and numerical targets for arrests, along with poor training and a general atmosphere of cultural insensitivity can also be factors, even if the officers in question are not themselves overt or covert racists.

Mark Naison is Professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University

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