P.A.J. Waddington (1999) 'Discretion, 'Respectability' and Institutional Police Racism'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 4, no. 1, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/4/lawrence/waddington.html>
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Received: 24/03/99 Accepted: 25/03/99 Published: 31/3/99
'Institutional Racism' consists of the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people. (¶46.34)
Unwitting racism can arise because of lack of understanding, ignorance or mistaken beliefs. It can arise from well intentioned but patronising words or actions. It can arise from unfamiliarity with the behaviour or cultural traditions of people or families from minority ethnic communities. It can arise from racist stereotyping of black people as potential criminals or troublemakers. Often this arises out of uncritical self-understanding born out of an inflexible police ethos of the 'traditional' way of doing things. Furthermore such attitudes can thrive in a tightly knit community, so that there can be a collective failure to detect and outlaw this breed of racism. The police canteen can too easily be its breeding ground. (¶6.17)
Explanations vary, but commonly they are some variation on the 'bad men' theme. Unqualified, unintelligent, rude, brutal, intolerant, or insensitive men, so this theory goes, find their way (or are selectively recruited into) police work where they express their prejudices and crudeness under color of the law (Wilson 1968)
The status of the woman as a 'good mother' was undermined by the contextual features of the stage on which she made her pitch to be seen as a person legitimately claiming victim status. (Chatterton (1983))
Some population groups are many times more likely to be stopped than others. This shows that, by and large, police officers do not make stops randomly, and to the extent that the groups that are likely to be stopped are ones that contain a high proportion of offenders it shows that they are using their powers intelligently. (Smith 1983)
Some accusations of hostility and aggression by police officers towards minorities may be well-founded, but it must be asked whether they are guilty of approaching people aggressively, or whether they are provoked into aggression. If West Indians yell 'Babylon' or spit at an officer as he passes it is difficult for him to be friendly in response. If he chases a youth who runs off when he sees him only to find he is taunting him, then friendliness cannot be expected. If someone is questioned on the street but refuses to give his name and address then friendliness is difficult and possibly not even desirable. (Southgate 1982)
The family of Stephen Lawrence had to be taken as they were found, and as they chose to behave. They were entitled to demand to be dealt with as they were and according to their own needs. (¶ 26.25)
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