There is adequate evidence that indicates the existence of social and economic inequalities between dominant and minority ethnic Canadian groups. Many years of deferred treatment between the two is the most plausible explanation for the existence of these disparities. Historically, the Canadian society has enforced norms and ideologies that have differentiated treatment of its citizens with preferable treatment for the dominant ethnic groups (Ben-Porat, 2007). These standards and customs influence current thinking about race and ethnicity. The differential perception of police officers from minority Canadian communities hinders their work effectiveness.
The Canadian police are multicultural. Service officers have been drawn from across all ethnic groups in a bid to create racial balance in the force. Racial balance has been seen as one of the easiest ways to achieve fairness in the treatment of citizens by the police (Melchers, 2003). Studies point to minority Canadian ethnic groups already making up a fair percentage of the entire Canadian police force (Melchers, 2003). The number indicates a significant achievement for a democracy that has grappled with the issue of ethnic inequalities for long. However, the process has created a new challenge for both the society and the police force. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
The problem relates to the treatment and perception of police from dominant and minority ethnic groups by the citizens and fellow police officers. Stenning (2003) confirms that there are gaping differences in the treatment of police from dominant and minority groups in Canada. Police from minority ethnic groups have raised concern over differential treatment that takes on an ethnic direction. The deferred treatment affects how other officers, as well as how members of the society relates with them. The treatment further affects their job placement and social lives (Stenning, 2003).
The demographic composition of police in various Canadian provinces is not a fair representation of the diversity of the Canadian communities (Griffiths, 2007). Representation of police officers from minority aboriginal communities in the main cities that are located away from their communities is particularly wanting. According to Jain, Singh, and Agocs (2000), several commissions and inquiries have cited these disparities in the representation as a factor that affects the overall effectiveness of the police force in the main urban areas in Canada. The rising cases of police-community conflicts have been linked to such disparities in representation. In a society where ethnic differences are at the center of the strategies used in the distribution of wealth and power, representation of the police force becomes an important consideration for minority communities.
The perception of such communities towards the police it two folds. On the one hand, the representation has a positive connotation and members of the minority community see it as a form of security and pride. On the contrary, they may perceive it negatively as a way of imposing undue control over them, as Bahdi et al. (2010) note. In the first context, police officers from minority communities are hailed and respected by their community members. In the second context, however, they are seen as traitors and subjected to isolation and discrimination.
Bahdi et al. (2010) further write that with the ongoing reforms to integrate police work to the daily lives of citizens in Canada, the perception of police by both peers and the community is a factor of great importance. It influences how police go about their primary role of enforcing the law, as well as the effort they put in reducing the tensions that exist between the dominant and minority groups in a country.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
The Labeling Theory
The major theoretical perspective that can be used to elaborate how perceptions of the police by various groups affect their overall effectiveness is the labeling theory. As Piquero and Brame (2008) state, the labeling theory explains how the classification of people can hinder their opportunities and create negative feelings towards certain groups of individuals. The labeling theory explains the possible reasons for the power conflicts that are witnessed between classes and how discrimination can put one group in a position of advantage over another group.
Through symbolic interactionism, symbols and the meanings assigned to them are interpreted (Piquero & Brame, 2008). Differences in how members of a given culture interpret these symbols affects how they interact with each other. The symbols/labels assigned to the police determine how they are perceived by different members of the community. The actions of police affect how they are viewed by members of the society and their peers (Brunson & Miller, 2006). An important aspect of the labeling theory is the deviance. According to Brunson and Miller (2006), deviance is a product of the community’s act of assigning a label to a person. It is the opposite of compliance.
There is primary and secondary deviance. Brunson and Miller (2006) observe that primary deviance is the initial act of deviance while secondary deviance is any subsequent act of deviance. Primary deviance refers to any act that makes the authority figure, such as the court system, to label an individual to be deviant in the first place. Secondary deviance includes all subsequent acts of deviance that compound on the original action. Secondary deviance is associated with labeling (Brunson & Miller, 2006). When a person accepts the initial label of being deviant, they are more likely to involve themselves in further acts of deviance and vice versa. Labeling is thus a critical factor that leads people to become delinquents (Brunson & Miller, 2006). When an individual who has a primary label surrounds themselves with other persons who can offer moral support, there are high chances that they might develop new forms of deviance.
Labeling theory also goes ahead to explain the nature of interactions between those who are labeled to be deviant and those who are not. Schaefer (2008) states that this is the main reason for segregations between populations in many societies. The deferred treatment of members of dominant and minority groups by the police, which in turn lead to negative labeling, can be explained using the labeling theory. Aggressiveness and use of force by the police against minority groups leads to them being given negative labels and perceptions (Schaefer, 2008). These attitudes influence the subsequent behavior of police officers towards these groups.
The self-prophesying perspective of the labeling theory explains how police officers who are given negative labels by members of the community are more likely to be aggressive and discriminative against these communities. According to Szeto (2014), when people are given negative labels, they internalize them and conform to them even when the labels are not true. A police officer who is labeled negatively is likely to comply with the label and portray the behaviors associated with the label. If members of a minority community consider a police officer to be aggressive and further disrespect the officer, the police officers will eventually become aggressive against the community (Szeto, 2014). The self-prophesying perspective explains the internalization of behaviors by police officers that often leads to members of given communities assigning them negative labels.
Police Culture and Their Labeling By the Community
Nickels and Verma (2008) define police culture as a type of organizational culture characteristic to the police force. It consists of unwritten codes and rules that dictate how a police officer will function. It builds a sense of solidarity and willingness to perform as well as conform to police standards. Police culture partially explains the tendency of both male and female officers to be overly aggressive, use force in all situations, and more preference for more masculine as opposed to desk oriented tasks.
Police culture is viewed negatively across most platforms. It is a strong force that permeates and prevails in most police agencies in different countries. Police culture is associated with characteristics such as cynicism, the loyalty above all else doctrine, authoritarianism, alienation, and close-mindedness, which are lowly regarded by most community members (Bikos, 2016). Police culture gives the police a robot perception in the eyes of the public.
According to Bikos (2016), over the last one decade, however, a more positive perception of police culture has developed. The positive perception has been increasingly associated with teamwork, community support, sacrifice, and comradeship. It enables members of the police force to survive in the demanding culture in which they operate. Police culture encourages and empowers police officers to offer help to each other in time of need. Officers facing dangerous situations can rely on comrades due to the shared cultural values.
There exists a relationship between police culture and police labeling. Since there is a conflict between societal expectations of the police and the provisions of police culture, the society ascribes negative labels to the police. Szeto (2014) states that most of the behaviors that characterize police culture are the direct opposite of what the society views as ethical or proper conduct. In maintaining law and order, the police may, for example, resort to the use of excessive force. Such a move may be interpreted to be discriminative by some members of the affected culture. The use of tricks, coercion, and mockery to get confessions from suspects in order to ensure that cases are successful and cases are fast is also viewed negatively by members of the society (Szeto, 2014). Such acts lead to negative labeling of the police by members of the community.
Police officers acquire police culture during training in most cases, though there also are some natural predispositions that influence it. During training, there are activities such as drills, storytelling by instructors, and extensive periods of strenuous exercises that lead to the acquisition of traits associated with police culture (Szeto, 2014). These events transform a person’s personality and change how they view the world. Interactions even with members of their own community change. The police culture defines what it is like to be a police officer (Szeto, 2014). It makes police officers consider themselves to be insiders while the rest of the people to be outsiders. Police officers as insiders treat the strangers (outsiders) with suspicion (Stezo, 2014). Police officers are thus more likely to adhere to the mandate and professionalism of the police force than to societal expectations. The result creates a divide between these two groups, leading to negative labeling. According to Schaefer (2008), continuous labeling leads to the internalization of the stated labels and concretizes the negative perceptions of community members towards police officers.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Police Culture, Labeling Theory and the Differential Perception of Police from Minority Communities in Canada
There is the differential perception of police from minority communities in Canada. These differences in perception also seem to take on a gender dimension in which case male and female police officers from minority communities are viewed differently. According to Ben-Porat (2007), the recruitment of minorities into the police force is intended to benefit interactions between the police force and the minority communities who are considered to be linguistically and culturally alienated. Police recruiters assume that police from minority communities will extend preferable and fair treatment to people from their communities, consequently bridging the perceived cultural gap in the treatment of individuals. The recruitment of people from the minority communities into the police forces has increased drastically over the past two decades. On this note, the hiring of police from minority aboriginal Canadian communities has grown from 10% to about 30% in the last one decade (Szeto, 2014).
Police officers from minority communities are viewed as perfect solutions to the problems facing members of their communities. They have a better understanding of their communities and are thus better placed to solve problems such as drug abuse and crime (Szeto, 2014). These officers are expected to use more lenient ways of resolving these issues. However, most police from minority communities fail in both addressing the internal issues of their communities and its relationship with the police service due to the influence of police culture (Szeto, 2014). The inclination towards professionalism associated with police culture limits the ability of these police officers to interact more positively with members of their communities. They end up treating their community members just like police officers from dominant groups would, and thus, beating the logic of their recruitment. According to Jain et al. (2000), this is the reason police from aboriginal Canadian communities are confined by their employers within their cities and on similar ranks.
Skogan and Frydl (2004) write that there are no credible research findings that show police officers from minority aboriginal Canadian communities interacting differently with citizens on the basis of ethnicity. These officers treat Canadian citizens the same regardless of race. As such, it conforms to the findings of a study conducted by Sun and Payne (2004) that showed that black and white police with similar treatment towards both black and white citizens.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Failure to give members of their communities preferable treatment often leads to police officers from aboriginal Canadian communities being labeled traitors (Griffiths, 2007). They are viewed with suspicion and considered to be agents of oppression. Also, the negative label placed on the entire police as a result of cumulative injustices contributes to the negativity of these communities towards police in general. Regardless of the treatment, they give the officers a negative perception in the eyes of minority communities (Griffiths, 2007). The traitor label affects how members of the community, including family members, interact with police officers who are their own. Hostility towards police of aboriginal communities by members of their native communities is not uncommon. O’Neill and Holdaway (2007) observe that such hostility compromises the window dressing ability of selective recruitment from aboriginal Canadian communities.
From the discussion, it is evident that deferred treatment of police from minority Canadian communities has an adverse bearing on the effectiveness of their work. They are perceived to be traitors by members of their communities due to failure to give them preferable treatment. On the other hand, the officers are viewed as tools to resolve historical problems by their employers. They are thus posted to their communities and confined to lower ranks where they have constant interactions with members of their communities. These two perceptions and the resultant environment makes it difficult for these officers to fulfill their mandate effectively.
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