It’s no secret that police violence is worryingly common. I don’t think many people would disagree with that. Even worse, the targets of police injustice tend to be ethnic minorities and women, groups that have less power in society than white males, who generally make up the majority of the police force. It got me thinking if maybe the ancient Athenians weren’t onto something with their police force.
The Athenian police force consisted of “Scythian archers,” slaves owned by the state. From what I understand, the reasoning behind not using citizens as police was because the fiercely democratic Athenians considered it unseemly for a citizen to be able to arrest other citizens. However, I would wager that state-owned slaves were rather considerate about not overstepping their bounds when it came to handling citizens. Now, obviously, slavery is off the table, but I think that it would be to everyone’s benefit if a concerted effort were made to populate the police force as much as possible with minorities, women, and other individuals who don’t represent the hegemonic demographic of white, Christian males.
I’m certainly not saying that every white, Christian, male policeman is an abuser waiting to happen, but I believe that your odds are much better with a policeman of another race or a policewoman. American society is, unfortunately, heavily biased in favor of white males, especially in the criminal justice system, and I wouldn’t be surprised if white policemen, at least subconsciously, are aware of that and feel less need to be careful in their work because of it. Obviously there’d be a lot of pushback. I can only imagine the conniptions racists would have over such an idea, but I think it would warrant a test. I would be extremely interested in seeing what would happen. My own personal belief is that you’d see a lot less abuse of power and authority if the police force were composed of people whose privilege were less.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find detailed statistics on race and police brutality, but if anyone has something, I’d greatly appreciate it.