The over-policing of minority communities has emerged as a salient issue for activists in the United States. While policing is intended to uphold the public order and protect citizens’ rights, the excessive deployment of law enforcement resources in minority neighborhoods undermines both of these priorities. Due to systemic flaws in modern American law enforcement practices, unnecessary interventions lead to more incidents of police brutality and exacerbation of structural inequality. Police abuses have often inspired widespread protests, but positive change has mostly remained elusive (Almeida, 2019). For a movement against over-policing in minority communities to succeed, multiple factors identified by sociologists need to be considered.
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Diverse Organizations and Tactics
Sustaining political pressure over the long term requires the movement to integrate a diversity of organizations and tactics. Multiple organizational forms are needed to facilitate the participation of different demographics. The two types of organizations involved in movements are dedicated activist organizations and non-activist institutions such as churches, schools, and NGOs that can serve to mobilize the general public (Almeida, 2019). In this case, a full-time activist group would cooperate with numerous everyday organizations, especially ones based in minority neighborhoods. This cooperation will manifest in the use of tactics that play to the strengths of different groups. For example, full-time activists are better-suited for conducting educational work on over-policing issues. However, the cooperation of everyday organizations will be required to coordinate large-scale demonstrations. Alternating more and less disruptive forms of protests is another form of tactical diversity. A sufficiently diverse approach will make the movement more resilient and increase its chances of success.
The movement’s sustained operation also requires an efficient way of mobilizing critical resources. Almeida (2019) classifies a social movement’s resources as human, social, and strategic capital. The human capital of minority communities and their majority allies, such as social and informational skills, will be mobilized through everyday organizations involved in the movement. The social capital of those communities will help facilitate this process. Full-time activists will foster strategic capital, understood as organizational expertise based on tradition. The minority communities’ experience of protests against police abuses presents an invaluable source of strength. Identifying and utilizing such resources is critical for the movement to succeed.
A practical and widely accepted action frame is necessary for the effective coordination of the movement’s activities. Framing includes identifying the problem (overpricing leading to unjust outcomes), proposing solutions (changes in policing), and motivating mobilization (by emphasizing police abuses) (Almeida, 2019). Frame alignment requires communicating the movement’s message to potential participants in a way that will resonate with their values and experiences. The movement can rely on the centrality of police abuses in the protest narratives of minority communities, as well as the growing awareness of injustice among the majority. Without a successful frame alignment, the movement would fail to maintain cohesion or coordinate its actions.
Countermovements can be a significant obstacle to the movement’s success. They pose a particular threat in the field of ideas, potentially undermining the frame alignment by attacking its vulnerabilities and turning public opinion against the movement (Almeida, 2019). It is advisable to try and anticipate their arguments, such as the role of active policing in crime prevention, and provide compelling counter-arguments. The movement should disseminate information about the harm caused by over-policing to minority communities and society. Resisting counter-frames will be a crucial test of the movement’s ability to achieve its goals.
Combatting over-policing in minority communities will require a sustained effort that makes effective use of all available resources. Embracing organizational and tactical diversity will enable the movement to maintain pressure on different fronts over the long run. The movement will also be able to effectively mobilize the human, social, and strategic capitals of minority communities and their allies. Achieving frame alignment will allow it to coordinate the use of those resources in its operations. The movement will likely need to meet the challenge of countermovements by anticipating and overturning their arguments. The eventual success or failure of the effort to change policing policies will depend on satisfying all of those requirements.
Almeida, P. (2019). Social movements: The structure of collective mobilization. University of California Press.
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