Do Historical and Societal Circumstance Still Have a Place in Law Enforcement?

By Tiffany Nichols

On February 9, 2017, US law enforcement officially began its shift from crime prevention and investigation to ensuring the safety of law enforcement itself through the Presidential Executive Order on Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers. The Executive Order makes no mention of crime prevention or investigation and instead focuses on the enhancement of “protection and safety of Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers.”

A similar attempt was made by former President Lyndon B. Johnson in the wake of the Watts Uprising of 1965. Over 35,000 adults “active as rioters” and over 72,000 spectators were involved. These riots resulted in 34 deaths (mostly Blacks), 1,000 injured, 4,000 arrests and $200 million in property damage within the Watts-Willlowbrook district of Los Angeles. The Watts Uprising can largely be attributed to the exclusion of Blacks from the movie industry after the Hollywood Red Scare, slow presence of the effects of the Civil Rights Movement in Los Angeles, the rise of Black Nationalism paired with White fear thereof, and the exclusion of Blacks from unions, among numerous additional factors. To many within the city, the Uprising was seen as inevitable due to these imbalances. Although later disproved, psychologists blamed the increase of unrest on the heat in August of 1965, while others blamed the full moon. [1]

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