Two black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were killed by police this last week, and immediately following, the retaliatory murders of five police officers. These tragic occurrences have sadly become routine. When Andrea Boyles published her book, Race, Place, and Suburban Policing in August 2015, chronicling eight similar fatalities, this frightening trend was already in full force, and there seems to be no sign of it stopping any time soon. Below is an excerpt of her book, a prophetic passage that tells the story of what would happen over the next year, and will continue to happen, unless serious change is made soon.
Therefore, in two separate shootings…poor Black, affluent white, family, friends, and co-workers alike—were left to contend with eight fatalities. No one could have anticipated these incidents, though in hind-sight, the signs were visibly intensifying. In either case, murder is never the solution. Violence should not be the only way to elicit attention, address conflict, or provoke social change. However, this is the state of our society, and more directly, the downside to inherently inflexible social structures unwilling to review, revise, and re-correct its policies and practices, even amid crises…It is in this space of rigidity and obstinacy that we find ourselves as survivors, wounded and perplexed, fervently working to make sense of countless tragedies. It is with this bewilderment in mind that I write…the mission is to provide a broader picture for how escalating social inadequacies, left unaddressed, lead to callousness.
Racialized police work is imperative, and as it stands, can be extremely uncomfortable, and thus, detrimentally misconstrued and dismissed as only advantageous to black citizens. Contrarily, after years of chronicling local and national fatalities, differential policing data or more directly, Race, Place, and Suburban Policing acts a resource—whereby law enforcement communities and others can acquire evidence-based information. That is empirical solutions necessary for forging and advancing positive communal black citizen, police, and local government relationships in all locations.
Andrea S. Boyles is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Lindenwood University-Belleville. She has also taught inmates and correctional officers within the Missouri prison system.