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"As an African American, I have always felt that race as always defined the way people are treated in American. In my opinion, the issue of race has turned out to be this country's greatest scourge. Last year it was Miami; two years ago it was Cincinnati; where will it manifest itself tomorrow?" Talk back on the boards.

Protest in Miami
4.12.02
Politics and Economy:
Race and Justice
More on This Story:
Policing a Changing Miami

A year ago this week the streets of Cincinnati erupted in riots, the worst racial turmoil there in decades. The cause - the shooting by police of an unarmed black man. It's a familiar story across a country where race, color and class are a tinderbox of emotions. The astonishing diversity of America may be the greatest challenge facing law enforcement in our big cities.



Racial makeup of Miami
There's a new American reality in Miami, Florida - one in which nothing is simply black and white any longer. Miami is indeed the city of the future in that it is ethnically diverse, but it is also the city of the present (and future) in that its neighborhoods are highly segregated. University of New York, Albany Professor John Logan studies urban and suburban demographics. His work shows that indeed, segregation is alive and well in American cities and is actually spreading to the suburbs. In fact, "The average white person lives in a community nearly 83 percent white and 7 percent black, while the average black lives in a community that is only 33 percent white and 54 percent black."

Professor Logan oversees the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research. The findings of his groups analysis of the 2000 census are fascinating. Plug in an urban or suburban area into the Center's database and you can find out how integrated your neighborhood is.

Miami police force composition
The U.S. Department of Census projects that the American population will be increasingly ethnically and racially diverse. By the year 2015, the Hispanic population will top 17% of the total population, overtaking the black population (in 2015 12.8% of the total) as the largest minority group. Police departments are increasingly attempting to mirror the population they serve through targeted recruitment drives. In the last decade there has also been a move to bring police out of their cars and back onto the streets. It's what the Justice Department calls "community policing" and its aim is to reduce fear of crime, and law enforcement, through community-police partnerships.

Photographer Joan Liftin documents a citizen's patrol in the Haitian community of Delray Beach, Florida.

police shootings in Miami

Statistics on shootings by police are hard to come by. In 1998, Human Rights Watch released a report highly critical of U.S. urban police departments. And last year the Justice Department received over 14,000 complaints about police brutality. What is known is that last year police shootings in Washington, D.C. more than doubled in 2001, from seven shootings to 17. An independent monitor has been appointed to oversee that police force for the next five years. In New York the figures tell a different story; 41 civilians were shot dead in 1990, 14 in 2000.

Many metropolitan areas are taking the approach of Miami and inaugurating civilian review boards to oversee police behavior, often for the same reason. In Seattle last year, after the shooting death of an unarmed civilian, an Office of Professional Accountability was formed. In 2001 the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement listed 48 such organizations in major U.S. cities. Their effectiveness and popularity vary widely. In Prince George's County Maryland, near Washington, D.C., the Human Relations Commission has a four year backlog of complaints against police.

Sources: Bureau of Justice Statistics' SOURCEBOOK OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE STATISTICS 2000; The U.S. Department of Justice; The U.S. Bureau of Census; Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research; Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS); National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement; Human Rights Watch, SHIELDED FROM JUSTICE; THE WASHINGTON POST; THE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER

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