Police education necessary for justice
Watt’s arrest another reminder of rampant racism in police forces
Last week, Daniéle Watts, an actress best known for her roles in the movie “Django Unchained” and on television shows such as “Weeds,” was seen hugging and kissing her husband on a street. But instead of having a few pictures snapped by paparazzi for tabloid material, she was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department on the suspicion that she was a prostitute, and that her husband had hired her. Shortly after she was arrested, the police realized their mistake and immediately released her without pressing any charges. But since they didn’t press charges, they claimed that they did not keep any records of the incident at all.
Watts was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and athletic sneakers at the time of the “incident” — which was actually nothing more than a mild display of public affection with her husband in broad daylight. Nothing about the situation should have seemed even slightly suspicious. But Watts is black, and her husband is white, and that was enough for the police to jump to the conclusion that she was being paid for sex.
Normally, we would find it really hard to believe that this arrest isn’t some kind of staged publicity stunt. It’s so ridiculous that these police officers made such a stupid, embarrassing mistake. But unfortunately, this kind of racial profiling is something that happens all the time across this country.
In light of recent events in Ferguson that sparked a national conversation and heated debates about police militarization, the media has finally started to pick up more and more of the countless cases of police brutality in this country, particularly against the black community. Thankfully the police didn’t physically harm Watts, but the humiliation and trauma of being arrested for literally no reason other than the color of her skin holds just as much weight.
In a supposedly post-racial society, it becomes easy for many people to think of the obstacles facing black communities as ones related to economic disadvantage and other consequences of historical oppression. The fact is, racism is alive and well in both on a social and institutional level. Maybe the media has quieted down about Ferguson, but the issues surrounding it still remain. Watts is a Hollywood actress. Despite her status, despite the fact that she’s probably worked much harder and made much more money than all the officers who arrested her combined, she was still seen as a threat (however threatening prostitutes are apparently considered to be).
Right now, the minimum education level to join the police force can vary from a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Considering the potential for abuse of power that exists for police officers, there must be a more thorough screening and qualification process. We need to stamp out racism completely from this country’s justice system and police forces — and the best way to do that is by ramping up education efforts, raising our standards and refusing to have any tolerance for this kind of injustice. Police officers must be held accountable for their actions, and we hope that the officers involved in Watts’ arrest undergo a thorough investigation.