What is De-Policing?

A police force that stops some of its activities is de-policing.
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  • Written By: Herb Marlow
  • Edited By: Jay Garcia
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2014
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De-policing could be called the backlash of racial profiling. Though the idea of de-policing has been around for several decades, it was not until the late 1990s that the title “de-policing” was actually used. The definition of de-policing is: a police force that partially shuts down its policing activities as a defensive reaction to accusations of discrimination or police misconduct. Policemen may answer 911 calls and investigate major crimes such as murder or bank robbery, while ignoring traffic violations or the burglary of a residence if committed by certain minority citizens.

De-policing came about as the reaction of police departments being accused, justly or unjustly, of using excessive force, committing criminal acts, or targeting minority races, racial profiling, in arrests of infractions of the law, while favoring the majority race in a community by ignoring their law breaking. When denials fell on deaf ears, the police departments used a strategy of de-policing to stop extending full police protection to the citizens of the community.


When a police department is accused of racial profiling, the accusation suggests that police officers are targeting the members of a certain race to arrest them for crimes committed solely because they are members of the targeted race. The unspoken underside of racial profiling suggests that officers may ignore members of other races who commit crimes, while they are focusing on the target race. These accusations are difficult to prove or disprove, and when a police department is accused, sometimes rather than attempting to prove that they have not been profiling a certain race, they may turn to de-policing as a means of defense. The theory is that if police officers ignore crimes committed by the races they have been accused of profiling and targeting, there will be no more accusations.

Unfortunately, while de-policing might see numbers of arrests go down in the overall population, the communities where de-policing takes place will usually see a rise in criminal activity. In the past few years, several large American cities have experienced de-policing following accusations of misconduct by police officers. While de-policing, as a reaction to adverse criticism may be understandable, it may not be the best way to deal with the problem.


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