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Police Forces in India & the US: They’re Actually Related

On Wednesday, February 28th, the Reiff Center at CNU hosted Dr. Rachel Wahl, an Assistant Professor in the Leadership, Foundations, and Policies Department at the University of Virginia. She spoke to a filled crowd of CNU students, discussing the ways in which police forces interact with their communities.

First, she explained her previous studies with police forces in India and their view of torture practices, including extrajudicial killings. Specifically, Dr. Wahl looked at the ways in which the police forces responded to the leaders of a training course geared to help the members of the Indian police force learn about interacting with the citizens of the cities they policed. After explaining the specifics of that, she transitioned into how American police forces reacted in community forums.

The similarities were overwhelming.

In fact, Dr. Wahl found that there were three categories of ways in which police forces were interacted with, either by fellow citizens or groups conducting training: humanized (or educational), partnered with, or pressured to. In situations where the citizens humanized the police forces by attempting to connect with them and/or providing positive reasoning to their more violent actions, the police forces were much more willing to admit they sometimes acted in ways that others might not agree with. However, Dr. Wahl found that, when police forces were pressured to (either by protest groups in India or concerned citizens here in America), they tended to write off the people who were pressuring them.

The way around it? Psychology, or so Dr. Wahl says. By explaining to police officers that their brains are wired and trained to feel specific ways about specific groups of people (read: the color of their skin, most likely), they are then more willing to take training courses that address the ways in which they can combat these stereotypes and work through situations they might not have been previously prepared for.