Negroes and the Police

September 21, 1964

Report Outline
Anti-Police Character of Negro Rioting
Roots of Negro Animosity
Action to Improve Police-Negro Relations

Anti-Police Character of Negro Rioting

A Striking Feature of the riots which occurred in Negro sections of a number of eastern cities during the latter part of the summer was their marked anti-police character. Many rioters took advantage of the disorders to loot neighborhood stores, but the main impetus behind the rioting appeared to be a desire to avenge real or imagined abuses suffered by Negroes at the hands of law enforcement officers. In this respect, the riots differed only in degree and duration from street disorders that have occurred in other cities with large Negro populations crowded into slum districts. Authorities have long realized that a considerable segment of Negro slum dwellers is so hostile to the police that even those among them who are normally law-abiding may side with miscreants of their own race rather than with an arresting officer.

What has been called “a gap in human relations” has persisted despite growing efforts over the past decade to broaden the policeman's outlook on minority problems and to encourage cooperation between police officers and members of minority groups. These measures have been widely praised as bulwarks against serious social disorder, and they were given credit for keeping the recent rioting from spreading more than it did. Nevertheless, the problem of police-community relations remains serious in many areas where the population is composed largely of the poorer members of a racial or ethnic minority. To some extent, this has been inevitable in view of the grave social problems which afflict the slums and in view of tensions engendered by the civil rights struggle.

Series of Summer Riots in Eastern Cities

The riots of the past summer were triggered in nearly every instance by an encounter—or a rumored encounter—between a white policeman and a Negro in which the policeman was believed to have used undue force against the Negro. And in each case the fury of the colored mob was directed primarily against the police rather than against a contending white mob, as in the race riots that took place in various cities during and after World Wars I and II. The riots in the Negro slums, moreover, bore little or no resemblance to clashes resulting from opposition by whites to school integration and to sit-ins and other civil rights actions.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Jul. 22, 2022  Black Hairstyles
Nov. 15, 1985  Black America Long March for Equality
Aug. 12, 1983  Black Political Power
Jan. 18, 1980  Black Leadership Question
Aug. 15, 1973  Black Americans, 1963–1973
Nov. 26, 1969  Racial Discrimination in Craft Unions
Sep. 11, 1968  Black Pride
Feb. 21, 1968  Negro Power Struggle
Mar. 08, 1967  Negroes in the Economy
Jan. 19, 1966  Changing Southern Politics
Oct. 27, 1965  Negroes in the North
Jul. 21, 1965  Negro Revolution: Next Steps
Oct. 14, 1964  Negro Voting
Sep. 21, 1964  Negroes and the Police
Jul. 03, 1963  Right of Access to Public Accommodations
Jan. 23, 1963  Negro Jobs and Education
Mar. 25, 1960  Violence and Non-Violence in Race Relations
Aug. 05, 1959  Negro Employment
Apr. 18, 1956  Racial Issues in National Politics
Apr. 18, 1951  Progress in Race Relations
Dec. 17, 1948  Discrimination in Employment
Jan. 10, 1947  Federal Protection of Civil Liberties
Aug. 25, 1944  The Negro Vote
Jul. 01, 1942  Racial Discrimination and the War Effort
Mar. 25, 1939  Civil and Social Rights of the Negro
Jul. 22, 1927  Disenfranchisement of the Negro in the South
Civil Rights: African Americans
Crime and Law Enforcement