Police Contribution to the Wrongful Conviction of Black People
Why the police should be trained by Black people
This chapter was difficult to write. One may assume the difficulty was related to the physical distance between the authors. This was not the case. The difficulty comes from the understanding of a university professor (Dr. Natasha C. Pratt-Harris) who has studied wrongful conviction cases for nearly 30 years and Elijah Parker (detained when the chapter was edited) who was 17 years old (37 at the time the chapter was edited) when he was convicted and sentenced for second-degree rape. Elijah has consistently shared he did not commit the crime. The pains of knowing wrongful convictions exist for countless numbers of Black people and living with a wrongful conviction are indescribable. There is pain knowing that despite nearly 30 years of studying this reality, the university professor’s prowess will be challenged. For Elijah, there are three specific pains. There is pain knowing that those who read this chapter will likely assume that Elijah is being dishonest. There is pain knowing that some will review Elijah’s case and conclude that “ALL detainees claim innocence.” And lastly, for Elijah, there is pain knowing that the alleged crime was so horrendous, understandably, most wouldn’t want to touch such a case. One of the only recourses is knowing that those who study this reality, those who lose their freedom, families, and childhoods, can use their losses to inform others on how to prevent and survive wrongful convictions. This chapter is written to highlight how police contribute to the wrongful conviction of Black people by including cases examined by Dr. Pratt-Harris and introducing Elijah’s case. It also acknowledges that every stage of the criminal justice system (from arrest to incarceration) is a disparate reality for Black people, especially Black males, who are more likely to be wrongfully convicted.
Pratt-Harris, Natasha C., "Police Contribution to the Wrongful Conviction of Black People" (2022). College of Liberal Arts. 75.