Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name



Department of Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Mack H. Jones


The late 1960's began a new phase of Black participation in American politics. For the first time, Blacks began to emerge throughout the country in elected positions of local political leadership. For many, the assumption of key electoral positions in the major cities represented the actualization of Black Power. Political control of the cities in which they were increasingly congregated would ostensibly provide Black people with the leverage required to redress some long standing grievances of the Black community. This study is designed to begin the process of assessing the efficaciousness of local office holding in resolving the plethora of social dilemmas besetting the Black communities in this nation's major cities. It focuses specifically upon the hostile and often brutal manner in which big city police forces have traditionally operated in the Black community and seeks to explore the relationship between the assumption of political power at the local level by Black elected officials and the ability of the Black communities of those cities to control police behavior in their communities. This work employs three case studies. Atlanta, Georgia, Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C . are examined with an eye to determining the nature and scope of obstacles confronting the respective Black communities in their attempts to control the local police function through the authority of recently elected Black mayors. This study suggests that Black elected officials generally are of limited usefulness in controlling the local police on behalf of the Black community. That usefulness appears to be enhanced, however, when the mayor perceives of his role as that of an advocate for the Black community in a political context characterized by intergroup conflict. This study has also yielded the following hypotheses which serve as guides to further study: 1. As Blacks supplant whites in positions of local political leadership, pressure from the commercial sector to eliminate political involvement in the police function will increase. 2. As Blacks attain policy-making positions in city governments, white police quasi-unions will abandon their traditional stance of neutrality toward city political matters and actively seek to subvert the authority of the Black policy-makers in the area of local enforcement. 3. The emergence of Black policy-makers in urban centers tends to stifle the development of independent efforts by Black community residents to control police behavior. 4. Federal discretionary anti-crime grants to urban centers controlled politically by Blacks will tend to be administered in a fashion which imposes the law enforcement priorities of the federal and state authorities upon the urban center. 5. As Black policy-makers attempt to exercise their authority over the local police on behalf of the Black community, efforts to remove municipal police operations from the jurisdiction of the city government will increase.