Race and Policing
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Law enforcement agencies around the country are attempting to improve relations with the communities they serve—particularly communities of color. One solution agencies are trying is to offer training courses to their sworn staff. Yet the effects of these courses are unclear.SPARQ had the opportunity to evaluate one promising training: Principled Policing—a daylong course that consists of five modules that aim to improve public and police safety by building trust between them. The first four modules focus on procedural justice, and the fifth focuses on implicit bias. Understanding how implicit bias works could help swornstaff more readily apply procedural justice principles in the field.To evaluate Principled Policing, SPARQ collected and analyzed survey data from 135 course graduates— police executives and law enforcement officials at a variety of ranks—before and after they received the training.
Using footage from body-worn cameras, we analyze the respectfulness of police officer language toward white and black community members during routine traffic stops. We develop computational linguistic methods that extract levels of respect automatically from transcripts, informed by a thin-slicing study of participant ratings of officer utterances. We find that officers speak with consistently less respect toward black versus white community members, even after controlling for the race of the officer, the severity of the infraction, the location of the stop, and the outcome of the stop. Such disparities in common, everyday interactions between police and the communities they serve have important implications for procedural justice and the building of police–community trust.
Law enforcement agencies across the United States are facing claims that they discriminate against community members of color. Inquiries into these claims typically take one of two approaches: either attack the agency for intentional racism, or deny the presence of racial disparities altogether. Yet neither of these approaches has yielded adequate progress toward many agencies' stated mission of serving their communities with fairness and respect. Taking a different approach, the City of Oakland engaged our team of Stanford social psychologists to examine relations between the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and the Oakland community, and then to develop evidence-based remedies for any racial disparities we might find. Since May 2014, our team has undertaken five research initiatives. We describe our research methods, findings, and recommendations in Strategies for Change: Research Initiatives and Recommendations to Improve Police-Community Relations in Oakland, Calif. We provide a technical report of our main research initiative, a thorough analysis of OPD stop reports, in Data for Change: A Statistical Analysis of Police Stops, Searches, Handcuffings, and Arrests in Oakland, Calif., 2013-2014.