Again and again the data show that people of color in the U.S. are disproportionately, and systematically, stopped, frisked, arrested, and exposed to the use of force by police. Police departments and communities across the U.S. are struggling with these realities and with what has become a glaring divide in how Americans experience and relate to policing. This special collection includes research from nonprofits, foundations, and university based research centers, who have not only described and documented the issue but who also provide much-needed recommendations for addressing this chronic and tragic problem.

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"end police brutality" by Jamelle Bouie licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Police and Data Collection: Why Louisiana Needs Reform

June 17, 2020

If Louisiana were a country, it would have the second-highest incarceration rate in the world, behind only Oklahoma. In 2017, the state Legislature enacted long-overdue sentencing reforms to reduce the number of people in prison. Though laudable and necessary, the 2017 legislation is expected to reduce Louisiana's prison population by at most 10percent. It is therefore only the first of many reforms that are needed to shrink Louisiana's bloated prisons.Sentencing occurs at the end of the criminal justice process, after the accused individual has been apprehended and adjudicated. Policing occurs at the beginning of the process. An officer's decision of whom to stop, cite, and arrestis the gateway to the rest of the system.Yet Louisianans know shockingly little about police activities in the state – even when compared to other parts of the criminal justice system. The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, for example, publishes quarterly updates on all prisoners placed under its jurisdiction, including their sex, race, convictions, and information about their physical and mental health.Without better data, Louisiana will not be able to evaluate whether or how its law enforcement officers contribute to the state's astronomical incarceration rate and what reforms should be prioritized. Police will not be able to improve their performance or refute criticisms that their practices unfairly target certain groups or that misconduct persists across an entire department. And communities will remain in the dark about how public servants who are licensed to use force carry out their duties.

Data Gaps

The Data Gap: School Policing In Louisiana

May 15, 2019

While school-based law enforcement duties vary across school districts, the primary responsibility of officers on campuses is law enforcement. SROs (School Resource Officers), however, have also been increasingly called upon to respond to school disciplinary incidents, resulting in harsher consequences for minor misbehaviors by students.Schools are required to collect and report data on key education and civil rights issues – including school policing data such as the number of students referred to law enforcement, the number of students arrested at school-related activities, and the number of sworn law enforcement officers (including SROs) in their district – to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which is charged with enforcing certain federal anti-discrimination laws in schools.What's more, school districts and state departments of education are required to publish data on school policing under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Though Louisiana has school data collection laws, these laws have not caught up to federal requirements for the collection and publication of certain student data, including school-based arrests and referrals to law enforcement and the presence of SROs in Louisiana's schools.Through research and public records requests, the SPLC found that local school districts are not accurately and consistently collecting data on their school policing programs, and the data that was collected and reported had discrepancies compared to data reported to the OCR and data collected by law enforcement agencies. This suggests that educators, families, and policymakers lack accurate, basic information about school policing in the state. The Louisiana Legislature should require schools, school districts, and the Louisiana Department of Education to accurately collect and publicly report data on school-based arrests and referrals to law enforcement as already required by federal law.

Data Gaps; School-to-Prison Pipeline

The Science of Policing Equity: Measuring Fairness in the Austin Police Department

February 23, 2016

This brief is a partnership between Urban and the Center for Policing Equity's National Justice Database, in collaboration with the White House's Police Data Initiative. The brief analyzes publicly available data in 2015 vehicle stops and 2014 use of force incidents on the part of the Austin Police Department. Findings indicate that even when controlling for neighborhood levels of crime, education, homeownership, income, youth, and unemployment, racial disparities still exist in both use and severity of force. We also document that APD has a high level of transparency, and the analysis demonstrates the value of that democratization of police department data in examining whether community-level explanations are sufficient to explain observed racial disparities.

Data Gaps; Racial Bias & Profiling

Overlooked in the Undercounted: The Role of Mental Illness in Fatal Law Enforcement Encounters

December 1, 2015

An estimated 7.9 million adults in the United States live with a severe mental illness that disorders their thinking. Treatment in most cases can control psychiatric symptoms common to these diseases, but the system that once delivered psychiatric care for them has been systematically dismantled over the last half-century. Today, half the population with these diseases is not taking medication or receiving other care on any given day.Individuals with mental illness also make up a disproportionate number of those killed at the very first step of the criminal justice process: while being approached or stopped by law enforcement in the community. Enormous official and public attention has become focused on the official undercounting of fatal police shootings; barely noted in the uproar has been the role of severe mental illness – a medical condition that, when treated, demonstrably reduces the likelihood of interacting with police or being arrested, much less dying in the process.By all accounts – official and unofficial – a minimum of 1 in 4 fatal police encounters ends the life of an individual with severe mental illness. 

Data Gaps

Stop and Frisk in Chicago

March 1, 2015

This report shows that the Chicago Police Department has a current practice of unlawfully using stop and frisk. Stop and frisk is disproportionately concentrated in the black community. Comparing stops to population, Chicagoans were stopped more than four times as often as New Yorkers at the height of New York City's stop and frisk practice. In the face of a systemic abuse of this law enforcement practice, Chicago refuses to keep adequate data about its officers' stops. The lack of data collection is a major impediment to understanding how stop and frisk policy is actually carried out on the streets. The report contains several improvements need to be made to provide greater transparency and make it possible for supervisors to fully review stops and frisks.

Data Gaps; Stop & Frisk

Protecting Equity: The Consortium for Police Leadership in Equity Report on the San Jose Police Department

January 16, 2013

The goal of this project was to identify what role (if any) individual officers played in the production of any observed racial/ethnic disparities and provide the San Jose Police Department (SJDP) and the broader San Jose community with new tools with which to measure--and improve--racial equity in San Jose policing. This assessment broadly engages three areas of possible disparity: pedestrian stops, complaints against an officer, and officer use of force against residents. The results reveal two major findings. First, individual officers play a significant role in producing a culture of equitable treatment at the SJPD. Second, the analyses reveal a novel way to use existing data to assess officer-level disparities.

Data Gaps; Racial Bias & Profiling; Reform Strategies