Race and Policing
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In the wake of high-profile incidents in Ferguson, Staten Island, North Charleston, Baltimore, and elsewhere, law enforcement agencies across the country have rapidly adopted body-worn cameras for their officers. One of the main selling points for these cameras is their potential to provide transparency into some police interactions, and to help protect civil rights, especially in heavily policed communities of color.But accountability is not automatic. Whether these cameras make police more accountable — or simply intensifies police surveillance of communities — depends on how the cameras and footage are used. That's why The Leadership Conference, together with a broad coalition of civil rights, privacy, and media rights groups, developed shared Civil Rights Principles on body-worn Cameras. Our principles emphasize that "[w]ithout carefully crafted policy safeguards in place, there is a real risk that these new devices could become instruments of injustice, rather than tools for accountability."This scorecard evaluates the body-worn camera policies currently in place in major police departments across the country. Our goal is to highlight promising approaches that some departments are taking, and to identify opportunities where departments could improve their policies.
The term "predictive policing" refers to computer systems that use data to forecast where crime will happen or who will be involved. Some tools produce maps of anticipated crime "hot spots," while others score and flag people deemed most likely to be involved in crime or violence.Though these systems are rolling out in police departments nationwide, our research found pervasive, fundamental gaps in what's publicly known about them.How these tools work and make predictions, how they define and measure their performance and how police departments actually use these systems day-to-day, are all unclear. Further, vendors routinely claim that the inner working of their technology is proprietary, keeping their methods a closely-held trade secret, even from the departments themselves. And early research findings suggest that these systems may not actually make people safer — and that they may lead to even more aggressive enforcement in communities that are already heavily policed.Our study finds a number of key risks in predictive policing, and a trend of rapid, poorly informed adoption in which those risks are often not considered. We believe that conscientious application of data has the potential to improve police practices in the future. But we found little evidence that today's systems live up to their claims, and significant reason to fear that they may reinforce disproportionate and discriminatory policing practices.
Fueled by increasingly punitive approaches to student behavior such as "zero tolerance policies," the past 20 years have seen an expansion in the presence of law enforcement, including school resource officers (SROs), in schools. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of school resource officers increased 38 percent between 1997 and 2007. Some cities, like New York City, employ more officers in schools than many small cities' entire police force.With this rapid increase in the presence of law enforcement, including SROs, in schools, districts from around the country have found that youth are being referred to the justice system at increased rates and for minor offenses like disorderly conduct. This is causing lasting harm to youth, as arrests and referrals to the juvenile justice system disrupt the educational process and can lead to suspension, expulsion, or other alienation from school. All of these negative effects set youth on a track to drop out of school and put them at greater risk of becoming involved in the justice system later on, all at tremendous costs for taxpayers as well the youth themselves and their communities.