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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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

Racial Profiling in Louisiana: Unconstitutional and Counterproductive

September 13, 2018

Racial profiling – the unconstitutional practice of law enforcement targeting individuals due to the color of their skin – remains an egregious and common form of discrimination and continues to taint the legitimacy of policing in theUnited States. It is both pervasive and hard to prove. Stopping an individual merely for "driving while black" violates the U.S. and Louisiana constitutions, but few cases have been brought in state or federal courts in Louisiana to challenge racially discriminatory policing. Racial profiling is also problematic from a public safety perspective because it undercuts effective police work by damaging trust in law enforcement.While the much-needed sentencing reforms Louisiana began implementing in 2017 are projected to reduce the state's prison population by 10% over the next 10 years, resulting in savings of $262 million,22 none of the reforms focus onthe disproportionate policing of Louisianans of color. Eliminating racial profiling must be a priority if Louisiana wants to shed its status as one of the world's most prolific incarcerators. To address these harms, Louisiana law enforcement agencies must adopt and enforce effective policies against racial profiling and take other steps to ensure constitutional policing. For their parts, the Legislature and the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Criminal Justice should institute a host of reforms to curb this unconstitutional and counterproductive practice.

Racial Bias & Profiling