Performance Objectives:

  • After viewing the video, the participants will be able to:
    • Describe minority group perceptions of racial profiling.
  • List minority group responses to their perception of racial profiling.
  • Describe law enforcement officers' perception of racial profiling.
  • List law enforcement officers' responses to their perception of racial profiling.
  • Participants will be able to list the key components of a strategy designed to motivate law enforcement and citizens to engage in discussions and activities targeting meaningful solutions to racial profiling (perception or reality).

I. Attitudes and Perceptions Toward Racial Profiling

  1. Many minority group members have specific and well-developed views about racial profiling -- mostly that they and their group members are victims of it. Even in communities where validated studies have indicated that racial profiling is not a systemic problem in the police department there are still lingering concerns among community members. This attitude is mostly due to that fact that either they personally or someone close to them believe that their contact(s) with law enforcement have been more the result of some form of racial or ethnic bias and not as a result of fair and impartial policing. The reasons for these strongly held views and feelings are at the root of the solution to the challenge of forming a strong and respectful relationship between law enforcement and portions of the community that feel they are targets of police bias. To that end, it is important to elicit these views and have them shared with their law enforcement partners in a solutions-oriented environment.
  2. People in law enforcement rarely express a belief that their agency is targeting minority group members. The professional position of most in law enforcement acknowledges the possibility that some form of biased policing, however limited, is possible. There remain a percentage of law enforcement professionals that have expressed a disbelief in the existence of biased policing practices that result in "racial profiling". When challenged about this issue, the common response has been that they are doing what is expected of them and the outcome is "good police work" and not "intentional biased policing" targeting any particular group. To that end, some have resisted changing their position on the issue despite the empirical data specific to their respective jurisdictions that indicate a disparate impact experienced by certain groups as a result of law enforcement decisions and actions. Others in the profession understand the complexity of the issue and leave room for the fact that there may be a small percentage of officers who believe that targeting some people because of a subjective view of race and/or ethnicity is "good police work" and not biased policing. Those law enforcement professionals stress "small percentage" and ask that not all in law enforcement be stereotyped as biased or racist. Again, these are strongly held views. It is equally important to elicit and share these police views with community partners in a solutions-oriented environment.
  3. Another important perspective from the law enforcement group is that of law enforcement officers who are also people of color who believe that they have either personally witnessed or been the recipient of law enforcement actions that fit the definition of bias-based policing. These officers will share their first hand experience from both a professional and personal point of view, including insight into the lessons and cautions they use to counsel their children (especially young sons) regarding the appropriate response if contacted by law enforcement personnel.
  4. Resolving these differences is difficult-but opening the lines of communication between police and people of color is essential to accomplishing what both stakeholder groups desire: a strong, trusting and sustainable partnership. It is in this context, where both groups have the opportunity to not only to hear the views and feeling of the others but also the origin of some of their views and feelings, that the most promising opportunities to resolve these challenges emerge.
  5. The first step in resolution is understanding and then empathy. Both the law enforcement professional and community member will be better prepared to understand a number of the key things that the training attempts to convey. For law enforcement (a) the effects of unconscious bias, (b) how the truth revealed by hit rates undercuts the belief that minorities are more likely to be carrying contraband, and (c) the feelings of people who are stopped;for community members (a) the job police have to do and their concerns for safety, (b) their need not only to solve crimes, but prevent them, and (c) their collective desire to serve and protect their communities. Only then can true resolution of differences begin.

Downloadable Reference Materials

  1. The Stories, the Statistics, and the Law: Why "Driving While Black" Matters - Minnesota Law Review pdf format of new_jersey_study_report.pdf
  2. Transcript of Elmo Randolph from Soto case pdf format of testimony_of_dr_elmo_randolph.pdf

Training Videos for this Module

YouTube image Module 4