The Police Chief - January 2011 - (Page 18)

Updating Ethics Training-Policing Privacy Series: Taking Race out of the Perception Equation By Thomas J. Martinelli, Adjunct Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan; and Joseph A. Schafer, Associate Professor, Center for the Study of Crime, Delinquency and Corrections, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale Editor’s note: This article is the first in a four-part series of privacy-related articles that will appear in subsequent issues of Police Chief magazine. that a community’s perceptions of its local police department may not be as constructive as the police department administrators would like. Even in one of the authors’ urban university classes, students automatically assume discussions of bias-based policing and discrimination involve Caucasian police officers and African American, Asian, Muslim, or Hispanic citizens.2 Interestingly, these students attend a university located in a city that, since 1980, has lost 100,000 Caucasian residents, has gained Hispanic immigrants, and has an African American population of over 80 percent.3 The city also has a police force of a majority of African American officers, yet these young students have a preconceived notion that racial profiling automatically involves a white officer violating the constitutional rights of minority citizens. Clearly, race and ethnicity play active roles in police service perceptions. The difficulties in quantifying bias-based policing through data collections are challenges for police administrators and trainers as they attempt to formulate an updated training curriculum focused on legal and ethical guidelines. A recent New York Times article addressed the notion that its city’s police force has aggressively enhanced its investigative practices regarding minority stops. A study reviewing data pertaining to the New York City Police Department practices demonstrated that minorities were almost nine times as likely as whites to be stopped and investigated, but were not arrested any more often than their counterparts. “According to the analysis of the 2009 raw data by the Center for Constitutional Rights, nearly 490,000 blacks and Latinos were stopped by the police on the streets last year, compared with 53,000 whites.”4 This continues to be a sensitive topic for minority communities and civil liberty groups and has produced more police watchdog organizations monitoring police procedures. More disturbing, from an image standpoint, was a report last year regarding allegations of racial profiling and the enforcement of an asset-forfeiture statute. A federal classaction lawsuit has been filed alleging that an agency, policing a major highway in its jurisdiction known for drug smuggling, has “developed an illegal ‘stop and seize’ practice targeting, stopping, detaining, searching and often seizing property from apparently non-white citizens and those traveling with non-white citizens.”5 It was reported that an African American grandmother forfeited $4,000 in cash and an interracial couple lost $6,000 in cash, though no criminal charges were ever filed in either case.6 Such media coverage fans the flames of allegations of police misconduct, increases privacy violations litigation, and makes it that much more challenging for agencies to retain their public’s trust. P olicing has always been about differing perceptions. In police research, academicians use the perceptions of citizens, officers, and supervisors to measure the successes, or failures, of an organizations’ productivity. Whether studying the effects of random patrol in the Kansas City, Missouri, Random Patrol Study in the 1970s, the foot patrol studies of the 1980s, or contemporary research efforts such as Project Safe Neighborhoods Anti-Gang Training, researchers rely on human interpretations to measure police service quality and productivity. Unfortunately, there has been a long history of negative perceptions regarding bias-based police services that continue to be a challenge for police administrators today. Clearly, every police department has the ongoing duty to measure policing perceptions, fashion training curriculums to address those perceptions, and improve its overall policing services. Partnering with academia to gauge productivity perceptions, focused scenario training, and zealous supervision are the keys to maintaining an agency’s positive public persona. Though a law enforcement organization’s image is predicated on the perceptions of its citizens, the onus is continually on the agency to maintain a positive public image. Research suggests most citizens seldom come in direct contact with their own police department. Media studies give credence to the idea that citizen perceptions of their police department, crime trends, and their fear of crime are all directly related to electronic and print media coverage.1 Consequently, citizens may possess a skewed perception of the reality in which their local police departments function. Society is inundated with daily media reports of violent crimes and the occasional police misconduct story; therefore, it is not surprising 18 THE POLICE CHIEF/JANUARY 2011 Defining Racial Profiling Is Problematic How can police administrators, trainers, and supervisors best educate their officers regarding the pitfalls associated with using race in police procedural decision making when there is a fluid consensus regarding its definition? Some suggest that racial profiling occurs when law enforcement “solely” uses race as an indicator to take police action. “Central to the debate on the most frequently used definitions [of racial profiling] is the word, ‘solely.’ In the realm of potential discriminatory actions, this definition likely references only a very small portion [of racebiased police investigations]. Even a racially prejudiced officer likely uses more than the single factor of race when conducting biased law enforcement.”7 Clearly, using race alone in law enforcement decision making is unconstitutional. Bias-based policing, without consideration of criminal behavioral criteria, is clearly racist policing. The U.S. Department of Justice has definitively stated that “racial profiling is defined as any police-initiated action that relies on the race, ethnicity, or national origin rather

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Police Chief - January 2011

The Police Chief - January 2011
President’s Message: Introducing IACP’s Conference Rotation Plan
Legislative Alert: Mandatory Collective Bargaining Legislation Sidelined Again
IACP Foundation: Fourth Annual Foundation Fundraiser Flies High in Orlando
Chief's Counsel: Federal Collective Bargaining Legislation for State and Municipal Public Safety Personnel
Advances & Applications
Updating Ethics Training-Policing Privacy Series: Taking Race out of the Perception Equation
Understanding the Psychology of Police Misconduct
Psychological Factors after Officer-Involved Shootings: Addressing Officer Needs and Agency Responsibilities
New Members
Product Update
War on Terror or Policing Terrorism? Radicalization and Expansion of the Threats
2010 IACP Awards
Technology Talk
Index to Advertisers
Highway Safety Initiatives

The Police Chief - January 2011