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Police Racial Bias

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LEARN: How much racial bias is there in evidence amongst the police, today? Eighteen studies led to some striking results. For example, in San Francisco, “although Black people accounted for less than 15 percent of all stops in 2015, they accounted for over 42 percent of all non-consent searches following stops.” The Stanford University Open Policing Project found that, "between 2011-2015, Black drivers were stopped by the police twice as often as white drivers," whereas in Maryland and North Carolina, Hispanics are significantly more likely to be pulled over (reported in The Economist,6/22/17). Black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers, a fact which has led to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement (Lowery, Washington Post, 7/11/16). Recent data demonstrate counties vary in terms of police bias, with some demonstrating none, and others demonstrating a great deal. It’s easy to fall into anger and despair over these data.

Although it is vitally and urgently important to stop police racial bias and racist actions (lethal and not), it’s also important to recognize that police are under extreme stress and fear of loss of life in at least some of these situations, and their training and experience varies across counties. Although the job can certainly attract authoritarian personalities who are explosive (those desperately needing a sense of power to feel comfortable), most police officers chose the job for other reasons, as a CNN reporter found when investigating this question: “Why would you want to be a cop?” (Moskos, 3/16/15)

Is Trump likely to work to reduce police bias? Unfortunately, he spoke during the election season of resuming the racial-profiling-in-action “stop-and-frisk” policy. Nevertheless, New York Rejects Trump on Stop-And-Frisk Amid Record-Low Crime (Goldman, Bloomberg, 1/4/17) and the NY Civil Liberties Union continues to work against stop-and-frisk in practice. In California, “Trump’s impact on local law enforcement reforms worries some” (Lamb, San Francisco Examiner, 11/11/16).

Some cities, including San Francisco and Baltimore, are reforming their police department policies and practices to combat racial bias, under President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. As the Trump Administration has targeted and is eliminating Obama’s legacy, it is unlikely these reforms will continue under this Administration’s Department of Justice.


(1) Consider supporting the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Criminal Law Reform effort, working to reform criminal policy practices. Here are their recent cases. Also, check your own state's ACLU and CLU chapters to keep up with actions they are taking to combat police bias.

(2) Experts expect there will be little federal pressure to reform police departments without public action demanding it. Follow state and federal policy proposals, and remember, members of Congress are MOST concerned about their own re-election (many Senators, and all House Representatives are up in 2018). If they get the sense people will vote based on their position on an issue, they will listen! It really does take only a handful of phone calls on a given topic from a representative's own constituents to influence that member of Congress. Who are your representatives? DC House of Representatives switchboard: 866-948-8977 and Senate 866-985-2543 (in addition to your local and state Congressional reps, call the DC number when Congress is in session and/or when you feel very, very strongly and alarmed about an issue or imminent legislation). Phoning is more effective than email, tweets, letters. Don't know your Senators’ phone number? Call 202/224-3121, put in your zip. You’ll be transferred. Shy to call? Don’t be concerned. You’ll likely be sent to voicemail. If you do reach someone, speak concisely and politely, telling them:

...you live in their district (for Representatives) or state (for Senators),
...you’re concerned about racial bias in policing,
...and you want them to:
-vote for_______.
-push for _______legislation to ensure that __________.
-obstruct the GOP’s efforts to_________.

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Human Rights: Racism

Human Rights: Sexism (interacts with racism in all cultures)

Human Rights