- What is racial profiling data collection?
- Why do jurisdictions begin to collect data?
- Does data collection help the problem?
- Does data collection take a lot of time or distract from officers' duties?
- Who designs the data collection systems?
- How long do jurisdictions collect data?
- What role can community groups play in data collection programs?
- What resources do jurisdictions need to begin collecting data?
- How can jurisdictions find funding to start a program?
- Do jurisdictions need to install new technology in order to start collecting data?
- What kinds of training should departments provide for officers?
- What is a benchmark?
- Who is involved in the data analysis?
- How should the results and analysis be reported to the public?
1. What is racial profiling data collection?
Racial profiling data collection is tracking the race, ethnicity, and gender of those who are stopped and/or searched by the police. Generally, data collection systems require officers to record information about some or all of their traffic and/or pedestrian stops and the information is compiled and analyzed to determine whether the patterns of stops and searches are based on race.
2. Why do jurisdictions begin to collect data?
There are many reasons why a jurisdiction might choose to collect data. The collection of statistics and the expansion of information about police practices will allow departments to more effectively allocate resources, build trust and respect in communities, identify potential police misconduct, determine the best stop-and-search practices, and send a clear message to the community and to other police departments that racial profiling is inconsistent with effective police and equal protection and that the jurisdiction does not practice it.
On a logistical level, jurisdictions might begin to collect data voluntarily, because the issue has become an important one in the area; based on state legislation or local ordinances that require data collection; because of a consent decree that resulted from a federal pattern and practice lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice; or because of a settlement from a lawsuit brought by private parties.
3. Does data collection help the problem?
Although data collection may not directly solve the long-standing problem of racially-biased policing, well-designed and comprehensive data collection efforts can enable jurisdictions to better understand if they have a problem, determine the best ways to allocate police resources to address that problem, and increase the effectiveness of the police department. By increasing the amount of information about police activities, police departments and communities can discuss the problems focusing more on the overall patterns of police activity that have been documented in the data and less on individual anecdotes.
4. Does data collection take a lot of time or distract from officers' duties?
If a data collection system is designed well and integrated into other department operations, data collection should not distract from the regular duties carried out by individual officers. Departments can try to incorporate the racial profiling data collection into existing data collection systems (dispatch information, citations, officer logs) to minimize the burden of additional data collection efforts.
Planning and Implementation
1. Who designs the data collection systems?
Data collection processes are different in each jurisdiction, thus are designed by different constituencies in each situation. The most successful systems seem to be designed with input from the police department administrators and individual officers, the research partners who will be analyzing the data, and community leaders who are concerned about the process.
2. How long do jurisdictions collect data?
It is important that the jurisdictions gather data over a long enough period of time to be sure that the data presents an accurate picture of stops and searches in the jurisdiction. Many jurisdictions have implemented a short (three to six-month) pilot program to test the program and modify its design if there are any problems. After the pilot program, jurisdictions generally decide or are mandated to collect data for a set period of time, anywhere from one year to five years, and some have decided to expand that period of time after it expired.
3. What role can community groups play in data collection programs?
Many effective data collection systems have involved community group representatives and other members of the community on the task forces that oversee the data collection process. This allows community members to help police departments and researchers shape the program around the specific needs of the jurisdiction, which can ultimately help police-community relations and effectiveness.
4. What resources do jurisdictions need to begin collecting data?
The resources necessary to implement data collection systems depend on the needs and existing resources of the individual jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions are able to incorporate racial profiling data collection in their exiting data collection systems or through communication with the dispatcher, and thus require very few resources to start a program. Other jurisdictions decide to update or overhaul their existing technology to begin racial profiling data collection and improve other communication and information systems.
5. How can jurisdictions find funding to start a program?
Some state legislation includes "carrot and stick" provisions that offer funds for data collection technology for jurisdictions who begin to collect data. Various state and federal programs also have some funding available. In addition, some local, state, and national nonprofit organizations and foundations provide grant money for jurisdictions who are implementing data collection systems for specific reasons. Many funding sources require the jurisdiction to apply for the funds, so the funding is not guaranteed.
6. Do jurisdictions need to install new technology in order to start collecting data?
New technology is not necessarily a part of racial profiling data collection, especially in small jurisdictions and jurisdictions that are already collecting other information. Jurisdictions around the country use many different methods to collect data, not all of which involve new technology.
7. What kinds of training should departments provide for officers?
Police departments should consider implementing training at the beginning of the data collection process and once the process is ongoing. Training can include basic procedures for filling out data collection forms or using technology, cultural diversity issues, background on racial profiling and the reasons for collecting in the jurisdiction, professional and effective stops and searches, and/or constitutional and legal issues involved in racial profiling.
Reporting and Analysis
1. What is a benchmark?
Benchmarks are comparisons against which to measure the data that is collected. Determining the appropriate benchmark is one of the most vexing problems in data collection systems, as each of the commonly used benchmarks (for example, residential population data based on Census reports) presents problems in the context of traffic stops. See the Methods and Benchmarks section for more information about benchmarks.
2. Who is involved in the data analysis?
Police departments, whether they have internal analysis teams or not, should consider working with research or academic partners in analyzing the data. Working with an external research team might make the community and other interested parties more comfortable that the results from the data collection and analysis are unbiased and objective.
3. How should the results and analysis be reported to the public?
Many jurisdictions produce reports at regular intervals (monthly, quarterly, annually) during the data collection process and at its conclusion. Each report is generally made available to the public on the internet and/or in hard copy form. Some jurisdictions will sponsor a community forum to present the data and results to the community. There is considerable debate about whether the data should be publicly available throughout the process or whether the public should have access to the data only after the reports have been completed.
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