Assessing Racial Profiling

You Can't Manage What You Don't Measure

Cities, States and Police Departments across the country are facing the issue of racial profiling, and working hard to determine the best way towards addressing the issue. The first and most widely publicized step is the collection of stop data, however, more and more governments and organizations are realizing that collecting stop data alone is not enough – the data must be compared against benchmark information before any meaningful conclusions can be drawn. The cost of developing the right benchmarks and analyzing the data properly, however, is substantial and project timelines can range from a few months to a few years. Some government officials concerned with meeting the needs of their communities and balancing tight budgets have asked the question "Why analyze data at all? Why not just simply address the issue with training?"

The straightforward answer is that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Without accurate assessment of the practice, any mitigation activities are likely to be inappropriate. This means that mitigation activities could be insufficient to address a serious problem. Conversely, mitigation activities could prove to be overkill resulting in unnecessary costs to address a problem that doesn’t exist. Most critically, however, avoiding identifying if the problem exists may mean that deterrence activities fall on deaf ears. Without validating the concerns through accurate assessment activities, officers and community members may not take training or other deterrence activities seriously. In this scenario, the deterrence activities simply will not work.

While assessing the problem is time consuming, and requires a financial commitment, it is the only way to: 

  • accurately assess if racial profiling is occurring
  • demonstrate a commitment to addressing the issue to police officers and the community
  • determine the appropriate mitigation actions
  • seriously address and resolve the issue of racial profiling