Press Release: Nation’s First Police Profiling Database Awarded Grant by NSF

What We Do

The Center for Policing Equity (CPE) is a research consortium that promotes police transparency and accountability by facilitating innovative research collaborations between law enforcement agencies and empirical social scientists.  Through these facilitated collaborations, the Center seeks to improve issues of equity–particularly racial and gender equity–in policing both within law enforcement agencies and between agencies and the communities they serve.  The Center aims to effect cultural transformations within both law enforcement and the academy by creating opportunities that simultaneously preserve the dignity of law enforcement and advance the application of social science to the real world.

The CPE is committed to research transparency and, as such, does not charge participating law enforcement agencies for access to our expert researchers.  To that end, CPE researchers are never funded by participating law enforcement agencies and are able to render both expert consultations (for law enforcement) and scholarly publications (for the academic and general public) absent any hint of coercion or incentive.  Consequently, the structure of the CPE is, itself, an innovation designed to further the interests of transparency and accountability in equity matters.

Areas of Expertise

The CPE has four areas of expertise that were created in response to the equity priorities that are shared by law enforcement across the country.  These are:

Racial Profiling and Police Use of Force

While the definition of “racial profiling” may vary depending on one’s audience, most agree that the term refers to the suspicion of criminality or harassment of non-Whites by law enforcement for no reason other than race.  As Cleary defines the term, racial profiling happens “when a police officer stops, questions, arrests, and/or searches someone solely on the basis of the person’s race or ethnicity" (2010). 

Scholars and law enforcement officials have long debated what the appropriate metric for computing bias might be (Blank, Dabady, & Citro, 2004; Banks, 2003), yet there is not yet a consensual solution.  For example, few argue that police stops should be proportional to the Black population of an urban setting because this assumes a uniform rate of crime across race-likely a faulty assumption.  However, nearly every other “baseline” metric for how often a young Black male should be stopped (e.g. arrest rate, rate of conviction, etc.) is as likely to be biased as the stop rate itself. Thus, there is significant debate about what a reasonable baseline for comparison might be since the available baselines are either subject to bias themselves or unreasonable anchors.

This lack of basic information regarding race and its impact on policing is deeply troubling for anyone committed to equitable treatment in the criminal justice system.  In order to support law enforcement in its mission to provide public safety for all, the best social science must be employed to bring clarity to issues of racial equity in policing. The CPE endeavors to do just that.

Immigration Policy Enforcement

It is often said that the United States is a “Nation of Immigrants.”  So, too, it is said that the United States is a “Nation of Laws.” How the U.S. — and other nations — resolves these two identities in the face of ever increasing immigration pressures will reflect the character of the nation.  And law enforcement will have an important role to play in shaping that reflection.

While some federal initiatives encourage municipal law enforcement to cross-deputize their officers — creating police officers and sheriffs who are also immigration agents — many are worried that such efforts will create more problems than they solve.  Specifically, local law enforcement have expressed concern that undocumented citizens will become reluctant to report serious crimes if they suspect that law enforcement will suspect them of being in the U.S. illegally — and that documented Latino citizens will similarly lose faith in police.  Community groups have also expressed alarm at the prospect of cross-deputization due to concerns that it would encourage racial profiling.

Supporters of cross-deputization have argued that immigration policy enforcement will not be possible without the help of local police. But what are the effects of these policies on communities and officers? There is little empirical research addressing this issue at a time when there is great need for informed perspectives.  This and other immigration-related concerns form the heart of the CPE Immigration Policy Enforcement Area of Emphasis.

For research on this topic, please click here.

Organizational Equity

What does an ideal law enforcement agencies look like?  Law enforcement has long struggled to make itself a more complete reflection of the communities it serves. Achieving that end, however, has been elusive.  Consequently, the wealth of research on gender and racial equity in recruitment, hiring, retention, training, and promotion must be applied to the realm of law enforcement.  So, too, must researchers come to a more thorough understanding of what the benefits of a more representative police force might be for various communities-as well as the potential costs of such diversification.

Juvenile Justice

Every society has a special responsibility to protect and serve its most vulnerable citizens. Perhaps we feel this need most acutely when it comes to our children.  However, mounting evidence suggests that some children are not as well protected as others.  And race may be involved.

For instance, Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment through Research (HACER) found that Hispanic/Latino juvenile offenders were overrepresented in the juvenile justice system by 227% in 1990 and 92% in 2000.  The United States Department of Justice published data about juvenile offenders in 2006 that further articulates the racial disparities among youth offenders.  According the Justice Department’s report, the number of Black juveniles arrested outnumbered the number of White juveniles arrested every year from 1980-2003.  In 2003, 186.4 white juveniles were arrested and 752.3 black juveniles were arrested (per 100,000 arrests).

Race is also implicated in whether or not youth are transferred into the adult court system.  For instance, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) found that between 1985 and 1995, African-American youth were significantly overrepresented in the number of youth transferred to adult courts.  This was particularly true with regard to drug offenses.  If our treatment of our most vulnerable citizens is our measure of virtue, then there is a clear imperative to understand the causes of these inequalities, and rectify them. The question of how law enforcement can best live up to our democratic principles in this arena is, therefore, a top priority of CPE’s research team.

Types of Collaborations

The CPE can offer a variety of different services. These include:

Department Culture

Several CPE researchers are experts in the area of organizational climate and culture and can partner with a department to provoke positive change. The CPE has been asked to address issues of gender, race, sexual orientation, and general organizational fairness with the goal of improving department climate. At no cost to the department, the CPE can conduct climate surveys, focus group interviews, and simulations/experiments with the goal of providing concrete solutions for departmental progress. For examples of past work that we have done with police departments around the country, please see What We've Done

Research to improve police and community interactions

Many CPE researchers have experience working with police departments to address conflict between the department and the community. Whether the issue is how to measure racial fairness (e.g., how to handle “stops data”), how to “sell the stop,” or how best to communicate across the diverse communities that make up our nation, the CPE has researchers with a broad range of interests and expertise in this area. For examples of past work that we have done with police departments around the country, please see What We've Done.

Training for police departments on issues related to equity

The CPE has conducted various hands-on, specialized training sessions for police departments who want evidence-based training.  Topics include implicit bias, “racism without racists,” and managing gender on the force.  Trainings can target executives, patrol, and/or community members.  While most of our trainings are free of charge (in exchange for access to research-related data), trainings that have already been completed may require a fee.  For more information, please check with Assistant Director Meredith Gamson Smiedt via email at mgsmiedt@psych.ucla.edu or by phone at 310-206-3467. For examples of past work that we have done with police departments around the country, please see What We've Done.

Support

Because the CPE refuses money from its municipal law enforcement partners, our work would not be possible without the generous support of the following foundations:

The National Science Foundation 
Russell Sage Foundation
William T. Grant Foundation
Atlantic Philanthropies
MacArthur Foundation
Pennsylvania State University
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
UCLA Institute for Social Science Research
UCLA Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics
Open Society Institute- Baltimore
Open Society Foundations