- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Police departments nationwide have established policies against racial profiling, but some continue to overlook the more subtle problems of racial bias, according to an organization of police executives from the country's largest city, county and state law enforcement agencies.

The Police Executive Research Forum, in a report titled "Racially Biased Policing: A Principled Response," said police officials need to review the ways individual departments recruit, train and supervise their officers in order to combat practices that unfairly target minorities.

"Most officers are dedicated men and women with integrity, and we share their intolerance for racially biased policing," said Chuck Wexler, PERF executive director. "While we do not profess to have all the answers, we believe this report will be an important step forward in helping police agencies take on the challenging issue of racially biased policing.

"It's not just simply stopping people in cars, it's how you interact with people, it's how you take calls over the phone. This is a broader issue," Mr. Wexler said.

The report, funded by the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, abandons the term "racial profiling" in favor of "racially biased policing." It said racial profiling is generally defined differently by police and citizens and that the new term is more specific to the problem.

Nearly 50 recommendations are broken down in the report into six areas in which action is needed, including accountability and supervision; policies prohibiting biased policing; recruitment and hiring; education and training; community outreach; and data collection and analysis.

"Protecting individual rights is not an inconvenience for modern police, it is the foundation of policing in a democratic society," Mr. Wexler said, adding that notices will be sent to police agencies nationwide to encourage them to adopt the recommendations.

The report urges police to never use race and ethnicity as the sole reason for suspicion when dealing with descriptions of specific suspects.

It also said police should also be more courteous when stopping people and apologize if they make a mistake.

The report is based on a survey of more than 1,000 police executives; materials from more than 250 agencies; focus groups; a literature review; advice from subject-matter experts; and an advisory board composed of law enforcement agency executives, Justice Department personnel, community activists and civil rights leaders.

Police Chief Jerry Oliver of Richmond said a bigger problem than stopping people because of their race an action he has endured as a black officer when off-duty — is making people feel powerless.

"A police officer has the power to interrupt your life, to pull you to the curb, to search you," he said. "We have not taught them how to send you on your way feeling that you've got your dignity back."

The report's recommendations also include recruiting more police from traditionally black colleges and universities and from the military; monitoring patrol-car videotapes and radio communications to ensure that conversations are professional and free from racist comments; and conducting regular reviews of the complaint process to make sure people are not being discouraged from reporting problems.

"We hope that this report will advance the police response and facilitate better police-citizen collaborations that will result in fair and dignified treatment of all citizens," said PERF President Robert K. Olson, chief of the Minneapolis Police Department.

"This report reflects PERF's long-term commitment to this issue."

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