Policing biases ̶ A critical issue facing law enforcement today

Heidelberg | New York, 1 September 2016

© SpringerThe number one issue facing policing today is the allegation that officers act on stereotypes and biases. Across the country, community members are expressing great concern about the over-representation of racial/ethnic minorities among individuals against whom police use force, and whom police arrest, stop and frisk, and so forth. This points to the urgent need for a solution for one of the most important issues facing law enforcement. Even though concerns about bias in policing are particularly loud and powerful at this time, they are not new. Communities and the law enforcement profession have grappled with this issue for many years.

What is new is the research from social psychologists who study bias and prejudice in order to improve practices and police legitimacy and to reduce the influence of bias in police work. In the new Springer book Producing Bias-Free Policing - A Science-Based Approach, author Lorie Fridell provides the reader with clear strategies and tools to guide police professionals in their efforts to produce fair and impartial policing. This book is also valuable to community leaders who may want to assist their agencies in their efforts and/or hold them to account.

A first and crucial step is a deeper understanding of how bias can manifest; social psychologists distinguish between “explicit” and “implicit” biases. With explicit biases, a person associates various groups with characteristics–often negative characteristics. These attitudes are based on animus or hostility toward the groups, and the person with these biases is well aware of and unconcerned about these biases and their potential impact on his or her behavior.

Modern day bias is most likely to be in the form of implicit biases. Implicit biases are similar to explicit biases in that a person links individuals to stereotypes or generalizations associated with their group or groups (e.g., women, racial/ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, homeless). These biases can impact perceptions and behavior outside of conscious awareness, producing discriminatory behavior. Even individuals who, at the conscious level, reject prejudice and stereotyping, can and do manifest implicit biases.

Lorie Fridell says, “This science transformed my thinking about bias generally and about bias in policing, in particular. I understood that even well-intentioned individuals, including well-intentioned law enforcement professionals, have biases that can impact their perceptions and impact their behavior. The science of bias can help to develop guidance for those who seek to produce bias-free policing.”

Dr. Lorie Fridell is a faculty member in the Department of Criminology at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa and a national expert on biased law enforcement. She trains state and local law enforcement leadership in the United States and Canada in “Fair and Impartial Policing” and has over 25 years of experience conducting research on law enforcement.

Lorie A. Fridell
Producing Bias-Free Policing - A Science-Based Approach
Springer (2017), IX, 117 p. 1 illus.
Softcover $54.99, €49.99, £37.99 ISBN 978-3-319-33173-7
Also available as an eBook

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