Race Based Policing and DePolicing: A Research Note on the Potential for Reactivity

Brian L. Withrow, Whichita State University

Race based policing, sometimes called racial profiling is arguably, one of the most important issues facing American policing today. In response to internal, but more likely external demands, many police departments are engaged in data collection programs designed to determine the potential for race based policing within their routine enforcement practices. More often than not these data gathering techniques require police officers to either report additional information within an existing reporting procedure or within a specifically designed reporting mechanism. Among policing administrators and scholars there is some concern that police officers, because of their fear of repercussions should the results reveal a racially disparate pattern, will either fail to report pertinent information, report false information, or simply choose not to conduct certain routine stops or other enforcement options. This has the potential of affecting police services, especially in minority communities. The purpose of this article is to determine the effect of officer generated race based policing data gathering strategies on routine enforcement patterns and levels. A preliminary analysis reveals a statistically significant reduction in the number of citations written in departments following the initiation of officer generated data gathering strategies.

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Updated 05/20/2006