Racial profiling has been an obvious point of contention between law enforcement and minority group members. Over the past decade, the term “bias-based policing” has been coined, and the subject has been the topic of much research and debate. It often paints the picture of ill-intentioned officers deliberately acting upon preconceived stereotypes and prejudices. What if, perhaps, there was another answer?
In the spring of 2010, professor Jerry Kang from the UCLA School of Law presented to Connecticut judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and police administrators on the topic of implicit, or hidden, bias. His talk shed light on what has become an increasingly popular subject in social science circles. In brief, researchers contend that implicit biases are predilections held by all that operate largely outside of one’s awareness. Although hidden, these biases are both pervasive and powerful.1 Much research on the topic has focused on racial bias and has netted some intriguing results.
While the science does have its detractors, the growing research and potential implications for the criminal justice field make this a topic with which all law enforcement personnel should be familiar. The reader may find this article to be interesting, provocative, and enlightening—or some combination of the three. The purpose of this piece is to raise awareness on a topic that is growing in popularity and that has begun to emerge in the criminal justice system. It is up to readers to decide whether the science is relevant and pertinent to their lives and their workplaces.
The article discusses implicit bias, the latest testing and research into the phenomenon, and practical approaches for law enforcement interventions as recommended by social scientists in the field.