Racially biased policing: Can it be fixed?

Racially biased policing: Can it be fixed?

Start with real-world data. Team up scholars and law enforcers. Focus on behaviors and situations. A coalition’s anti-bias work sheds light on a way forward.

The killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis shook the nation and set off massive protests around the world over the last few months — putting unprecedented attention on racial bias in law enforcement. For Phillip Atiba Goff, a social psychologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, the tragedy hit especially close to home.

A Black man in a historically white field, Goff has been using every tool at his disposal — research, data and personal persuasion — for well over a decade now, to prevent unequal and unjust treatment of minorities at the hands of police. He has personally worked with police departments in dozens of US cities, including Minneapolis. The knee on Floyd’s neck and the acts of police violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and elsewhere served as sobering reminders that his work was far from over. “This is what I do with my life,” he says. “The goal is fewer dead Black people and fewer Black folks in the hospital.”

Goff is the cofounder and director of the Center for Policing Equity (CPE), a national coalition of criminal justice scholars, law professors and former police officers. Part research hub, part advocacy organization and part boots-on-the-ground reform squad, the CPE is in the middle of one of society’s most pressing issues.

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