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Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Denver Police Bias Probed

Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman has enlisted a social psychologist to conduct a top-to-bottom assessment of whether the department is doing everything it can to rid the force of racial and gender bias.

The review, underway in Denver for more than a year, has already led to the creation of a mentoring program for female police recruits that reduced the dropout rate. It is also still probing the department's policies on recruiting, training, retention and how officers interact with the community.

Whitman has asked Tracie Keesee, division chief of Research, Training and Technology Division, to head up the initiative in Denver.

Keesee said that, among other things, the review will try to determine whether the military boot-camp style of training in which police cadets are yelled at to prepare them for street work is effective.

"This will get to the bottom of burning issues we've been looking at for decades," Keesee said.

The department enlisted Phillip Goff, a social psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has become a leader in studying what scholars dub "racism without racists," to conduct the review.

"They wanted to make sure they were getting people on the force who were the most likely to engage in equitable and non-bias policing," Goff said.

The review follows a series of controversies involving Denver police in recent years that have touched off racial controversies. In 2003 and 2004, community outrage developed after white police officers were accused of using excessive force when they fatally shot blacks and Latinos, and the U.S. Department of Justice warned in 2004 that "patterns and practices" at the department could require federal scrutiny.

Last month, the city agreed to pay $885,000 to settle a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of a 16-year-old Latino who alleged he suffered massive internal injuries when a white gang-unit officer repeatedly jumped on his back.

"What we're looking at is all the things that create disparate outcomes in policing," Goff said.

Goff said the department offered to pay him for his review, but he decided to do the work for free to ensure academic integrity. He hopes to begin publishing results in academic journals within the next year.

"I let the department know what I find, and they've shown a remarkable willingness to be very proactive," said Goff, who said he did not always have positive interactions with police as an African-American growing up in Philadelphia.

"What I have seen in the Denver Police Department is incredible," Goff said. "When I bring them the findings, they talk about it immediately and say, 'OK, this is real. How do we go about fixing it?' "

The Denver Post


Anonymous said...

Incredible, you have a chief of police that doesnt know how to control nor properly dicipline his men. How do you fix it??? Fire the Chief. The guy from Calif doesnt even know whats going on there let alone come to Denver and tell you how to fix it. DJW

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is the Police union and the incredibly un-independent monitor who protect the majority of the police officers who believe themselves above the law.
Officers who Jwalk across Colfax to get to their favorite Pete's restaurant to speeding by you at 90 miles an hour on a residential street, killing innocent people in an unmarked car chasing people, to riding around on SUV sideboards with SWAT uniforms like storm troopers, shooting suspects 21 times...and on and on and on...
No study is going to end this. Our prisons are full of minorities because of ongoing racial profiling by the Denver Police Department. mpc

Anonymous said...