Why Police Want to Share Profiling Data

This database isn't about proving racism; it's about public safety. So law enforcement is into it.

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In other words, they want to do what's good for public safety -- and that involves reducing racial bias in policing, which, of course, is more complicated than just declaring it unacceptable.

That's where the data comes in. "You can use the data and treat it like a medical doctor -- determine whether a place is racially healthy or racially sick. You can diagnose, and then you start prescribing a set of solutions," he says.  

It's what Goff calls "evidence-based social justice and evidence-based equity enhancement." He believes in creating strategies to outsmart the "identity traps" and unconscious bias and associations (think "black men equal criminal") that can affect behavior.

The best part, he predicts, is that, when it comes to reducing racial bias in policing, some of the results of this project will likely be immediate. The process of working with participating law-enforcement departments to standardize the data will take a year, the collection will take another and only then will he report on the results. But according to Goff, the simple collection of data can lead to an awareness and accountability that means unconscious biases are less likely to determine who's stopped, who's arrested and how they're treated.

"You can start seeing the effects in people's lives right away," he says. "The fact that a department wants to participate in this is enough to start the process of sunlight shining in and disinfecting."

Jenée Desmond-Harris is The Root's staff writer and White House correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

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