Every citizen regardless of race,
ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status,
background, age, or culture deserves the highest level of service
available and equal treatment under the law. The Winter Park Police
Department is committed to this belief, and strives to insure unbiased
policing in all of its encounters between officers and citizens.
Bias-based policing occurs when
an officer makes decisions or takes police action based upon his
or her own personal or societal biases or stereotypes, rather than
relying on facts and observed behaviors which would lead the officer
to believe that an individual has been, is currently, or is about
to be involved in criminal activity.
Many citizens mistakenly believe
that profiling is illegal, and that police officers are forbidden
from using such a practice. The truth is that criminal profiling
is legal, and is a legitimate technique used daily in law enforcement.
Bias-based profiling, on the other hand, is illegal and has no legitimate
use in solving or preventing crime. So what’s the difference
between the two?
Criminal profiling is the use of
legitimate law enforcement knowledge, training, and experience to
narrow a field of suspects during a criminal investigation. Factual
information, patterns of activity, and motives are some of the aspects
considered when using criminal profiling to develop a suspect.
Bias-based profiling is the use
of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic
status, background, age, or culture as the sole basis for police
activity. The absence of facts, suspicious activity, or specific
criminal information is what separates bias-based profiling from
legitimate criminal profiling.
It is important to realize that
police officers must sometimes consider a person’s race, age,
gender, religion, and other factors when preparing a criminal profile,
as it may be a necessary part of determining who would have had
a motive or the capability of committing an alleged crime. Routinely
we determine a possible type of suspect in a series of crimes by
first scrutinizing the facts of the case, then further narrowing
our search by considering factors such as race, ethnicity, gender,
etc. The key element is that the investigative outcome is based
on facts and knowledge, not personal attributes or societal biases.
Bias-based policing does not pay
off for any of us - not for the Police Department or for the citizens.
It invites distrust from the public, intense media scrutiny, and
the possibility of legal action against the Department for constitutional
and civil rights violations. We use every legitimate law enforcement
technique, including criminal profiling, to preserve the safety
of everyone we serve, but acts of bias-based policing are simply
discriminatory acts that will not be tolerated.