Biased Based Profiling

BIAS-BASED PROFILING:  Bias-based profiling is the selection of an individual based solely on a trait common to a group for enforcement action.  This includes, but is not limited to: race, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, age, cultural group, or any other identifiable group.

A.   Purpose: The purposes of this section are to:

1.  Unequivocally state that bias-based, racial and/or ethnic profiling in law enforcement are totally unacceptable and strictly prohibited in traffic contacts, field contacts, searches and seizures and in asset seizure and forfeiture efforts.

2.            To provide guidelines for officers to prevent occurrences of bias-based, racial and ethnic profiling; and,

3.            To protect our officers when they act within the dictates of the law and policy from unwarranted accusations.

B.   Discussion: This section is intended to assist law enforcement in accomplishing the total mission in a way that respects the dignity of all persons and yet sends a strong deterrent message to actual and potential lawbreakers that if they break the law, they are likely to encounter the police.

1.  A fundamental right that is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States to all who live in this nation is the right to equal protection under law.  Along with this right to equal protection is the fundamental right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by government agents.  Citizens are free to walk and drive our streets, highways, and other public places without police interference so long as they obey the law.  They are also entitled to be free from crime, and from the depredations of criminals, and to drive and walk our public ways safe from the actions of reckless and careless drivers.

2.  Law enforcement is charged with protecting these rights, for all, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, physical handicap, religion or other belief system.  Because of the nature of their business, law enforcement officers are required to be observant, to identify unusual occurrences and law violations, and to act upon them.  It is this proactive enforcement that keeps our citizens free from crime, our streets and highways safe to drive upon, and that detects and apprehends criminals.

C.  Policy: Agency policy in with regard to biased based profiling will follow the guidelines outlined in Florida Statutes.  It is the policy of this department to patrol in a proactive manner, to aggressively investigate suspicious persons and circumstances, and to actively enforce the motor vehicle laws, while insisting that citizens will only be stopped or detained when there exists reasonable suspicion to believe they have committed, are committing, or about to commit, an infraction of the law.

D.   Procedure: The department’s efforts will be directed toward assigning officers to those areas where there is the highest likelihood that crashes will be reduced and/or crimes prevented through proactive patrol. Motorists and pedestrians shall only be subjected to stops, seizures or detentions upon reasonable suspicion that they have committed, are committing, or are about to commit an infraction.

E.    Reasonable Suspicion:  A belief based on a set of articulable circumstances that would lead a reasonably prudent person to believe that a crime has been, is being or is about to be committed.

F.  Training:  Officers will receive initial and ongoing training in proactive enforcement tactics, including training in officer safety, courtesy, cultural diversity, the laws governing search and seizure, interpersonal communications skills and legal aspects in accordance with CJSTC guidelines.  Training programs will emphasize the need to respect the rights of all citizens to be free from unreasonable government intrusion or police action.

G.  Traffic Enforcement:  Traffic enforcement will be accompanied by consistent, ongoing supervisory oversight to ensure that officers do not go beyond the parameters of reasonableness in conducting such activities. Each time a motorist is stopped the officer will issue a Uniform Traffic Citation, a written warning or make appropriate disposition comments.  The department recognizes that with experience, individual officers may develop individualized approaches that they find work best for them in minimizing conflict during officer/violator contacts.  Given some better approach, the following is recommended, in the order specified below:

1.  Give a greeting, such as “Good morning, ma’am”, “Good evening, sir,” etc.

2.  Identify yourself.  For example: “I am Officer Smith of the Fort Walton Beach Police Department”.

3.  State the reason why the person is being stopped or detained.  For example: “I stopped you because I saw your vehicle come through the stop sign at that last intersection without coming to a complete stop”.  (Describing the actions of the vehicle rather than personalizing the action to the driver tends to reduce tension.)

4.  It may defuse tension to ask a motorist if there was some reason for the violation.  This gives them the opportunity to “have their say;” often leads to an admission that the violator realized they were in violation, and precludes a defendant from offering a different excuse at trial.  If you choose not to ask but the motorist wishes to give a reason or excuse, listen politely and give them ample opportunity to tell their story. 

5. Politely ask for identification and any required documents.  For example: “May I please see your license, registration, and proof of insurance?”

6.  After completing any necessary paperwork, inform the driver or pedestrian as to what action is being taken and what, if anything, the person must do as a result, such as how to pay the fine involved, obtain a traffic court hearing, etc. 

7.  Give an appropriate closing.  For example, if the motorist was cooperative, “Thank you for your cooperation” may be in order.  Do not use the trite expression “Have a nice day”, which would be inappropriate in these circumstances.  “Please drive carefully, your safety is important to us” is more appropriate. 

8.  Make sure the driver is able to safely merge back into the traffic stream.

9.  No motorist, once cited or warned, shall be detained beyond the point where there exists no reasonable suspicion of further criminal activity, and no person or vehicle shall be searched in the absence of a warrant, a legally recognized articulable exception to the warrant requirement, or the person’s voluntary consent.  In each case where a search is conducted, the legal cause for the search shall be recorded in either an offense report or the disposition comments of the case.

10.  In the absence of a specific, credible report containing a physical description, a person’s race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation or any combination of these shall not be a factor in determining probable cause for an arrest or reasonable suspicion for a stop. 

11.  The deliberate recording of any misleading information related to the actual or perceived race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation of a person stopped for investigative or enforcement purposes is prohibited and cause for disciplinary action.

H.  Complaints of Bias-Based Profiling: Any person may file a complaint with the department if they believe that they have been stopped or searched based on racial, ethnic, or gender-based profiling, and no person shall be discouraged intimidated, or coerced from filing such a complaint, or discriminated against because they have filed such a complaint.

1.  Any officer contacted by a person, who wishes to file such a complaint, shall direct that person to the supervisor on duty or designated officer in charge. 

2.  A supervisor receiving such a report shall consult with his/her division commander who will forward the complaint to the appropriate division commander of the accused officer or determine investigative responsibility if the accused officer is a member of their own division. The investigation will be handled and documented as outlined in the Written Directives indexed as Conduct, Disciplinary Process and Internal Affairs. 

I.  Supervisory Responsibilities:    Supervisors shall:

1.  Periodically review profiling complaints;

2.  Periodically review a sampling of in-car video tapes of stops pursuant to the Written Directive indexed as Mobile Video Taping;

3.  Review reports filed on stops by officers,

4.  Respond at random to back up officers on vehicle stops; and,

5.            Take appropriate action whenever it appears that this policy is being violated, being particularly alert to any pattern or practice of possible discriminatory treatment by individual officers or squads.

J.    Corrective Measures/Action:  Complaints and/or articulable suspicions of bias-based profiling will be investigated as conduct unbecoming an employee of the agency and in accordance with the directives indexed as Conduct, Disciplinary Process and Internal Investigations to determine validity.  Corrective action for sustained allegations of a bias-based nature will be appropriately addressed with disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from employment.

K.    Administrative Review:  A documented annual administrative review of this directive and agency practices, (including citizen complaints and documented concerns); involving biased based profiling will be conducted by the Chief of Police and/or his/her designee.  This review will be inclusive of the areas of forfeitures, traffic stops and searches and seizures.  Changes in written directives and/or practices in this regard will be implemented as determined necessary by the findings of the annual review.

L.    Community Awareness:  In order to educate citizens in matters of bias-based/racial profiling and further provide the community with awareness in these matters, a statement of the definition of bias-based/racial profiling, agency policy and the procedures for filing a complaint of this nature will be posted on the departmental website.  Other opportunities to fulfill community education and awareness in this regard will be accomplished through crime prevention/community policing programs such as neighborhood watch meetings, community forums, Citizen’s Police Academy, et al.