Assignment: Effects of race bias

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Assignment: Effects of race bias

Assignment: Effects of race bias

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Ridgeway, G. (2006). Assessing the effect of race bias in post-traffic outcomes using prepensity scores. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 22(1), 1-29. doi:10.1007/s10940-005-9000-9

The researcher in this study examined the methods for detecting race bias in the actions of police officers in Oakland, California after a traffic stop. Ridgeway (researcher) utilized the propensity score approach employed successfully by criminological researchers examining domestic violence and analyzing street violence intervention. The propensity score technique afforded Ridgeway an opportunity to evaluate racial biases in police officers while simultaneously comparing the number of traffic stops among the target group (black drivers), against a comparison group (white drivers). Ridgeway’s decision to weigh officer’s discretion to stop, to cite or warn, to search, and to detain were all influenced by the driver’s race. Also, 75 percent of searches conducted by Oakland police were of black drivers. The study suggested a probable cause to stop, cite or warn, search, and detain is more likely among black drivers than non-black drivers. Additionally, the outcome search comparison between black and white drivers is higher among blacks in spite of Oakland officer’s rationale for patrolling high crime in minority neighborhoods. Although race biases in individual officers is hard to correct, the study offered a recommendation that officers stop, cite or warn, search, and detain black & non-blacks equitably in their discretion to stop drivers.

The principal strength of this research design is the utilization and alignment of historical research appropriating the propensity score methodology in their endeavors to investigate racial biases in other domains. Another strength of this examinations is the location of the study. The city of Oakland is among many similar cities across the United States where a bounty of racial profiling incidents is reported, and a context where the bulk of the city’s population is racially diverse. Moreover, a diverse population furnishes researchers with a greater opportunity for avoiding threats to internal validity during the selection process. Despite these strengths, the examinations additionally offered some weaknesses. Take, for example, in the chorus of the observations the researcher should have invested his energies on correlations of gender and racial profiling to detect if racial biases exist. Additionally, the data suggested stronger presents of racial profiling against blacks than whites during post stop encounters with police.  However, the research lacks any data regarding racial profiling experienced in Asian and Hispanic communities.  To further boost the strength of the study, the researcher could have employed their methods across other populations. Perhaps applying their techniques or methods across the Muslim community, where traffic stops have risen may also point to racial profiling by police. Therefore, by observing various groups, in different settings, and employing similar application to each situation, researchers then can better grasp the causes of racial profiling in today’s society.

This examination is not only value added to criminology, but also to the social science community as well. Ridgeway’s research can be delivered across multiple policing training initiatives designed to overcome and bring awareness to racial profiling during routine traffic stops. Additionally, this research is beneficial to changing negative policing practices employed only in minority neighborhoods.  Ridgeway’s enthusiasm to study the growing problem of racial profiling will aid on the road to implementing new policy changes and legislation regarding this issue in the future, though he never implies this in his study. Finally, I would like to see this data shared among all stakeholders, police and victims (minorities) to improve on building positive relationships in their communities.

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