In 2004 Stanford University Professor Jennifer L. Eberhardt masterminded a landmark gathering of law enforcement practitioners and social science researchers. This gathering was Stanford University’s Policing and Racial Bias conference. Its aim was simple–to foster collaborative relationships between two worlds–law enforcement and researchers. The conference garnered such a positive reception in both camps that a second conference was held in 2007 where one such collaborative relationship was formed that would culminate in the creation of the Consortium for Police Leadership in Equity (CPLE).
This pivotal collaboration was between Division Chief Tracie L. Keesee and Professor Phillip Atiba Goff. Together they forged a dynamic collaboration that permitted urgent questions in the Denver Police Department (DPD)–as identified by Division Chief Keesee and Chief Gerald R. Whitman–and important research questions to be tackled simultaneously. Chief Whitman’s concerns fell into three categories central to the healthy functioning of any police department: training, recruitment, and retention. The ultimate goal? To attract and maintain a representative, unbiased police force that policed with excellence.
Dr. Goff’s research team has risen to this challenge, bringing a research background in race relations and discrimination, and wide-ranging knowledge of research methodology to bear. He has synthesized a new research model integrating experimental research, survey research, and individual personnel files. As part of this initiative, Dr. Goff has instituted pre and post testing at the Denver Police Academy to assess any changes in attitudes or behaviors in the new recruits. At each step of the way, Dr. Goff’s work was made possible by the unflagging support and unprecedented access provided by Chief Whitman and the DPD.
Though only a few short years have gone by, there have already been a variety of policy changes at the DPD as a result of findings from Dr. Goff’s research program. These include updates for command staff, the institution of mentoring programs for female officers, changes in disciplinary policies to increase transparency and accountability, and procedural changes to improve recruitment and retention. With this degree of success under his belt, Dr. Goff and Division Chief Keesee set their sights higher–to bring the same success they had with the DPD to police departments across North America.
In November, 2008, following in the steps of Dr. Eberhardt’s Policing Racial Bias initiative, Dr. Goff and Division Chief Keesee traveled to the Major Cities Chiefs conference in San Diego, California to invite interested departments to participate in the initiative– promoting researcher and law enforcement collaborations with the goal of tackling issues at the heart of both groups’ interests. Their enthusiasm for this new paradigm was contagious. Chiefs of police and sheriffs in departments in: Denver, Chicago, Edmonton, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles County, Milwaukee, Nashville, Newark, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Seattle, Toronto, Virginia Beach were eager to become part of this new wave of research and policing.
Thus, in 2008, the CPLE was founded. At the core of CPLE’s mission, as well as those departments associated with it, is a deep concern for equity and inclusiveness within the police department itself and between the police department and the community it polices. The CPLE serves as a sort of matchmaker, pairing police departments with world-class researchers. Though many CPLE researchers specialize in issues surrounding race and gender, a wide swath of research interests are represented and can be harnessed to serve the specific equity issues any given department is combating.
The goal of the CPLE is to simultaneously aid police departments to realize their own equity goals as well as advance the scientific understanding of issues of equity within organizations and policing.
To this end, February, 2009 marked the first of many summits for police leadership in equity hosted by the Russell Sage Foundation and August, 2010, marked the first biannual CPLE Summer Conference. As the CPLE grows and partners with law enforcement agencies from across North America, we hope that you will join us in this groundbreaking effort to chart a new course for equity in law enforcement.
The goal of the Consortium for Police Leadership in Equity’s (CPLE) research is to improve law enforcement by eliminating inequitable treatment based on gender and race. Research can only contribute to this goal when three conditions are met:
- Rigor: the research must be able to withstand scrutiny by professionals in both law enforcement and the social sciences. This requires researchers with methodological sophistication and rigor.
- Independence: Both the police and the communities they serve must have confidence that the research is unbiased. This requires researchers that police and communities trust and respect and a process that avoids both the perception and the reality of undue influence.
- Access: In order to improve screening, training, and policy, researchers must have access to police officers, records, and regulations.
These three conditions have long been known, yet no organization had been able to deliver all three simultaneously. The CPLE was formed to correct that.
The Major Cities Chiefs Association formally endorsed the CPLE in June of 2009. After reviewing successful policy changes stemming from previous CPLE research, Chief Bratton (Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and President of the organization at the time) called the CPLE research model one that “has already begun reshaping scholarship and practice related to racial profiling and gender representation in law enforcement, and [...] has the potential to do much more.”1
Rigor: The CPLE research model facilitates collaborations between law enforcement agencies and established scholars from across the social sciences in order to ensure that any research conducted will meet with the highest scientific standards.
Independence: The CPLE does not accept funding from partner law enforcement agencies in order to avoid any appearance of undue influence on research autonomy. Instead, the CPLE has received research funds from UCLA, The Pennsylvania State University, and the Russell Sage Foundation.
Access: Departments working with the CPLE agree to provide complete access to all resources necessary for the completion of a research project. These resources may include officer stops and use of force history, aggregate statistics, and the ability to test officers for psychological biases. The CPLE has already shared resources, records, and research with departments in 13 metropolitan areas in North America, and negotiations with several other departments in the “Major Cities”3 group are ongoing. The 13 organizations with which the CPLE is currently working are: Baltimore County, MD; Denton, TX; Denver, CO; Houston, TX; Las Vegas, NV; Los Angeles County, CA; Oakland, CA; Portland, OR; St. Louis, MO; Salt Lake City, UT; San Jose, CA; Toronto, ON; Virginia Beach, VA.
As noted by the Major Cities Chiefs, CPLE research has already helped to produce policy changes in the interest of increased equity in Denver, Portland, Salt Lake City, and San Jose. Research on the racial bias in the decision to shoot, treatment of women during training, reducing racial profiling in suspect stops, improving equitable representation in media portrayals of police behavior, and reducing bias in non-lethal use of force have already prompted policy shifts in departmental training, mentorship programs, and public relations.
We have been supported by the Russell Sage Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the MacArthur Foundation, the Pennsylvania State University, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and two funding sources at UCLA: the Institute for Social Science Research and the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics.
Our research allows us the privilege to work with a number of organizations. We have pursued or engaged in collaborations with:
For further information about the CPLE, please download the Contract for Policing Justice.