Bias Based Profiling

Bias Based Profiling

This link was established to educate our community with regard to the Fort Walton Beach Police Department’s prohibition against bias-based profiling and to provide some insight into the complaint investigative process.

PURPOSE

To reaffirm the Fort Walton Beach Police Department’s commitment to unbiased policing, to clarify the circumstances in which officers can consider race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or social/economic status when making law enforcement decisions. To reinforce procedures that assure the public that we are providing service and enforcing laws in a safe, legal and professional manner. To encourage open communication with the community about police discretion and constitutional policing.

Investigative detentions, traffic stops, arrests, searches, and property seizures by officers will be based on a standard of reasonable suspicion or probable cause in accordance with the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Officers must be able to articulate specific facts and circumstances that support reasonable suspicion or probable cause for investigative detentions, traffic stops, arrests, non-consensual searches, and property seizures.

Officers shall not consider any bias in establishing either reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Similarly, except as provided in this policy, officers shall not consider race/ethnicity/human diversity in deciding to initiate even those non-consensual encounters that do not amount to legal detentions or to request consent to search.

Officers may take into account the reported race/ethnicity/human diversity of a specific suspect or suspects based on trustworthy, locally relevant information that links a person or persons of a specific race/ethnicity to a particular unlawful incident(s). The standard for “trustworthy” information is the same one that officers should apply to any information they use to establish reasonable suspicion or probable cause. It means that the information is worthy of confidence. “Locally relevant” means information is worthy of local conditions. Race/ethnicity can never be used as the sole basis for probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

Except as provided in this statement, race/ethnicity/human diversity shall not be motivating factors in making law enforcement decisions.

PREVENTING PERCEPTIONS OF BIAS-BASED POLICING

In an effort to prevent inappropriate perceptions of biased law enforcement, each officer should do the following when conducting pedestrian and vehicle stops:

Be courteous and professional.

Introduce him or herself to the citizen (providing name and agency affiliations), and state the reason for the stop as soon as practical, unless providing this information will compromise officer or public safety.

Ensure that the detention is no longer than necessary to take appropriate action for the known or suspected offense, and that the citizen understands the purpose of reasonable delays.

Answer any questions the citizen may have, including explaining options for traffic citation disposition, if relevant.

Provide his or her name and unit number when requested.

Supervisory personnel are expected to monitor officer’s activity to ensure practices are compliant with policy and that practices are lawful, constitutional, and non-discriminatory.

The Police Department will annually review any internal data it believes is relevant to ensure compliance with the law and to determine any deficiencies in policies or practices, or training necessities. Training will be provided on the proper use of discretion and matters of constitutional policing and will ensure that officers receive training in human diversity issues as well as professional traffic stops.

COMPLAINTS

Any person may file a complaint of biased-based profiling with the department either by telephone, in writing, or in person if they feel they have been stopped or searched based on illegal profiling, or subjected to improper treatment. No person shall be discouraged, intimidated, or coerced from filing such a complaint, or discriminated against because they have filed such a complaint.

Citizens, who accuse a member of the Police Department of committing a crime, violating a person’s civil rights, dereliction of duty, or acts of gross misconduct, will be provided the opportunity to present their complaint directly to the appropriate division commander; however, a complaint may be submitted to any member of the Fort Walton Beach Police Department. The complaint will be forwarded to the appropriate division commander through the chain of command. The complaint will be thoroughly investigated and if sustained, shall result in a recommendation for corrective action including, but not limited to counseling, training, punitive actions, and/or policy review and revision.

Once the investigation is completed, the complainant is notified by letter from the division commander or Chief of Police as to the disposition of the complaint.