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Race and Policing: An Agenda for Action

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2015
15 pages

One in a series of papers that will be published from the Harvard Kennedy School Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety, this paper proposes an agenda for action in issues of race and policing, drawn from the years of discussions since the Harvard Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety began in 2008.


The action agenda is presented in two parts: "Strategic Voice" and "Tactical Agency." "Stratetgic Voice" maintains that problems of race in policing cannot be resolved by the police alone. Other people must assist in helping police to understand the adverse social conditions that certain racial groups disproportionately experience and how these conditions contribute to criminal behavior in these racial groups. Rather than accepting these conditions as an inevitable social environment for the racial groups that experience it, police leaders must lend their powerful collective voice to efforts that address these adverse social conditions. The "Tactical Agency" section of this paper outlines what the police can do on their own initiative to address the operational dilemmas that arise from racial issues in public safety strategies. This issue must be addressed not only in policing the community, but also in police hiring and management policies and practices. The authors advise that this action agenda consists of suggestions, not directions. They note that although some of the ideas mentioned have been tried, few, if any, have been evaluated. Also, some are controversial. The agenda is intended to be a stimulus for policy discussions that can lead to action and independent evaluations of the effectiveness of various alternatives for addressing racial issues in policing. 22 references

Date Published: June 1, 2015