Implicit Bias and Law Enforcement

Racial profiling has been an obvious point of contention between law enforcement and minority group members. Over the past decade, the term “bias-based policing” has been coined, and the subject has been the topic of much research and debate. It often paints the picture of ill-intentioned officers deliberately acting upon preconceived stereotypes and prejudices. What if, perhaps, there was another answer?


In the spring of 2010, professor Jerry Kang from the UCLA School of Law presented to Connecticut judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and police administrators on the topic of implicit, or hidden, bias. His talk shed light on what has become an increasingly popular subject in social science circles. In brief, researchers contend that implicit biases are predilections held by all that operate largely outside of one’s awareness. Although hidden, these biases are both pervasive and powerful. Much research on the topic has focused on racial bias and has netted some intriguing results.