Every citizen regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, background, age, or culture deserves the highest level of service available and equal treatment under the law. The Winter Park Police Department is committed to this belief, and strives to insure unbiased policing in all of its encounters between officers and citizens.
Bias-based policing occurs when an officer makes decisions or takes police action based upon his or her own personal or societal biases or stereotypes, rather than relying on facts and observed behaviors which would lead the officer to believe that an individual has been, is currently, or is about to be involved in criminal activity.
Many citizens mistakenly believe that profiling is illegal, and that police officers are forbidden from using such a practice. The truth is that criminal profiling is legal, and is a legitimate technique used daily in law enforcement. Bias-based profiling, on the other hand, is illegal and has no legitimate use in solving or preventing crime. So what’s the difference between the two?
Criminal profiling is the use of legitimate law enforcement knowledge, training, and experience to narrow a field of suspects during a criminal investigation. Factual information, patterns of activity, and motives are some of the aspects considered when using criminal profiling to develop a suspect.
Bias-based profiling is the use of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, background, age, or culture as the sole basis for police activity. The absence of facts, suspicious activity, or specific criminal information is what separates bias-based profiling from legitimate criminal profiling.
It is important to realize that police officers must sometimes consider a person’s race, age, gender, religion, and other factors when preparing a criminal profile, as it may be a necessary part of determining who would have had a motive or the capability of committing an alleged crime. Routinely we determine a possible type of suspect in a series of crimes by first scrutinizing the facts of the case, then further narrowing our search by considering factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, etc. The key element is that the investigative outcome is based on facts and knowledge, not personal attributes or societal biases.
Bias-based policing does not pay off for any of us – not for the Police Department or for the citizens. It invites distrust from the public, intense media scrutiny, and the possibility of legal action against the Department for constitutional and civil rights violations. We use every legitimate law enforcement technique, including criminal profiling, to preserve the safety of everyone we serve, but acts of bias-based policing are simply discriminatory acts that will not be tolerated.