National News

Does diversity make a difference in policing?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-08 02:00

One solution that’s proposed by civil rights advocates to deal with problems of racial profiling and excessive use of force on minority suspects is to increase police ­force diversity. The idea is that if officers on the beat more closely resemble people on the street, then this will reduce police-community conflict. This is especially relevant in big cities such as Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, and Oakland, and smaller cities such as Ferguson, Missouri, where the population is now majority black and Hispanic, but the police force is still majority-white.

But it is not clear—based on anecdotal evidence from police forces around the country, and academic research on policing—whether having more officers of color would actually help protect people of color from racially biased treatment by police.

At a law enforcement expo near Portland, Oregon, recently, vendors were demonstrating police­-training video simulators. The company VirTra, from Tempe, Arizona, offers its V-300 simulator for police and military use-of-force training. It features a 300-degree video-screen array. Armed with laser-equipped Glock service revolvers, the participating police trainee(s) stand on a raised platform and are faced with an evolving scenario to which they decide how to respond in real-time. Possible scenarios range from a drunk driver who refuses to pull over, to active shooters in a school.

Veteran instructor Scott Dilullo of VirTra runs the use-of-force simulations. He says in one scenario an active shooter is in a movie theatre. The cops being trained virtually enter a lobby, where a side door then opens. Dilullo describes what happens next: “We have a black male off­-duty officer come out with a badge in his hand, and a gun. We have officers [in the training] shooting him even though he’s screaming ‘I’m a cop, I’m a cop, I’m a cop.’ They’re not seeing the color of his skin; that’s not coming into play. What it is, is that they see the gun, and they’re reacting to it.”

However, academic research on this shows many police do react to the race of the person they confront. Joshua Correll is a psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Colorado. In his experiments, Correll puts subjects, including police officers, in front of a screen, and a character pops up: black, or white, holding a gun, or holding a non-threatening object such as a can of Coke or a cellphone.

Correll says police in general react correctly to the threat they face, assuming they are properly trained. “Police officers are pretty good at making the right decision, shooting the guy with the gun and not shooting the guy with the cellphone, and race doesn’t dramatically impact their decisions,” says Correll. “They’re not more likely to shoot a black target than to shoot a white target."

But Correll has also found a difference in police-reaction that is based on race. “When we look at their response times, we do see a pattern of racial bias in police officers. Such that, if it’s a black guy with a gun, they respond really quickly, and if it’s a white guy with a gun, they make the right decision, they shoot him, but it takes them a second. It’s like, they have to override active stereotypes to make the right response.”

Correll says this result mirrors other psychological research on racial bias and stereotyping, which he says are communicated in movies, music, news reports and other media. “When a black target pops up on a screen, participants show this kind-of enhanced attention, similar to what people show when they respond to a threat,” says Correll. “It may not be conscious, it may not be intentional, it may not be something that they are personally comfortable with. But in our society they pick up on the association between race and threat.”

And Correll says the response is essentially the same regardless of the race of the  human subject being tested. “We’ve looked at undergraduates, people in the community, people in law enforcement,” says Correll. “If the participant is black rather than white, are they less likely to associate a black target with danger? The answer is generally no.”

Professor Delores Jones-Brown studies race and policing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and based on the academic literature, she believes that “diversifying the identity of the people on the police department is not a panacea to police brutality, misconduct or poor police-community relations.”

Jones-Brown continues: “There is a bit of naivete that if you have an officer of color, that officer can’t engage in racial profiling. And I think all the evidence suggests that’s not the case. We do see black civilians, particularly black men, as potentially more dangerous, potentially more criminal, than others. Even black and other minority police officers engage in that stereotype as well. One explanation is that they may be attempting to prove themselves as worthy of the police culture, or demonstrate to their white counterparts that they’re not being more lenient on their own ethnic group.”

NYPD patrol officer Sean Forbes sees this in his daily work. He works in multiple precincts in Brooklyn, and often responds with his duty officer to crime scenes where suspects, witnesses and other civilians allege police mistreatment or misconduct based on race.

Forbes is black and says he sometimes sees other minority cops treating people of color more harshly than white cops do.

“The reality is, some of the guys that I deal with are worse” than white cops, says Forbes. “I’ve seen officers of color—black and Hispanic—who basically fit into the ‘I’ve got to prove myself, I’ve got to make these guys realize I’m in charge’ kind of attitude.”

Forbes says he does feel more comfortable responding to a disturbance or crime when there are other officers color on the scene. And he believes recruiting more police of color in New York and other cities would help build trust and acceptance for law enforcement in minority communities.

Still, attracting more black and Hispanic recruits continues to be an elusive goal. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of 2013, the percentage of black police officers nationwide was 12 percent, and had not risen since 1997. Blacks make up 13.2 percent of U.S. population, according to the most recent census data. From 2007 to 2013, the percentage of Hispanic police increased from 10.3 percent to 11.6 percent. Hispanics make up 17.1 percent of U.S. population.

'It's like Uber, but for break-up texts'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-06-08 01:58

That's about how many messages have been submitted to Textie, a new site that lets users submit tricky, sometimes emotional messages like "Are you in love with me?" or "I need to move out" and crowdsource replies. The Washington Post's Intersect blog dug into some of these messages and why some of our most important conversations happen via SMS.


That's how many states currently ban same-sex marriage. And that can lead to a lot of problems for married gay veterans, as last week the Senate failed to pass an amendment that would ensure they receive the same benefits as their straight counterparts. The Senate resumes debate on Monday.

$440 million

That's how much the nude tourism industry is worth, according to its trade group. And it's not just beaches; there are nude cruises and even clothing-optional towns. Marketplace Weekend took a dive into this growing community with author Mark Haskell Smith, who stripped down himself to study it.

24.04 Mbps

That's the download speed of Helsinki's free public Wi-Fi network. Live since 2006, the hot spots are the result of a decision to concurrently install open networks in addition to the Wi-Fi being put into official buildings at the time. As Quartz reports, part of the city's ability to maintain such a service is the high municipal tax paid by Finnish citizens.

$2 million

That's how much was won by a team from Korea in a DARPA-sponsored robotics competition. Competitors completed a series of challenges based on disaster scenarios. But as reported by the New York Times, these were far from the elaborate droids currently seen in television and movies. It was seven and a half hours before the a robot was able to finish the first obstacle course.


That's how many suppliers Patagonia uses around the world to assemble its clothing and other products, the Atlantic reported. But that's just one part of a longer supply chain, including about 175 mills, farms and other manufacturers. That means it's difficult for even a more labor-conscious brand like Patagonia to ensure illegal or exploitative labor isn't used to create its products. The company is a case study for the clothing industry at large.

The Forces Behind The Decline Of For-Profit Colleges

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-08 01:06

New regulations are scheduled to take effect July 1 — the latest in a series of challenges to the industry.

» E-Mail This

Billionaire Or Bust: Who Are Rich Backers Lining Up With?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-06-08 01:00

Since the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, money in politics has exploded. To make it in this 2016 presidential candidates need their own billionaire. Here's who's lining up with who.

» E-Mail This

Lost Posture: Why Indigenous Cultures Don't Have Back Pain

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 23:25

There are a few populations in the world where back pain hardly exists. One woman thinks she has figured out why, and she's sharing their secrets. Have Americans forgotten how to stand properly?

» E-Mail This

The Truth About America's Graduation Rate

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 23:18

Graduation rates have been rising since 2002. NPR Ed asked 14 reporters at member stations around the country to find out why.

» E-Mail This

Amid Violence In Baghdad, A Musician Creates A One-Man Vigil

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 23:13

Karim Wasfi, conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, has been playing his cello at the sites of deadly attacks across Baghdad.

» E-Mail This

Cavaliers Even Up NBA Finals, Beating Warriors In Overtime

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 19:52

Game 2 in the NBA finals had a thrilling finish, as the Cleveland Cavaliers — missing their all-star point guard — beat the Golden State Warriors 95-93 in overtime.

» E-Mail This

'Fun Home,' 'Curious Incident' Take Home Top Tony Awards

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 19:17

The awards for best musical and best play went to two shows based on books, each of which once seemed like an improbable adaptation.

» E-Mail This

The Truth Behind Your State's High School Grad Rate

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 18:31

Graduation rates are rising across the nation — but what's happening in your state? Explore our NPR Ed grad rate database.

» E-Mail This

The Truth Behind Your State's High School Grad Rate

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 18:31

Graduation rates are rising across the nation — but what's happening in your state? Explore our NPR Ed grad rate database.

» E-Mail This

In Washington D.C., Homeless Students Fight The Statistics

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 17:39

"We're in the business of changing lives," a principal says.

» E-Mail This

In Oakland, Struggling For Years To Learn English

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 17:39

Long-term English language learners graduate high school at much lower rates than California's average.

» E-Mail This

In North Carolina, Cutting Diploma Requirements

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 17:37

A basic high school diploma with fewer credits is offered to struggling students.

» E-Mail This

On Track To A 90 Percent Graduation Rate In Alabama

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 17:36

Computer-based instruction for dropouts is key to the state's high school strategy.

» E-Mail This

Thousands Of High School Students Getting Lost In Texas

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 17:31

The state counts many, like Jaye McCurtain, as "leavers" instead of dropouts.

» E-Mail This

In Chicago, At-Risk Students Are Being Misclassified

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 17:30

Are students at alternative schools dropouts, or graduates? You do the math.

» E-Mail This

Graduation Coaches Help Georgia Students Cross The Finish Line

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 17:30

A state program is defunded, then revived at the district level.

» E-Mail This

New York Keeps Raising The Bar For Graduation

NPR News - Sun, 2015-06-07 17:28

Regents exams stand between many students and the high school diploma.

» E-Mail This