On March 3, 1991, Rodney King was the victim in an excessive force case committed by Los Angeles police officers. The police officers were tried but acquitted, which fueled the 1992 Los Angeles Riots and created a persistent climate of suspicion between law enforcement agencies and minority communities around the country. Law enforcement agencies began increasing the amount of training inside the police force to reduce racially biased policing, but little research has been done to determine the actual impact of the training on police behavior.
Social psychologist Phillip Goff of the University of California, Los Angeles, has secured agreements with several leading police departments, giving him insider access to research and the opportunity to attend police training programs across the country. In March 2009, Goff held a working conference at Russell Sage Foundation, “Summit on Police Leadership in Equity,” where he and other researchers outlined six key areas of mutual interest for researchers and law enforcement: racial profiling and use of force, immigration law enforcement, drug police enforcement, policy organizational equity, youth offenders, and media relations.
With support from the Foundation, Goff will convene a small group of social psychologists at a conference at UCLA in September 2009 in order to clarify research priorities and methods and organize a timeline for working with participating law enforcement agencies. The conference’s central goal will be to flesh out each researcher’s individual project in the context of the larger, collective, multi-site initiative. By consolidating all of their data, the conference participants will create a more cohesive database regarding racial and gender equity in policing.