Shippensburg University’s Center for Social Research held a seminar on policing and racial justice via Zoom Sept. 9.
The Center for Social Research hosts seminars on the second Wednesday of every month at noon. SU sociology professor David Monaghan hosted the seminar.
“Our goal is to make the social sciences of greater use to the university and the community outside of it,” Monaghan said. “And I don’t believe there is any more pressing issue in our country right now than policing and its relationship with racial injustice.”
Criminal justice department professor, Arelys Madero, opened the seminar by speaking about racial profiling in police work and the statistics on the subject.
“It’s natural to focus on the evidence proving or disproving racial disparities in police work,” Madero said. “But I want to present the theoretical backdrop so we can better understand police behavior.”
Madero cited a justice department study regarding racial discrimination. From 2012 to 2014, African Americans in Ferguson, Missouri, accounted for 85% of traffic stops, while they made up 67% of the total population, according to the justice department.
Madero offered a counter to the study’s findings by discussing another variable that could affect those numbers.
“These studies can’t solely establish racial profiling in policing, because they do not consider other explanatory factors that affect police officers’ decisions,” Madero said.
Madero added that the lack of a reliable benchmark to base the studies off prevents reaching a definitive answer in finding racial profiling in police work. Madero said that the percentage of whites vs. non-whites who drive could affect the study, as could the percentage of people who can drive.
Carlos Rojas, who also is a SU criminal justice department professor, focused his presentation on the use of force by police.
“Police use of force is not that common,” Rojas said. “There’s an estimated 40 million citizen and police encounters annually, and only 1.5% of those require the use of force.”
Similarly to Madero’s lecture on traffic stop statistics, Rojas said that the universal standards regarding force creates problems.
“Departments need to clearly define what force is,” Rojas said. “There are no national standards so it would be better if we knew how and when force should be used.”
Psychology professor Jamonn Campbell, closed the seminar, and spoke about how racism is still a problem today.
“Racism is absolutely still a problem in our society,” Campbell said. “Racism is becoming a part of our national consciousness, but people of color have always known that there is a whole other area of racism that isn’t visible.”
What Campbell called invisible racism are the implicit biases people have.
“Implicit biases are attitudes, thoughts and beliefs that we have about social groups that are activated in an unconscious way,” Campbell said. “These biases cause us to judge people based on what those unconscious thoughts are.”
Campbell used a honeybee analogy to simplify his point. He said he knows honeybees are important, and that they bring value to the world. However, if one flies by him, he swats it or reacts like it is a threat. This is Campbell’s implicit bias against honeybees, and he said that is how implicit racism works.
“People may say they aren’t prejudice,” Campbell said. “However, they unconsciously may hold prejudices against others, and that’s a problem.