Equality and Due Process

Police conduct must not vary on account of race, religion, national origin, immigration status, age, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or other status. Every person is entitled to equal treatment, respect for his or her constitutional rights, and due process of law. Fairness, respect, and professionalism enhance public safety as they enhance public support and cooperation. We are mindful that the history of policing in many places has been interwoven with the nation’s history of racial discrimination, including efforts to use police forces to ratify and maintain segregation and other forms of racism. To ensure equal and just treatment of all persons, departments must provide consistent training on impartial policing, anti-discrimination principles, and cultural literacy. Members of the community must be included as teachers in the training process and given an opportunity to assist in curriculum development so that a community perspective is part of the mandatory training for all recruits and veteran officers. Departments must also do more to ensure that in recruitment, promotion and retention decisions, diversity matters.

Police departments’ policies and practices should emphasize equity and fairness in how officers relate to community members and each other. The Conference recognizes the well- documented role that discrimination has played in policing in America.[32]  That history affects police-community relations and public perceptions of the fairness and legitimacy of law enforcement. It also undermines the crime-fighting mission of police by sowing distrust and discouraging members of the community from supporting and cooperating with the police. Bias-free policing and ensuring public safety go hand-in-hand.

Impartial Policing

Eliminating bias from policing begins with the leadership of the police chiefs. What they say in their policies and what they emphasize in speaking with their officers can have a significant impact on their departments.

Policies and best practices should be taught in the academy and regularly reinforced through ongoing training on anti-discrimination, implicit bias, and cultural literacy (as discussed further in the section on Community). Trainings should be mandatory, adequate, and regular to teach officers and supervisors how to detect and protect against biased policing and to remind officers that those who act in a discriminatory way will be held accountable. In addition, departments should consider the role that encouraging peer interventions can have in advancing the culture and practice of impartial policing.

Departments should consider the diverse communities they serve in determining whether additional policies focused on certain groups of residents would help remove bias in policing and add to officers’ understanding of the diverse populations that they serve. Asking for input on trainings is one way in which departments may foster relationships between officers and residents.

Larger departments may also consider hiring a chief diversity officer to monitor the department’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion within the department itself. The chief diversity officer should be charged with ensuring impartiality and equality in hiring and promotion decisions.

They should also consider hiring training liaison officers to work with particular communities (e.g., immigrant communities) to help ensure that police-community relationships are cultivated consistently and positively. Rather than waiting for a conflict to arise, these proactive and ongoing conversations between police and various constituencies can help develop a rapport and understanding among the groups that promote public safety and forge better relations both before and after a crisis.


Departments should take seriously, document, and investigate all complaints of biased policing. As part of this effort, departments should make it easy and efficient for both members of the public and officers to make complaints, including by providing a channel for anonymous complaints.[33]

Any officer who has knowledge of or information about conduct that qualifies as biased policing must report that information to a supervisor.[34]  Taking complaints seriously also means conducting a regular review and analysis of public and officer complaints to address any patterns that raise concerns.[35]  In an effort to promote transparency, departments should also publicly report data related to biased policing.

No officer or member of the public should be discouraged or intimidated from, or coerced into, filing a complaint alleging a violation of a department’s impartial policing policy.[36]  And departments should forbid any retaliation against those who file complaints and address such action should it occur.

Supervision, Review, and Accountability

Of course, training and systems for reinforcing bias-free policing are only the first steps in ensuring officers are fulfilling their duties to all whom they serve. Supervisors are responsible for monitoring law enforcement activities under their supervision to ensure that bias-free policing is practiced. And supervisors have an obligation to ensure the timely and complete review and documentation of all allegations of such violations.[37]

Police chiefs and other supervisors must be empowered to hold accountable any officers who are found to have violated any anti-discrimination or bias-free policing policies. Those policies should make clear how officers will be held accountable for policy violations, which may include counseling, training, suspension, and/or termination.[38]

Stops, Searches, and Arrests

Stops, searches, and arrests have been areas of continuing concern regarding unbiased policing. Assessing stop, search, and arrest practices can help departments ensure that their enforcement strategies are not producing unjustified disparities as to particular groups.

Departments should assess these practices as a whole to determine whether there are disparities in enforcement based on race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other status. This assessment should also compare enforcement from precinct to precinct to ensure that police are treating all persons in the same manner within each police department. As part of this assessment, formal and informal quotas for stops, searches, and arrests should be eliminated. Policies and trainings on constitutional policing should include best practices on how to conduct interactions in a fair, transparent, and impartial manner.

Hiring, Promotion, and Retention

To the extent possible, police officers should be a part of the community they are sworn to protect, in some way. Departments should develop recruitment and outreach plans and goals that reflect the mission of serving the public with a police force that encompasses the diversity of the residents it serves.[39]  Departments’ outreach strategies need to reach the target populations in order to achieve greater diversity.

Additionally, recruiting men and women of all backgrounds who show a facility for and a willingness to interact well with people from diverse backgrounds should be a priority, and community outreach and recruitment pipeline programs should be considered. Officers who demonstrate leadership in these areas should have their work acknowledged and factored into promotion assessments.

[32]       President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, at 12 (2015) (“1.2 Recommendation: Law enforcement agencies should acknowledge the role of policing in past and present injustice and discrimination and how it is a hurdle to the promotion of community trust.”), https://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/Publications/cops-p311-pub.pdf.
[33]       See also Transparency and Accountability to Reinforce Constitutional Policing, Section I.A.1, infra.
[34]       See, e.g., Sacramento Police Department, General Order 210.05: Bias-Based Policing (June 5, 2017), https://www.cityofsacramento.org/-/media/Corporate/Files/Police/Transparency/GO/Section-200/GO-21005-Bias-Based-Policing.pdf?la=en; see also Seattle Police Department, Manual, Section 5.140: Bias-Free Policing (Aug. 1, 2019), https://www.seattle.gov/police-manual/title-5—employee-conduct/5140—bias-free-policing.
[35]       See, e.g., Newark Police Division, General Order 17-06: Bias-Free Policing (Sept. 19, 2017), https://npd.newarkpublicsafety.org/assets/docs/consent_decree/approved_policies/bias-free-policing-1706.pdf.
[36]       See, e.g., New Orleans Police Department, Operations Manual, Chapter 41.13: Bias-Free Policing (July 10, 2016), https://www.nola.gov/getattachment/NOPD/Policies/Bias-Free.pdf/.
[37]       See, e.g., Baltimore Police Department, Policy 317: Fair and Impartial Policing (Aug. 24, 2018), https://www.baltimorepolice.org/317-draft-fair-and-impartial-policing.
[38]       See, e.g., Newark Police Division, General Order 17-06: Bias-Free Policing (Sept. 19, 2017), https://npd.newarkpublicsafety.org/assets/docs/consent_decree/approved_policies/bias-free-policing-1706.pdf.
[36]       See, e.g., Kevin P. Morrison, Hiring for the 21st Century Law Enforcement Officer, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (2017), https://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/Publications/cops-w0831-pub.pdf; see also U.S. Department of Justice, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement, at Sec. VI.A (Recruitment) (2016), https://www.justice.gov/crt/case-document/file/900761/download.