Silicon Valley Cultural Mix Poses a Policing Challenge

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Silicon Valley, a region that attracts a diverse population because of its thriving tech sector, faces the question of how its mix of cultures might change local policing, NPR reports. Stanford researchers found that Oakland police officers were more likely to handcuff, search and arrest African-American men than any other group. The Justice Department said the San Francisco Police Department disproportionately targets people of color. In San Jose, media reported disparate treatment by police of African Americans and Latinos, leading to a federal lawsuit. Bay Area residents are almost a quarter Hispanic or Latino, a quarter Asian, and markedly foreign-born (30 percent).

In Menlo Park, home to Facebook, police commander Dave Bertini says, “It’s important that we try with all our might to hire people who are mirroring our communities. You’re dealing with people of different cultures, different backgrounds, different experiences, who perceive things differently.” All California officers are required to undergo cultural diversity and discrimination training as part of the police academy, which includes understanding the cultural composition of the state and discussing the impact of racial profiling. Experts say relying too heavily on using the demographics of a population to monitor police behavior is not ideal, doing so can be helpful for residents to feel represented in how and by whom they are being policed. “When law enforcement can’t figure out what’s going on in a given situation, when they can’t relate to and engage with folks, then you’re much more likely to have escalation during a conflict or during an encounter — and you’re going to have lack of trust,” said Phillip Atiba Goff of the Center for Policing Equity at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

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