Bias-based policing occurs when, whether intentionally or unintentionally, an officer applies his or her own personal, societal, or organizational biases or stereotypes when making decisions or taking police action, and the ONLY reason for that decision or action is because of a person’s race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, immigrations status, disability, housing status, occupation, language fluency or other personal characteristic, rather than due to the observed behavior of the individual or the identification of the individual as being, having been, or about to be engaged in criminal activity.
It is the policy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office to protect the constitutional rights of all people, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability, housing status, occupation, language fluency or other personal characteristic; and to treat each person with respect and dignity. While contacting persons in a variety of situations is not only routine, but also germane to law enforcement activities, the agency will not accept or tolerate bias-based policing.
We are here to protect the community: Law enforcement officers are required to use skills developed through observation, training, and experience in order to identify suspicious circumstances, unusual occurrences, and violations of law (municipal ordinance, criminal and traffic), and to act according to the situation. We contact people who, according to our training, experience, and knowledge, are in a place or are acting in a way to make us believe that a crime was committed, is about to be committed or is in the process of being committed. This proactive approach aids in the detection and apprehension of criminals, maintains the safety of our streets and highways, and protects our citizens and community from crime.
We want to do the right thing: Discriminatory enforcement practices can alienate our citizens, foster distrust of police in the community, invite media scrutiny, legislative action, and judicial intervention, and potentially lead to allegations of constitutional and civil rights violations. As we perform our duties, it is imperative that we afford all citizens the Constitutional and fundamental right to equal protection under the law.
We use accepted investigative tools: Criminal profiling is one of many accepted and necessary law enforcement investigative practices. However, it differs from and should not be confused with bias-based policing. One is an investigative tool; the other, a discriminatory practice.
What is criminal profiling? When we investigate crime, we use every legitimate tool at our disposal to narrow the list of potential suspects so we can identify, find, and arrest those responsible for the crimes, to bring them to justice and to keep them from committing more acts against society.
Criminal profiling can assist us by narrowing the field of potential suspects in major criminal investigations. Based on current and historical law enforcement investigative knowledge and experience, we scrutinize a set of facts and factors common to specific (e.g., serial murder with a certain ‘signature’) or general (e.g., narcotics trafficking) criminal activity. From these facts and factors, we may be able to identify a type of person or group of people by gender, age, race, and/or by personality, social, and/or other characteristics who are most likely to be involved. This can result in fewer suspects to consider and a quicker resolution to the case.
How does criminal profiling differ from bias-based policing? While criminal profiling does add elements (such as gender, race, or ethnicity) to a list of factors scrutinized to identify a suspect, these elements are only parts of several pieces of the puzzle that police must put together to solve crime.