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  • When people meet me for the first time on my job,

  • they often feel inspired to share a revelation they've had about me,

  • and it kind of goes something like this.

  • "Hey, I know why police chiefs

  • like to share their deep, dark secrets with you.

  • Phil, with your PhD in psychology,

  • and your shiny bald head,

  • you're basically the Black Dr. Phil, right?"

  • (Laughter)

  • And for each and every person who's ever said that to me

  • I do want to say thank you

  • because that was the first time I ever heard that joke.

  • (Laughter)

  • But for everybody else, I really hope you'll believe me

  • when I tell you no police chief likes talking to me

  • because they think I'm a clinical psychologist.

  • And also I'm not.

  • I have no idea what your mother did to you, and I can't help.

  • (Laughter)

  • Police chiefs like talking to me

  • because I'm an expert on a problem that feels impossible for them to solve:

  • racism in their profession.

  • Now my expertise comes from being a scientist

  • who studies how our minds learn to associate Blackness and crime

  • and misperceive Black children as older than they actually are.

  • It also comes from studying actual police behavior,

  • which is how I know that every year,

  • about one in five adults in the United States

  • has contact with law enforcement.

  • Out of those, about a million are targeted for police use of force.

  • And if you're Black,

  • you're two to four times more likely to be targeted for that force

  • than if you're white.

  • But it also comes from knowing what those statistics feel like.

  • I've experienced the fear of seeing an officer unclip their gun

  • and the panic of realizing that someone might mistake my 13-year-old godson

  • as old enough to be a threat.

  • So when a police chief,

  • or a pastor,

  • or an imam, or a mother --

  • when they call me after an officer shoots another unarmed Black child,

  • I understand a bit of the pain in their voice.

  • It's the pain of a heart breaking when it fails to solve a deadly problem.

  • Breaking from trying to do something

  • that feels simultaneously necessary and impossible.

  • The way trying to fix racism usually feels.

  • Necessary and impossible.

  • So, police chiefs like talking to me because I'm an expert,

  • but I doubt they'd be lining up to lie down on Dr. Phil's couch

  • if I told them all their problems were hopeless.

  • All of my research,

  • and the decade of work I've done with my center --

  • the Center for Policing Equity --

  • actually leads me to a hopeful conclusion

  • amidst all the heartbreak of race in America,

  • which is this:

  • trying to solve racism feels impossible

  • because our definition of racism makes it impossible --

  • but it doesn't have to be that way.

  • So here's what I mean.

  • The most common definition of racism

  • is that racist behaviors are the product of contaminated hearts and minds.

  • When you listen to the way we talk about trying to cure racism,

  • you'll hear it.

  • "We need to stamp out hatred.

  • We need to combat ignorance," right?

  • It's hearts and minds.

  • Now the only problem with that definition is that it's completely wrong --

  • both scientifically and otherwise.

  • One of the foundational insights of social psychology

  • is that attitudes are very weak predictors of behaviors,

  • but more importantly than that,

  • no Black community has ever taken to the streets

  • to demand that white people would love us more.

  • Communities march to stop the killing,

  • because racism is about behaviors, not feelings.

  • And even when civil rights leaders

  • like King and Fannie Lou Hamer used the language of love,

  • the racism they fought,

  • that was segregation and brutality.

  • It's actions over feelings.

  • And every one of those leaders would agree,

  • if a definition of racism makes it harder to see

  • the injuries racism causes,

  • that's not just wrong.

  • A definition that cares about the intentions of abusers

  • more than the harms to the abused --

  • that definition of racism is racist.

  • But when we change the definition of racism from attitudes to behaviors,

  • we transform that problem from impossible to solvable.

  • Because you can measure behaviors.

  • And when you can measure a problem,

  • you can tap into one of the only universal rules of organizational success.

  • You've got a problem or a goal, you measure it,

  • you hold yourself accountable to that metric.

  • So if every other organization measures success this way,

  • why can't we do that in policing?

  • It turns out we actually already do.

  • Police departments already practice data-driven accountability,

  • it's just for crime.

  • The vast majority of police departments across the United States

  • use a system called CompStat.

  • It's a process that, when you use it right,

  • it identifies crime data,

  • it tracks it and identifies patterns,

  • and then it allows departments to hold themselves accountable

  • to public safety goals.

  • It usually works either by directing police attentions and police resources,

  • or changing police behavior once they show up.

  • So if I see a string of muggings in that neighborhood,

  • I'm going to want to increase patrols in that neighborhood.

  • If I see a spike in homicides,

  • I'm going to want to talk to the community to find out why

  • and collaborate on changes on police behavior to tamp down the violence.

  • Now when you define racism in terms of measurable behaviors,

  • you can do the same thing.

  • You can create a CompStat for justice.

  • That's exactly what the Center for Policing Equity has been doing.

  • So let me tell you how that works.

  • After a police department invites us in,

  • we handle the legal stuff, we engage with the community,

  • our next step is to analyze their data.

  • The goal of these analyses is to determine

  • how much do crime, poverty, neighborhood demographics

  • predict, let's say, police use of force?

  • Let's say that those factors predict

  • police will use force on this many Black people.

  • There?

  • So our next question is,

  • how many Black people actually are targeted

  • for police use of force?

  • Let's say it's this many.

  • So what's up with the gap?

  • Well, a big portion of the gap is the difference

  • between what's predicted by things police can't control

  • and what's predicted by things police can control --

  • their policies and their behaviors.

  • And what we're looking for are the types of contact

  • or the areas in the city

  • where that gap is biggest,

  • because then we can tell our partners,

  • "Look here. Solve this problem first."

  • It's actually the kind of therapy police chiefs can get behind,

  • because there is nothing so inspiring in the face of our history of racism

  • as a solvable problem.

  • Look, if the community in Minneapolis asked their police department

  • to remedy the moral failings of race in policing,

  • I'm not sure they know how to do that.

  • But if instead the community says,

  • "Hey, you're data say you're beating up a lot of homeless folks.

  • You want to knock that off?"

  • That's something police can learn how to do.

  • And they did.

  • So in 2015, the Minneapolis PD let us know

  • their community was concerned they were using force too often.

  • So we showed them how to leverage their own data

  • to identify situations where force could be avoided.

  • And when you look at those data,

  • you'll see that a disproportionate number of their use-of-force incidents,

  • they involved somebody who's homeless, in mental distress,

  • has a substance abuse issue or some combination of all three --

  • more than you expect

  • based on those factors I was just telling you about.

  • So right there's the gap.

  • Next question is why.

  • Well, it turns out homeless folks often need services.

  • And when those services are unavailable, when they can't get their meds,

  • they lose their spot in the shelter,

  • they're more likely to engage in behaviors that end up with folks calling the cops.

  • And when the cops show up,

  • they're more likely to resist intervention,

  • oftentimes because they haven't actually done anything illegal,

  • they're literally just living outside.

  • The problem wasn't a need to train officers differently in Minneapolis.

  • The problem was the fact that folks were using the cops

  • to "treat" substance abuse and homelessness in the first place.

  • So the city of Minneapolis found a way to deliver social services

  • and city resources

  • to the homeless community before anybody ever called the cops.

  • (Applause)

  • Now the problem isn't always homelessness, right?

  • Sometimes the problem is fear of immigration enforcement,

  • like it was in Salt Lake City, or it is in Houston,

  • where the chiefs had to come forward

  • and say, "We're not going to deport you just for calling 911."

  • Or the problem is foot pursuits,

  • like it was in Las Vegas,

  • where they had to train their officers to slow down and take a breath

  • instead of allowing the adrenaline in that situation to escalate it.

  • It's searches in Oakland;

  • it's pulling folks out of cars in San Jose;

  • it's the way that they patrol the neighborhoods

  • that make up Zone 3 in Pittsburgh

  • and the Black neighborhoods closest to the waterfront in Baltimore.

  • But in each city,

  • if we can give them a solvable problem,

  • they get busy solving it.

  • And together our partners have seen an average of 25 percent fewer arrests,

  • fewer use-of-force incidents

  • and 13 percent fewer officer-related injuries.

  • Essentially, by identifying the biggest gaps

  • and directing police attentions to solving it,

  • we can deliver a data-driven vaccine against racial disparities in policing.

  • Right now, we have the capacity to partner with about 40 cities at a time.

  • That means if we want the United States to stop feeling exhausted

  • from trying to solve an impossible problem,

  • we're going to need a lot more infrastructure.

  • Because our goal is to have our tools be able to scale

  • the brilliance of dedicated organizers

  • and reform-minded chiefs.

  • So to get there we're going to need the kind of collective will

  • that desegregated schools

  • and won the franchise for the sons and daughters of former slaves

  • so that we can build a kind of health care system

  • capable of delivering our vaccine across the country.

  • Because our audacious idea

  • is to deliver a CompStat for justice

  • to departments serving 100 million people across the United States

  • in the next five years.

  • (Applause and cheers)

  • Doing that would mean arming about a third of the United States

  • with tools to reduce racial disparities in police stops, arrests and use of force,

  • but also tools to reduce predatory cash bail

  • and mass incarceration,

  • family instability

  • and chronic mental health and substance abuse issues,

  • and every other ill that our broken criminal-legal systems aggravate.

  • Because every unnecessary arrest we can prevent

  • saves a family from the terrifying journey through each one of those systems.

  • Just like every gun we can leave holstered

  • saves an entire community from a lifetime of grief.

  • Look, each and every one of us,

  • we measure the things that matter to us.

  • Businesses measure profit;

  • good students keep track of their grades;

  • families chart the growth of their children

  • with pencil markings in doorframes.

  • We all measure the things that matter most to us,

  • which is why we feel the neglect

  • when nobody's bothering to measure anything at all.

  • For the past quarter millennium,

  • we've defined the problems of race and policing

  • in a way that's functionally impossible to measure.

  • But now the science says we can just change that definition.

  • And the folks at the Center for Policing Equity,

  • I actually think we may have measured

  • more police behavior than any one in human history.

  • And that means that once we have the will

  • and the resources to do it,

  • this could be the generation

  • that stops feeling like racism is an unsolvable problem

  • and instead sees

  • that what's been necessary for far too long is possible.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause and cheers)

When people meet me for the first time on my job,