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The Difference Between Bias-Based Policing & Criminal Profiling

Bias-based policing is the use of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, background, age, or culture as the sole basis for police activity. It is commonly known as racial profiling. This type of policing is not a legitimate law enforcement technique. In fact, it is against departmental policy for the Greensboro police officers to practice bias-based policing. The department is committed to the fair and equal treatment of every member of the public.

Criminal profiling is a legitimate law enforcement technique that uses knowledge, training, and experience to narrow a field of suspects during a criminal investigation. Factual information, patterns of activity, and motives are some of the aspects considered when using criminal profiling to identify a suspect.

The absence of facts, suspicious activity, or specific criminal information is what separates bias-based policing from legitimate criminal profiling.

What Can Officers Legally Do?

Officers can detain and engage any member of the public for investigative purposes when:

  • There is reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a person may have been involved in or have knowledge of a crime
  • Suspicious activity is observed
  • There is criminal information (such as a suspect or vehicle description) that must be acted upon.

A police officer can, and frequently does, engage any member of the public to:

  • Inquire about possible criminal activities in the area
  • Interview a witness who is not suspected of a crime
  • Educate people on ways to avoid or deter crime
  • Render assistance in situations not involving suspected criminal activity (for example, a medical emergency). 

Officers are always free to engage in ordinary, routine conversations with residents and are encouraged to do so as part of building good relationships with the public. In these kinds of situations, you are always free to decline or end any conversation with an officer and walk away. 

If you think your encounter with police was based on bias, remain calm and ask the officer the reason for the encounter. If you are not satisfied with the reason, respectfully ask the officer for his/her name and badge number.

Then, contact the department's Professional Standards Division at 336-373-2468 from 8 am to 5 pm Mondays through Fridays or send us an e-mail. You may also call the Complaint Review Committee at 336-373-2038.

To find out more about the complaint process, visit our How Are We Doing Web page.

Last updated: 12/4/2012 10:59:44 AM