The Criminal Justice Institute ("CJI") of Harvard Law School sponsored a conference entitled RACE, POLICE AND THE COMMUNITY on December 7-9, 2000.
Race is a primary factor in American life and in the criminal justice system. African Americans are disproportionately represented in every aspect of the criminal justice system as offenders, victims, prisoners, and arrestees. Encounters with the police provide the pathway for African Americans into the criminal justice system. Far too often these "encounters" leave permanent psychological and physical scars. A growing awareness amongst the American public about these encounters has given genesis to concepts such as "DWB - driving while Black", racial profiling and criminalizing youth. Heightened concern over the connection between race and police misconduct is sparked by incidents in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Iowa, New York City, Providence, Long Island and countless other communities across the country. A number of police departments have responded to some of these concerns by instituting community policing programs, or collecting data in traffic stops to determine whether patterns of discrimination exist. A growing cadre of clergy in communities of color have also played a critical role in trying to improve the relationship between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. The conference will explore why these encounters occur and how they may be prevented.
The Criminal Justice Institute ("CJI) of Harvard Law School has long been in the forefront of examining these issues through conferences, forums, policy papers, lobbying efforts, publications such as Beyond the Rodney King Story: An Investigation of Police Conduct in Minority Communities, and public comment through the media and speaking engagements. As we begin the twenty-first century, it is fitting and timely for CJI to return to this discussion and sponsor a national conference that brings together a broad cross section of activists, academics, members of law enforcement, grass roots organizations, victims of police misconduct and their families, youth, government officials and representatives of the media to foster communication between the police and those being policed and to develop wide-reaching strategies to address the issues surrounding race and policing.