Case Study: Design to Address Racial Biases & Excessive Use of Force in Law Enforcement
The lack of empathy between the local community and the police force re-enforce bias and accelerates police-to-civilian interactions to result in more force being used in incidents.
Community engagement between civilians and officers increases their empathy for one another.
How might we create an understanding between the public and the police through mutual interactions so we can reduce tension and mistreatment during incidents?
A Learn-by-Conversation Platform
Through interviews, we found having real conversations with civilians increases officers' knowledge and empathy for different minority groups better than training in class would.
that bridges resources and keep officers informed
Let's use the Double Diamond design process
What are some causes of police brutality and how can we address the issue with design?
We need to make sure we are"designing the right thing" before we"design the thing right."
We found insights through face-to-face interviews with police officers.
3 Pain Points
1. Officers lack the social experience to do well in civilian interactions
" You need social work & skills to work as a police, or else you create walls during the interaction."
Training now does not provide a full understanding of what it's like emotionally during a real-life situation.
2. Officers have insufficient empathy and understanding for minority members of society
Officers reflected that learning about social issues like racial bias from textbooks during training simply does not achieve a degree of understanding that overcomes their pre-established biases.
3. Officers feel misunderstood and disconnected from the rest of the society
" It feels like I have to avoid mentioning my job because of the possible backlash. I feel more isolated in the job now than ever. "
"A lot of us suffer from mental health issues."
Once an incident occurs, the officer's mood only goes down and gradually escalates to worse.
We need to design features that bridge officers with professionals and civilians to engage in real conversations. With the right tools, officers can better understand different social groups, become more connected with the community, and increase their social experience.
Bridging Human Resources
Join Conversations on Topics
Foster Emotional Transparency by increasing the ease of reaching out for help
Officers feel a cultural shame and barrier that prevents them from asking for help in person. We provided an easy and discrete way for them to reach out for help and learn.
Build social experience for civilian interactions by mentorship with experienced officers
"Learning from others about what's really like on the field helps me more than reading from textbooks."
Shift mindsets for officers with extreme views through Repeated Exposure
If an officer has strong opinions, it is easier for them to understand the other side if they listen before engaging in a conversation.
"Panels" are created in addition to "Conversations" with the focus on "listening".
Build empathy for different social groups through conversations with real people
"The more education and time we spend interacting with other civilians, making it a part of the culture, the more we know how to treat others and the more people won’t be hesitant to reach out to us for help."
Why this would work: when connections are pre-established, incidents are resolved peacefully
“Reaching out to the community and doing community policing helped us tremendously. The community is willing to work with us, and a lot of things about respecting others just become second nature to us, we try to make the city a better place.”
Prepare beforehand for a structured conversation
Officers reflected their community town halls can become messy and lose focus.
However, when they establish a timeline beforehand, people stays on track throughout the conversation.
Promote accountability by establishing Mandatory Topics & progress tracker
Departments that assign officers mandatory hours of community engagement reflected higher emotional engagement and accountability from the officers.
Where do the professional human resources come from?
1. Make use of the Existing Database
Police Departments already have professionals from other fields
come in during training to talk to officers.
2. Bridge Databases
Officers’ human resources are limited by location. By bridging professional
human resources from department to department, we can increase officers’
access to people of different socio-economic backgrounds.
3. Social Media
A police department that we interviewed created an online presence through social media. From there, they are contacted by and are contacting professional policymakers and activists for collaboration and connection.
We user tested with 10 officers and analyzed their feedback by categorizing insights.
💡 Words have different associations for user groups
Initially, we had a feature called the "Confession" board to increase emotional transparency by allowing anonymous submissions of experiences from officers. We soon found police officers to have a very negative connotation that they associate with the word "Confession".
To iterate, we got rid of the function 'Confession Board' altogether. This feature adds noise to our main project mission.
💡 Too many options can confuse the user
Initially, there is a "Community Post" area on the homepage where officers can post thoughts and engage in public discussions online. This overshadowed the site's main function of setting up meetings and confused our users.
After iteration, the "Community Posts" feature was replaced with the "search bar" and "meeting & people recommendation" features. Which refocuses the site on its key feature and results in a clearer task flow diagram.
Speeds up the Current Meeting System
" If you have access to all of this, it will walk you through the process. You would know this is something you have to talk about, and you can set it up right here. "
Opens a conversation up
" I like that you are forcing people to write out stuff about the meeting beforehand, so the conversation is open before we got there. The hardest part is starting the conversation. This makes it easier. "
" This could give people access to help 24/7 without having to go through a supervisor, which is embarrassing if you want to talk about mental issues, and takes forever."
"This would be a less stressful and easier way for someone to reach out and talk about a touchy topic."
1. Test the effectiveness of the designed format for conversations, find the optimal number of participants for a clear conversation.
2. Through experiments, find if controls are needed in a conversation. For example, would it be helpful to have a third experienced party to facilitate the conversation?
4. Design the civilian-facing platform for this system.