Case Study: Design to Address Racial Biases & Excessive Use of Force in Law Enforcement
Examined the cause of excessive use of force in U.S. law enforcement and designed a resource bridging communication booking platform to address the issue.
Time: 4 weeks
Team: 2 designers
Role: lead designer
(trained the other member on UI/UX)
A Communication Booking Platform
that bridges resources
by connecting professionals in different areas with officers in training to engage in educational conversation to increase officers' knowledge and empathy for different groups of the society.
and keep officers informed
by providing mandatory training with conversations and panels to update officers on important social issues and behavioral guidelines
User Research Question
What are some causes of police brutality and how can we address the issue with design?
I employed a Double Diamond design process throughout the research and design process.
Lack of empathy between the local community and the police re-enforce bias between the two groups. This accelerates police to civilian interactions negatively and results in more force being used in incidents.
Community engagement between civilians and officers increases their empathy for each other.
How might we create an understanding between the public and the police through mutual interactions so we can reduce tension and mistreatment during incidents?
10 Officers were interviewed
4 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."
" What we do is customer service. "
2. Officers have insufficient empathy and understanding for minority members of society
Officers reflected that learning about social issues like race 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. "
4. Stressed from the job can influence officer to civilian interactions negatively
"A lot of us suffer from mental health issues."
" Most of the time we have to deal with people when they are at their worst. It’s hard to stay positive after that. Some of us don’t know how to disconnect from that and become negative. "
Once an incident occurs, the officer's mood only goes down and gradually escalates to worse
1. Officers achieve empathy for different social groups through conversations with real people
" The more education and time we spend interacting with other LGBTQ officers, civilians, and 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 "
2. 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, a lot of things about respecting others just become second nature to us, we try to make the city a better place.”
3. Officers cope with stress by doing positive and connective activities
Out of the officers we interviewed, there’s one thing that officers who are managing their stress better all have in common: they understand the importance of positive activities and connections.
4. Empathy can be achieved with repeated exposure
“If I give a talk today and changed someone by 10%, then that’s enough, and slowly they will change all the way” — LGBTQ+ Liaison officer, Leader of inclusivity training in his city
Connect to Human Resources
Join Conversation on Topics
Bridging Human Resources:
Social Interactions & exposure creates empathy
Professionals outside of the police force helps police training
Sharing professional experiences:
Most new officers do not have full understanding of what it's like emotionally during a a real life situation
Increasing Emotional Transparency:
Due to the lack of emotional transparency in the workplace, officers feel a cultural shame and barrier that prevents them from sharing their own experiences.
Strengthening Empathy through Exposure
For officers with extreme views, it is easier for them to change opinions by first being exposed to the opposite view through listening. "Panels" are created in addition to "Conversation rooms" with the focus on "listening."
Open Up the Topic Before the Meeting:
Meetings can become messy and lose focus
Officers who establish a timeline before a community meeting communicate more clearly in meetings
Mandatory Training for Experienced Officers:
Community policing departments that assign officers mandatory hours of community engagement reflect 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. We can transfer that database to the site.
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, and thereby increase their tolerance for difference and capacity for empathy.
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 people like policymakers and activists for collaboration and connection. Oftentimes activists would offer to help out this department in, for example, understanding LGBTQ+ people.
User tested with 10 officers
1. Words have different connotations for different professions
Police Officers 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.
2. Too much options confuse the user
Initially there is a "Community Post" area on the "Home" page 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" feature.
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 for this format of conversations, which involves in-person or video conferencing with three participants, having a structured timeline, etc.
2. Test for the ideal number of people there can be in a conversation intended for learning and understanding
3. If the tests indicate difficulty in conversations, test another concept which involves having a third experienced party to facilitate the conversation
4. Start researching and designing the platform that civilians and civilians in professional fields use to connect with the officers.
Thank you! I am very excited to show you this work and I would love any criticism and welcome any feedback from you!