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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Unconscious bias in the suppressive policing of Black and Latino men and boys: neuroscience, Borderlands theory, and the policymaking quest for just policing

  • Author(s): Barvosa, Edwina
  • et al.

his article applies neuroscience and Borderlands theory to reveal how unconscious bias currently stabilizes suppressive policing practices in America despite new efforts at reform. Illustrative cases are offered from Oakland and Santa Barbara, California, with a focus on civil gang injunctions (CGIs) and youth gang suppression. Theoretical analysis of these cases reveals how the unconscious biases of validity illusions and framing effects operate despite the best intentions of law enforcement personnel. Such unconscious or implicit biases create contradictions between the stated beliefs and actions of law enforcement. In turn, these unintended self-contradictions then work to the detriment of Latino and Black boys. The analysis here also extends to how unconscious biases and unintended self-contradictions can influence municipal policymaking in favor of suppressive police tactics such as CGIs, thereby displacing evidence-based policies that are proven to be far more effective. The article concludes with brief discussion of some of the means by which the unconscious biases – effects to which everyone is involuntarily prone – can be disrupted.

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