Collection of Racial Profiling Data by the Houston Police Department


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Back in the days before man moved from living in caves to living in huts, Stan the cave man would come home from a long day of hunting and record his accomplishments on the cave wall. Sometimes his pictures would show a mighty hunt where a large animal was taken down, and other times the pictures would show a fellow cave man or two dying in a hunt that turned tragic. Stan would share his pictures, whether good or bad, with everyone who lived in the cave to show them what happened during his hunt.

When broken all the way down to simplest form, what Stan the cave man was really doing was collecting data. He recorded the events of his day on the cave wall as a way to communicate what happened that day. According to the internet article, Organizational data and communication, all data exist to support organizational communication. It also notes in the article that data equals feedback. I am sure after viewing what transpired that day on the cave wall, Stan's cave mates had considerable input.

Throughout history man has always had a driving need to collect data in one form or another. The Bible, one of the oldest books in the world is nothing more than a record of history put down on paper, or in ancient times on scroll. Today, data is collected on hard drives and discs, but like in the days of Stan the cave man, data is collected as a from of communication.

Back in the early days of 2001, before the September 11th incident, the United States Congress mandated that all police departments would begin to collect racial profiling data. This move was prompted by the growing cry of discrimination from minority communities across the country. The phrase, driving while black was introduced to the nation back then as a way to put a face to the dilemma of the African American population.

As a response to the public outcry, congress ordered all police departments in the United States to begin collecting racial profiling data. The Houston Police Department followed the order, and shortly afterwards they began collecting data on every officer initiated traffic stop.

At first, the Houston Police Department created a paper form for every police officer to fill out after each traffic stop he or she conducted.

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These forms filled out by the officers were then collected at the end of each shift by the officers' supervisor. The supervisors were responsible for turning the forms into the police station's secretary. The secretary was held responsible for entering the information into the departmental mainframe for centralized collection.

In the internet article Organizational Data, several categories of organizational data are listed. These categories include organizational structure data, customer relationship data, financial data, external relationship data, and industry specific data.

What the City of Houston was creating through this process was an organizational structure to collect all the racial profiling data produced by the officers of the Houston Police Department. The goal of the initial structure was to ensure the accuracy of the data collected, and to provide a means of the dissemination of information.

Through the forms, or the questionnaires the officers filled out, the City of Houston attempted to meet the demands of the situation placed upon it by the United States Congress. Among those demands was the proper storage of the racial profiling data collected by the city from the traffic stops. The city used a primary and secondary storage process. The primary form of storage was the hard copy created by the officers. These forms were collected and stored at a centralized location as required by the mandate. Even today, several years later a person can go to 1200 Travis, Houston Police Department headquarters and view the early racial profiling data collected. The secondary form of storage is the computers memory. Once the officers download the racial profiling data on the computer, retrieving the information was easy as a few clicks on the computer keyboard.

The primary form of storage creates many benefits. One of the benefits of primary storage is the paper used can always be duplicated to which significantly decreases the probability of racial profiling data being lost. However, a major drawback to primary storage is its vast use of environmental dependent resources such as trees. The use of paper requires valuable human, animal and plant resources to dwindle at alarming rates. A pro of secondary storage, which is the computers memory, includes the ability to eliminate office space for documents. When racial profiling data is saved on the computers hard drive, consumption of expensive office space for data files and file cabinets are not needed, saving valuable space and money. Unfortunately, computer data bases crashes from time to time posing secondary storage risk factors. Computer viruses are another con with secondary storage.

There has been increasing claims by minorities in Houston and all across the nation of racial profiling by law enforcement officers. Due to this reason, dissemination or the output of racial profiling data has become an outright battle by organizations such as National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). A recent article in the Houston Chronicle stated that The Houston Police Department reported that 67 percent of people stopped by its officers in 2004 were minorities. The dissemination of these statistics and other information regarding racial profiling aides the organization by indicating facts will be provided.

The advantage of using the software development system is the ability to integrate multiple technologies to create a faster more economical system. The disadvantage of using the system is cost to the company. In addition, many people in the company will need to be trained in the system. Many people choose not to use the system because of its complexity, others are eager for the challenge.

Just as Stan the cave man collected and disseminated data, business today are continuing the same method, but with more advanced means. Data in organizations will continue to be essential in keeping businesses growing. The benefits of the dissemination of data in day to day operations in organizations today have proved to be the lifeline for everyone from the CEO to the hardworking janitors and mailroom personnel. As data becomes more readily available, its benefits will surely be felt in every corner of an organization.



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