Bias By Proxy Education Campaign
Video produced by Kristi Denton Cohen of Peloton Productions
Did you know that Mill Valley community members call the police about Black people at nearly 20 times the rate they do about White people? In most of these calls, police find no cause for citation or arrest. These findings are based on Mill Valley Police Department call data for the year beginning June 1, 2021.
None of us wants to believe we are influenced by racial bias, but all of us have implicit biases. Living in a community where one race predominates can reinforce unconscious assumptions based on race. Police in Mill Valley have seen many instances of this where, for example, a neighbor sees a person of color out for a walk and reports them as suspicious or dangerous solely because of their race. In law enforcement, we call this Bias by Proxy.
Bias by Proxy is unlawful, it is dangerous, and it hurts everyone. When police respond to a bias-based call, it undermines legitimacy and community trust in law enforcement. Bias by Proxy misdirects the power and authority of police and can have serious personal consequences for those who are wrongly targeted. Black and Brown community members who are needlessly and repeatedly scrutinized by police experience Mill Valley as a dangerous and hostile environment. This reinforces historic patterns of racial segregation that deprive our community of the rich diversity that the Bay Area has to offer.
The Mill Valley Police Department has developed policies and training for officers on how to identify and interrupt Bias by Proxy when responding to a call for service. In addition, the Marin County Sheriff’s Office Communications Center dispatchers have received training on how to flag and screen bias-based calls. But our community has an important role to play in stopping Bias by Proxy before it begins.
Working together, the Mill Valley Police Department and Mill Valley Force for Racial Equity and Empowerment (MVFREE) have developed a simple tool to help prevent Bias by Proxy. Before calling the police, we urge everyone to pause and reflect on these “Three Considerations.”
- Consider the Behavior: Do I see behavior that makes me think somebody is committing a crime or endangering someone?
- Consider your Assumptions: If a friend or neighbor were behaving in that way, would I think someone should call the police?
- Consider your Response: Are police the most appropriate service providers for the situation?
A person's race or appearance is NEVER a proper basis for calling the police.
To help direct people to the most appropriate service providers for their situation, we are publicizing a list of Emergency and Community Service Providers that can assist in the areas of mental and behavioral health, domestic abuse and sexual assault, and animal emergencies and abuse.
“The MVPD will continue to work on training our officers on implicit bias, principled policing, and racial diversity,” Police Chief Rick Navarro said. “We are committed to raising awareness about Bias by Proxy and addressing implicit bias where it exists. This is only the beginning as we continue to examine the available data and work to improve our service to our community.”
MVFREE Police Team member Celimene Pastor said, “At MVFREE, we believe that each of us has the power to make a difference. Let’s all do our part to support safe and equitable policing and make Mill Valley a community of belonging for everyone. The 'Three Considerations' are a good first step”
The City plans to incorporate additional education about Bias By Proxy in upcoming community dialogues. Community members are encouraged to sign up for the City’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion ENewsletter to stay informed and learn more.
Go to www.cityofmillvalley.org/dei to learn more.