Duluth Police Says Third-Party Found No Evidence Of Biased Policing, Community Organization Has Doubts About Methodology

DULUTH, Minn. — On Wednesday, the Duluth Police Department released a statement summarizing what it says a third-party researcher found after looking into its policing practices in regard to interactions with people of color in the Duluth community.

The third-party was hired after the Duluth chapter of the NCAAP president held a press conference in March of 2021, accusing the DPD of years of racially-biased policing during interactions with the BIPOC community.

The Duluth Police Department says it took the NCAAP’s claims seriously, and hired a third-party called Police Strategies LLC in July of last year.

According to the Police Strategies LLC’s CEO, the company uses “data science and technology to support effective reforms, reduce risks and improve performance.”

After Police Strategies LLC reviewed the Duluth Police Department’s data, it released its 172-page “Demographic Disparity Analysis” on March 30th of this year.

The DPD says that the third-party company “found no evidence to suggest systemic practices of biased policing or racial profiling occurring within the Duluth Police Department” after the Police Strategies CEO, Bob Scales,  delivered a presentation with the results.

“The Duluth Police Department has dedicated and caring professional police officers who we hire for their character, are guided by best practice policy, led by ethical leaders, and dedicated to continuous improvement in our training to show up in professional, respectful, and just manner,” Duluth police chief Mike Tusken wrote in a statement. “Biased policing of any kind has no quarter here. We have the courage to confront attitudes and behaviors that do not uphold our mission and social contract. Disparities are not a statistic on a spreadsheet to us, it is someone’s life and we must all do everything we can, and more, to build an equitable community.  That said, disparities do not unilaterally equate to bias by DPD.  DPD and the community benefitted from this study and as we previously stated, this is a starting point for continuing conversations with our community to address the drivers of disparities in Duluth.”

The DPD says that it is now reviewing proposals from vendors as a team effort with the Racial Bias committee to do what they call “Racial Biased Audit.”

Meanwhile, the organization known as the Duluth Law Enforcement Accountability Network, or LEAN, responded to the findings, saying in a statement that it “uncovered significant
concerns about the credibility of Police Strategies’ data methodologies that, in the opinion of LEAN Duluth, raised significant ethical concerns” after the group said it contacted experts in law enforcement data review.

LEAN claims that in its background research, the two directors of Police Strategies LLC do not have degrees in statistics, and have had careers in law enforcement and prosecution, adding that it believes the business used “faulty methodologies.”

The organization adds that the Duluth chapter president of the NAACP, Classie Dudley, said that “nobody from Duluth Police Department or the City collaborated with the NAACP in any way regarding this study. There was no input from our community yet we were named several times throughout the release of the report.”

Among its other critiques of third-party findings, LEAN wants the city of Duluth to “properly respond to this data, acknowledge its faults, and promise to find a more appropriate contractor for the upcoming racial bias audit for which the city recently released an RFP,” known as a “Request For Proposals.”

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