One of the ethical questions in Western societies is how to deal with proactive police work, which relies heavily on profiling. The risk that this results in a situation in which specific subgroups in society are discriminated against is substantia; not only does this negatively affect the subgroups involved, but it also undermines both the legitimacy and the “information position” of the police. For these reasons, the police unit in Amsterdam takes the discussion about ethnic profiling very seriously, and has in recent years invested in a variety of interventions and strategies, among which an app to register stops, and a set of guidelines specifying which behaviors are preferable given a certain situation. These guidelines involve four principles: making sure that selection of individuals is correct, that the reason behind the stop is properly explained, that the individual is approached in the appropriate manner, and that officers reflect on their conduct.
Virtual reality is a potentially very suitable means to train police officers in the application of these principles, and this potential will be the prime focus of the current master’s project. The specific project goals are twofold. First, in cooperation with the police, a set of six 360-degree videos will have to be created, in which good and bad practices are displayed. Once completed, these videos will be prepared for presentation with a VR visor of helmet.
Secondly, together with police officers affiliated with the Politie voor Iedereen (Police for everyone) program, several “basicteams” within the police force will visited. Ambassadors Ethnic Profiling, resent within these basic teams, will help immersing their colleagues in the VR videos. Subsequently, the latter colleagues will take part in an evaluation. The goals of these sessions is to make officers aware of their and their colleagues’ conduct, and to provide them with behavioral alternatives. The thesis research aims to evaluate the effective of VR is such contexts.
The Amsterdam Police Force is looking for 2-3 Master students who are motivated to participate in this project. They should be able, or willing to learn how to use 360-degree videos and create VR-products; assistance of the MBS-lab is possible. The scripts on which the VR material will be based will be developed in close cooperation with the police. The material developed in the course of the project will become the police’s intellectual property.
Ethnic profiling, training, Virtual Reality
Van Wakeren, J. (2017). The Usual Suspects: Decision Making in Proactive Policing. Master’s thesis, University of Twente.
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