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New Work on Culture Change and Combating Racial Disparities in Policing

New work from the SPARQ team highlights the power of culture and research-driven partnerships for creating more equitable organizations and communities.

In “We Built This Culture (So We Can Change It)," a new paper published in American Psychologist, Executive Director MarYam Hamedani, Faculty Co-Directors Hazel Markus and Jennifer Eberhardt, and Associate Director of Criminal Justice Partnerships Rebecca Hetey share a novel, evidence-based framework for intentional culture change. This roadmap can help researchers and practitioners alike take on the daunting but necessary work of culture change, particularly when tackling social inequality. They can use the culture cycle and “the four Is” as a tool to map and track culture change efforts. When it comes to changing culture, Hamedani says, it is important to recognize, “because we built it, we can change it. There are many forces out there that are out of our control, but the societies we build and pass on — the organizations, the institutions, the way we live our lives — those are things that are human-made. And so we should feel empowered by that inheritance because that’s the thing that gives us the ability to make change.”

Two parked police cars with their lights on

In “When the Cruiser Lights Come On,” an essay published in the Winter 2024 issue of Daedalus on Understanding Implicit Bias, Hetey, Hamedani, Markus, and Eberhardt discuss their ongoing work with the Oakland Police Department to reduce racial disparities in policing. Applying their framework for intentional culture change, the SPARQ team describes how they shifted department norms and developed cutting-edge methods to address inequality. Their research focused on the traffic stop – the most common police encounter – and employed novel large-scale analyses of body-worn camera footage to illuminate and improve the substance of police-community interactions. They designed interventions to both reduce the number of stops and mitigate racial disparities in stops. The essay demonstrates how research-driven partnerships between researchers and practitioners can provide a path to combat inequality within organizational settings.


Image via Michael Förtsch / Unsplash