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Bias-free Policing

A Commitment to Bias-Free Policing

It is the policy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Division of Law Enforcement to prohibit biased policing, to train all members engaged in enforcement activities in the prohibition against biased policing, and to thoroughly investigate all complaints of biased policing.

A fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States is equal protection under the law. Along with this right to equal protection is the fundamental right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by government agents as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Citizens are free to enjoy and use Florida's natural resources, walk and drive the state's streets, highways, and other public places without police interference so long as they obey the law. Citizens also are entitled to be free from crime, and from the acts of criminals, and to drive and walk our public ways safe from the actions of reckless and careless drivers and vessel operators.

The Division of Law Enforcement is charged with protecting these rights, for all, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or economic status.

Police action which is biased is illegal and violates the equal protection clause and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. It also alienates citizens, fosters distrust of police, and undermines legitimate law enforcement efforts.

The nature of the law enforcement profession requires the Division's members to be observant, to identify unusual occurrences and violations of the law, and to act upon them. Proactive enforcement preserves Florida's natural resources for the enjoyment of current and future generations, keeps the state's citizens free from crime and our streets and highways safe to drive upon.

Criminal profiling is a legitimate tool in the fight against crime. Criminal profiling is an investigative method in which an officer, through observation of activities and environment, identifies suspicious behavior by individuals and develops a legal basis, consistent with the Fourth Amendment, to stop them for questioning.

However, illegal profiling, or biased policing, refers to a decision by an officer to stop, detain, interdict, or search an individual based on the race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or economic status. The FWC Division of Law Enforcement prohibits illegal profiling and biased policing as a law enforcement tactic and does not tolerate or condone its use by any of its members in traffic contacts, field contacts, or in asset seizures or forfeiture efforts. It is the Division of Law Enforcement's philosophy to assist law enforcement in accomplishing this total mission in a way that respects the dignity of all persons and yet sends a strong message to actual and potential lawbreakers that if they break the law, said behavior will not be tolerated and will likely result in an encounter with law enforcement.

The Division is committed to doing the right thing. Discriminatory enforcement practices alienate citizens, foster distrust of police in the community, invite media scrutiny, legislative action and judicial intervention, and potentially lead to allegations of constitutional and civil rights violations. As the Division performs its duties, it is imperative that all citizens are afforded equal protection under the law. Division members use many investigative tools. Criminal profiling is one of many accepted and necessary law enforcement investigative practices. However, it differs from and should not be confused with biased policing. One is an investigative tool; the other, a discriminatory practice.

In order to ensure the Division's compliance with its bias-free policing approach, the Division Director initiates an annual review of all complaints of biased policing by Division members in order to proactively address issues and concerns and to reinforce the Division's commitment to bias-free policing.