October 10, 2016

Doctoral Student Roger Chin Honored for “Stop and Frisk” Research

Clear sky view of the downtown LA with mountain background
Los Angeles, California

At the center of Roger Chin’s research is a single word.


When communication fails, relationships fail … misunderstandings grow … negotiations fall apart.

For Chin, a political science and information systems doctoral student in CGU’s Division of Politics & Economics and the Center for Information Systems & Technology, the failure of communication also tears apart a relationship that is crucial to a stable society: the relationship between a community and its law enforcement agencies.

“We’ve seen this happen many times, far too many times,” says Chin, who is specializing in criminal justice. “Just when you think you’ve heard about the last one, another incident happens.”

Long before protests and clashes between police and local communities dominated headlines across the country—Charlotte, Tulsa, and Los Angeles are among the most recent incidents—Chin was already deep in his research on what is considered one of the most controversial triggers of this conflict, the stop-and-frisk policy.

“The stop-and-frisk policy is intended for police officers to be more proactive in order to protect our communities,” Chin says, “but the policy only created more distrust and suspicion. Proponents say it’s a preventive measure; opponents say it unfairly targets minorities. Why? What happened?”

To answer these questions, Chin authored “The Unexplored Gender Dynamics of the Stop-and-Frisk Policy from a Quantitative and Spatial Perspective,” a study of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy from 2003 to 2014.

That study, which applies logistic and probit regression analysis to a decade’s worth of data of the NYPD, was recently awarded the Pi Alpha Alpha “Best Doctoral Student Manuscript Award” from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).

Chin will be recognized for this paper during the 2016 NASPAA annual conference held later this month in Columbus, Ohio.

“It was truly an honor to represent CGU at the conference,” he says.

On the heels of the NASPAA award, Chin was also recently chosen for an Equity and Inclusion student fellowship by the Association of Public Policy and Management (APPAM). He was chosen as one of 25 recipients for the prestigious award, which promotes support for public policy students around the country. Chin’s achievements are highlighted in APPAM’s Member Spotlight. To read their interview with him, visit: http://www.appam.org/member-spotlight-roger-j-chin-/

Important factors: race, ethnicity, and gender

Though the general public doesn’t give much attention to such issues until the media does or until a phrase like “stop and frisk” gets mentioned by the presidential candidates during their first debate, Chin has long been interested in the conflict points between law enforcement and local communities.

That is why, at CGU, he made a decision to specialize his doctoral training in the area of criminal justice.

Regarding his award-winning paper, Chin says what interested him was that frisking is a subjective decision— “there are no rules requiring officers to frisk every person they encounter,” he says.

While the impact of stop-and-frisk policies has been viewed through the lens of ethnicity, Chin wanted to add another factor: gender. The fact that an individual is male or female is an extremely important influence, Chin says, and he included this in his research.

And, Chin adds, the experiences of women also differ based on their race and ethnicity.

His research found that the race, ethnicity, and gender of someone being stopped by the police is a notable determination as to whether that person is frisked for dangerous weapons. Overall, minorities had a higher chance of being frisked by police officers. This inequality not only occurred with men, but women too.

Chin also noted that increasing communication and transparency between the police department and public are crucial because citizens are often quick to overly scrutinize police actions without understanding the entire situation.

Policing in the United States is drastically evolving and policing tactics must adapt and conform to changing circumstances, he found. There is a need for police officials to sincerely collaborate with the public in gaining support, understanding, credibility, and accountability.

The stop-and-frisk policy has increased the amount of encounters between the police and the public, and each of these initial interactions will either instill or erode public support of the police. This situation is further complicated and exacerbated by a communications gulf existing between police and the communities they serve.

“On the news some bystander says, ‘why did the police do that? Why did they shoot the individual instead of using their taser?’ and it’s because there’s a clear lack of understanding of the other side,” Chin says. “But law enforcement is also responsible for promoting transparency and communication. There isn’t enough community relations work being done. As a result, you have a rush to judgment that makes the situation worse for everyone.”

The NASPAA committee praised Chin’s paper for “the originality of the research, presentation quality, relevance of the subject, proper use of methodology, and academic rigor.”

“I just want to find a way to improve this situation,” says Chin, a Southern California native who says he chose CGU over other universities for his doctoral training for “fundamental reasons.”

“To be honest, it’s the transdisciplinary approach,” he says. “I’ve been able to look at this complicated subject from so many different angles, and that’s really necessary to figuring out a solution. Not every university provides that kind of support. In policing, you’re dealing with a diverse community and you need to understand how many different cultures, ages, genders, and races view what you are doing. It’s a multi-faceted situation, and that’s why I’ve really appreciated what I’ve learned here. I’ve been able to take a plethora of classes to prepare me to answer some of these tough questions.”