In this activity, students argue for the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of racial profiling in various policing contexts. Before the debate, students read articles assigned for the week and take notes on the readings. In class, the students are split into two groups, each assigned a position in the debate. The groups have a few minutes to review their notes and brainstorm arguments. During the debate, each student is expected to make at least one short statement, presenting an argument or countering the other groups' position. This ensures that each student is involved.
During the activity, the instructor writes summaries of each point and counter-point on the board, to show the logic of the arguments and to show the students what was being overlooked. He or she hints at key neglected arguments as well.
After the debate, the students reflect on the evidence and trade-offs and on why this information is presented in the form of a debate rather than a straight lecture.
The purpose of this activity is for students to get gain a deeper sense of the empirical and moral complexities of racial profiling as practiced by police in various settings, and how these practices may either benefit or undermine police work and police legitimacy, as well as a thorough understanding of the concept of procedural justice and how it relates to police work.
For Matt Kaliner, debates are an effective way to present controversial topics. In class, the professor did not take a side, so this activity allowed students to see both sides. By being assigned to one side or the other, the students were compelled to challenge their own conceptions and seriously consider both viewpoints.