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But racial bias isn’t epidemic in law enforcement any more than it is epidemic in academia or the arts. In fact, I believe law enforcement overwhelmingly attracts people who want to do good for a living—people who risk their lives because they want to help other people.They don’t sign up to be cops in New York or Chicago or L.A. to help white people or black people or Hispanic people or Asian people. They sign up because they want to help all people. And they do some of the hardest, most dangerous policing to protect people of color.The police subscribe to a zero-tolerance policy, which is often mistaken for racism. Kaste 14 – Correspondent on NPR’s National Desk for law enforcement and privacy. (Martin Kaste, “Zero-Tolerance Policing Is Not Racism, Say St. Louis-Area Cops,” August 28, 2014, The protests that followed the shooting death this month of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., have rekindled long-standing complaints about racist policing, especially in the St Louis area. Many male African-American residents there say police scrutinize them unfairly. "Every time you see a cop, it's like, 'OK, am I going to get messed with?' " says Anthony Ross. "You feel that every single time you get behindyour car. Every time." Now, police officers in and around St. Louis are becoming more vocal about defending themselves against the charges of bias.Erich Von Almen, a sergeant in the St. Louis County Police Department, is assigned to the city of Jennings, right next door to Ferguson. Like Ferguson, Jennings is predominantly African-American. "There are a few Caucasians that still live here," Von Almen says. Von Almen himself is white, as are most police officers here. That's another way Jennings is like
Ferguson: White cops patrol black neighborhoods. Von Almen was keenly aware of that right after the shooting of Michael Brown. "It was a little tense," he says, but "I was, I guess, pleasantly surprised" by the relative calm. Did anyone call him a racist? "No," he says, then hesitates. "Well, let me say this: No more than during, quote-unquote, normal times." Jennings has something else in common with Ferguson. Darren Wilson, the Ferguson officer who shot Michael Brown, used to work in Jennings. But three years ago, scandals prompted the city to disband its police department and fire its officers — including Wilson. The city then switched to county police, and Von Almen says they're turning things around in Jennings. "If there's a violation, whether it's something as simple as ... an outstanding warrant or a traffic violation, there's a zero-tolerance policy," he says. "And the good citizens of the precinct that we patrol appreciate that, because it has had a very positive impact on crime stats." But here's the thing: Jennings is predominantly black, so if the cops here are showing zero tolerance, it can't help but feel like racial profiling to the residents.Von Almen says he gets that, but insists the zero tolerance policy is colorblind. "For example, there's a big heroin trade down here. And