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Newsmaker: David A. Harris

| Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
Pitt law professor David A. Harris, 57, spoke to a group of prosecutors at a White House summit this November on the subject of recognizing and challenging subconscious racial biases that can affect how prosecutors handle cases.
Pitt law professor David A. Harris, 57, spoke to a group of prosecutors at a White House summit this November on the subject of recognizing and challenging subconscious racial biases that can affect how prosecutors handle cases.

David A. Harris

Age: 57

Residence: Point Breeze

Family: Wife, Rebecca; children, Alicia and Sam

Education: B.A. in political science, Northwestern University, 1980; J.D., Yale University, 1983; L.L.M., Georgetown Law, 1988.

Notable: This month, Harris addressed prosecutors at a White House conference to talk about subconscious racial biases — deep-seeded racial stereotypes that can subconsciously affect how prosecutors handle cases, even if they don't hold racist beliefs. Prosecutors can consciously double-check their decisions on an individual level and use data to track cases on an office-wide level to ensure those biases don't affect cases, and gradually eliminate them, he said.

Background: Harris has long studied how search-and-seizure laws affect police behavior, and has worked with hundreds of police departments across the country and a few international departments on issues of racial profiling. He teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence and a seminar on the HBO series “The Wire” at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

Quote: “It's not about your personal beliefs; it's about how stereotypes act on a subconscious level to affect behavior. What to charge, whether to offer a plea, what sentence to recommend ... all can be affected by the unconscious biases we all have if we're not careful, thoughtful and collecting data.”

— Matthew Santoni

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