Racial profiling is an act where all people of a certain race are treated as criminal suspects by those of law enforcement. This occurs when police investigate, stop, frisk search or use force against a person based on race instead of a person’s criminal behavior. It often involves the stopping and searching of people of color for traffic violations. One controversial issue in the discussion of racial profiling has been how to prove if it is legitimate. On the one hand, some argue it is correct policy to search or investigate those of a particular race in order to control crime.
On the other hand, some contend it is an unconstitutional stereotype that causes unfair treatment and harm to people of that race. Racial profiling occurs more than it should and there needs to be a legitimate law enforcement policy created to resolve the issue. Racial profiling has been occurring throughout our nation, for as far back as many of us can remember. Racial profiling stems from racism and fear of people who are different, ethnically and culturally, than the person making the judgments.
During the Civil Rights Era, racial profiling was a major issue, thousands of black Americans were unnecessarily stopped and arrested on their skin color alone. According to Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, “…racial profiling contributed to the assassination of our 25th president” (para1). Leon Czolgosz, a light skinned man who stood in line holding a revolver covered by a handkerchief was overlooked by security. They were too busy focusing on the big African American man, James Parker who actually was the one to seize Czolgosz after the shooting (para2).
This reflects how racial profiling causes innocent people to be stereotyped and criminals to continue with their crimes. Sadly, it spreads even further than that, and continues to cloud the judgment of people who are in positions of authority. Racial profiling was something that you didn’t hear much about until the early 90’s. Some who believe they had fell victim to it started speaking out and making it known to the public. In 1996 the television network ABC aired a report entitled “Driving While Black,” in which it paid three younger black men to drive around the city of New Brunswick, New Jersey, in Mercedes-Benz. Three officers in the city pulled over the car for a minor traffic infraction and then proceeded to search the car and the young men. The show demonstrated with little doubt that the only reason the three men were pulled over was their race. (Donna Batten para 3) This report caught a lot of people’s attention and shed more light on racial profiling. Driving While Black is a prime example of racial profiling. Several minorities fall victim to racial profiling due to a law enforcement strategy of stopping people based on color and justifying it with a small traffic violation.
Officers continue to deny this accusation but their actions during these stops reveal their stereotypes of minorities. There are some people who believe racial profiling does not exist at all and it is a mere excuse of criminals trying to avoid prosecution for their crimes. Although some criminals might try to use this as a defense, we can’t deny the fact that there are innocent people who fall victim to this offense. Tyquan, minority teen of Bushwick, Brooklyn says between the age of 15-18 he was stopped & frisked at least sixty times when walking down the block.
He has been taking in custody several times because he inquired why he was being stopped. Often they held him for 8-9 hours and then release him out the back door with no charges (The Scars of Stop and Frisk). What do you say to a child or parent of a child who sustains this type of treatment on a regular basis for no other reason than the color of their skin? How would those who claim it does not exist justify these types of situations? There is not an answer that will excuse this form of discrimination. In the words of, Lt.
Scott Bushway, “A police chief who sits back and says it absolutely exists, or alternatively, believes it never has and never will is adopting the wrong philosophy. ” (para5) The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that, The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. qtd in Heumann, Cassak 17) Racial profiling is a practice that contradicts the principles of our Constitution.
It targets people of color for investigation and enforcement, hindering community policing efforts and causing law enforcement to lose credibility and trust among the people they are sworn to protect and serve. We rely on police to protect us from harm and to promote fairness and justice in our communities. However, from the effects of racial profiling many people live in fear and have lost all trust in law enforcement.
Despite the civil rights victories of many years ago, official racial prejudice is still reflected throughout the criminal justice system. For people of color in cities large and small across this nation, north and south, east and west, Jim Crow “justice” is alive and well. In New Jersey when 91,000 pages of internal records was released it was evident that cars driven by blacks and Hispanics had been targeted for more than 10 years. Although minorities only consist of 13 percent of state drivers, they accounted for over 80 percent of people stopped by officers. Fred Mazelis para1) It was revealed between July 2003 and June 2004 in Los Angeles that for every 10,000 residents stopped blacks are 127% more likely to be frisked and stopped Latinos are 43% more likely to be frisked than stopped whites.
The ironic thing is that stopped blacks were 42% less likely to be found with a weapon, 25% less likely to be found with drugs and 33% less likely to be found with other contraband. (Ian Ayres para 4&7) In 2011, New York City Police stopped 685,724 people. 7% of those stopped were black or Latino and 88% were not arrested or ticketed. (The Scars of Stop and Frisk) A study in Maryland revealed that on a portion of I-95 only 17% of drivers are black but they account for 70% of those stopped and searched. (Batten para 13) Today skin color makes you a suspect in America. It makes you more likely to be stopped, more likely to be searched and more likely to be arrested. It is not right to assume all minorities are criminal suspects and the same applies that all officers are not guilty of racial profiling.
However, there are too many citizens who have fell victim to this despicable act and something needs to be done to prevent it in the future. Some claims are questionable and suspect while others are undeniable and unconstitutional. Many philosophers and academics have collected and analyzed data in cases of racial profiling. However, a lot of things are not taken into account when these studies are done. Bushway suggests, the best way to handle it is to be mindful of the studies and accept that there may be a problem.
He thinks law enforcement should use the research to their advantage and make sure officers are properly trained when it comes to racial profiling. He believes this way they will be prepared when such allegations arise and also be able to protect most officers who risk their lives to ensure the law is followed by all races. (para6) Bushway makes valid points because in all professions we are trained to do jobs a certain way, and therefore bad training and lack of discipline are factors in racial profiling. …race plays a major role in many decisions because police are taught, usually by their on the job experience, that race along with some other variables, is related to the probability of guilt. ” (Heumann, Cassak 35) Therefore while some officers are guilty of racial profiling, some of them could be unconscious of the problem they are creating. Bushway’s tactic would be a great start to make victims and officers aware that the problem has been recognized, but it is not guaranteed that it will be enough to make a big difference.
Those who defend profiling believe that it is necessary in order to control crime and don’t think that innocent citizens should feel like they are being done wrong when officers force them to be searched after being stopped. (Batten para17) This is easy for them to say because they are not the ones who are experiencing this despicable act. You can never judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Therefore, they don’t have a right to speak so broadly about a situation where they are looking in from the outside.
These defenders also make reference to statistics that show although blacks only make up 13% of the population, they account for 35% of all drug arrests and 55% of all drug convictions. (Batten para15) The thing about that is that if they are only searching minorities for the most part then of course it will be majority minorities who are arrested and convicted. They are creating a self fulfilling prophecy! Racial profiling is nothing more than discrimination against minorities and it is also a very poor and ineffective method of policing.
The reality of the situation is that minorities are arrested for drug offenses in connection with traffic stops at a high rate because they are targeted at a high rate, not because they are more likely than whites to have drugs in their possession. Studies have shown that even when minorities are searched at higher rates, they are no more likely than whites to be carrying illegal drugs. While many studies find that racial profiling is a problem, there are almost as many studies that come back with results that seem to indicate racial profiling is a myth.
The testimony of victims should be proof enough that these studies are flawed. So what is it that is making this data come back flawed? Most of these numbers are the results of surveys or questionnaires that are given to police officers. The questions are directly related to race. Officers are asked questions such as “did you know the race of the person before stopping them? ” or “did race play a role in this incident? ” Questions such as these leave things clearly in control of the officer.
Most police officers are not going to admit to racism. Nobody is willing to incriminate themselves and as long as this act is permitted with no consequences minorities will continually have their rights violated by law enforcement. Although efforts have been made to ban the use of racial profiling as a law enforcement tool, no jurisdiction in the United States has addressed the problem in a way that is both effective and all-inclusive.
There should be a law to uphold and enforce policies against racial profiling. Many people assume that police actions are always justified because of who they are but that is not always the case. The reality is, there are good and bad cops, black criminals, white criminals and criminals of all races. Therefore, it is not fair, or right to make everyone of a particular race suffer which is why we need a law against racial profiling to ensure justice and equality to all, and for all!