Racial profiling

Racial profiling

Overview
Racial profiling refers to the use of an individual’s race or ethnicity by law enforcement personnel as a key factor in deciding whether to engage in enforcement (e.g. make a traffic stop or arrest). The practice is controversial and is illegal in some nations.


The concept of racial profiling has been defined in many ways, including:
  • "Any police-initiated action that relies on the race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than the behavior of an individual or information that leads the police to a particular individual who has been identified as being, or having been, engaged in criminal activity." -Deborah Ramirez, Jack McDevitt, Amy Farrell for US DoJ
    United States Department of Justice
    The United States Department of Justice , is the United States federal executive department responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice, equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries.The Department is led by the Attorney General, who is nominated...


  • "Racially-biased policing occurs when law enforcement inappropriately considers race or ethnicity in deciding with whom and how to intervene in an enforcement capacity."-Lorie Fridell, Robert Lunney, Drew Diamond and Bruce Kubu

  • "Using race as a key factor in deciding whether to make a traffic stop." -General Accounting Office

  • "In the literature to date, there appear to be at least two clearly distinguishable definitions of the term 'racial profiling': a narrow definition and a broad definition...
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Encyclopedia
Racial profiling refers to the use of an individual’s race or ethnicity by law enforcement personnel as a key factor in deciding whether to engage in enforcement (e.g. make a traffic stop or arrest). The practice is controversial and is illegal in some nations.

Definition



The concept of racial profiling has been defined in many ways, including:
  • "Any police-initiated action that relies on the race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than the behavior of an individual or information that leads the police to a particular individual who has been identified as being, or having been, engaged in criminal activity." -Deborah Ramirez, Jack McDevitt, Amy Farrell for US DoJ
    United States Department of Justice
    The United States Department of Justice , is the United States federal executive department responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice, equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries.The Department is led by the Attorney General, who is nominated...


  • "Racially-biased policing occurs when law enforcement inappropriately considers race or ethnicity in deciding with whom and how to intervene in an enforcement capacity."-Lorie Fridell, Robert Lunney, Drew Diamond and Bruce Kubu

  • "Using race as a key factor in deciding whether to make a traffic stop." -General Accounting Office

  • "In the literature to date, there appear to be at least two clearly distinguishable definitions of the term 'racial profiling': a narrow definition and a broad definition... Under the narrow definition, racial profiling occurs when a police officer stops, questions, arrests, and/or searches someone solely on the basis of the person's race or ethnicity... Under the broader definition, racial profiling occurs whenever police routinely use race as a factor that, along with an accumulation of other factors, causes an officer to react with suspicion and take action."-Jim Cleary

  • "Use by law enforcement personnel of an individual’s race or ethnicity as a factor in articulating reasonable suspicion to stop, question or arrest an individual, unless race or ethnicity is part of an identifying description of a specific suspect for a specific crime." -Office of the Arizona Attorney General

Legality


At a Federal level, racial profiling is challenged by the Fourth Amendment
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause...

 of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees the right to be safe from unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause and the Fourteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

 which requires that all citizens be treated equally under the law.

In his February 27, 2001, address to a Joint Session of Congress, President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 declared, "Racial profiling is wrong, and we will end it in America. In so doing, we will not hinder the work of our nation's brave police officers. They protect us every day -- often at great risk. But by stopping the abuses of a few, we will add to the public confidence our police officers earn and deserve."

On February 28, 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft
John Ashcroft
John David Ashcroft is a United States politician who served as the 79th United States Attorney General, from 2001 until 2005, appointed by President George W. Bush. Ashcroft previously served as the 50th Governor of Missouri and a U.S...

 said "This administration... has been opposed to racial profiling and has done more to indicate its opposition than ever in history. The President said it’s wrong and we’ll end it in America, and I subscribe to that. Using race… as a proxy for potential criminal behavior is unconstitutional, and it undermines law enforcement undermining the confidence that people can have in law enforcement."

In June 2003, the Department of Justice issued its Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies forbidding racial profiling by federal law enforcement officials.

In June 2001, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a component of the Office of Justice Programs, United States Department of Justice, awarded the Northeastern research team a grant to create this web-based Racial Profiling Data Collection Resource Center. It now maintains a website designed to be a central clearinghouse for police agencies, legislators, community leaders, social scientists, legal researchers, and journalists to access information about current data collection efforts, legislation and model policies, police-community initiatives, and methodological tools that can be used to collect and analyze racial profiling data. The website contains information on the background of data collection, jurisdictions currently collecting data, community groups, legislation that is pending and enacted in states across the country, and has information on planning and implementing data collection procedures, training officers in to implement these systems, and analyzing and reporting the data and results.

Several U.S. states now have reporting requirements. Texas, for example requires all agencies to provide annual reports to its Law Enforcement Commission. The requirement began on September 1, 2001, when the State of Texas passed a law to require all law enforcement agencies in the State to begin collecting certain data in connection to traffic or pedestrian stops beginning on January 1, 2002. Based on that data, the law mandated law enforcement agencies to submit a report to the law enforcement agencies' governing body beginning March 1, 2003 and each year thereafter no later than March 1. The law is found in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure beginning with Article 2.131.
Additionally, on January 1, 2011, all law enforcement agencies began submitting annual reports to the Texas State Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Education Commission. The submitted reports can be accessed on the Commission's website for public review.

Support


Many in the law enforcement community argue that although unfortunate, the use of ethnic and racial profiling is both effective and necessary. The argument is made that due to socio-economic and demographic factors as unfortunate and undesirable as it might be, crime is simply higher in some communities that have a large minority population and that to ignore that fact due to a sense of moral integrity would be both morally and professionally wrong. As an example, an airport interdiction task force at Los Angeles International Airport compiled a report of those arrested based solely on officer observations, and when that report was compared to one of those arrested based on alerts driven by the airline passenger alert computer system the percentages were almost identical. Examples such as these support the conclusion that although factors such as race may be taken into account, it does not necessarily indicate that a prejudicial bias is present.

If the success of law enforcement is defined as identifying and taking action against violators, then racial profiling would allow officers to be more effective.
A majority of Americans support profiling as necessary "in today's society".

Criticism


Critics of racial profiling argue that the individual rights of a suspect are violated if race is used as a factor in that suspicion. Notably, civil liberties organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union
American Civil Liberties Union
The American Civil Liberties Union is a U.S. non-profit organization whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States." It works through litigation, legislation, and...

 (ACLU) have stated that racial profiling is a form of discrimination
Discrimination
Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. The term began to be...

, stating, "Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, nationality or on any other particular identity undermines the basic human rights and freedoms to which every person is entitled."

Critics argue that individuals should not be more or less likely to encounter law enforcement officers or other government agents based on racial or ethnic traits.

Responding to such criticisms are local community groups who seek to collect data, analyze trends and how they might correspond to public perceptions of profiling, and solicit ideas aimed at diminishing cultural and racial biases.

In practice

  • Despite promises to the contrary before the September 11 attacks in 2001, racial profiling surged during the presidency of George W. Bush
    George W. Bush
    George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

    , coinciding with the initiation of the War on Terror
    War on Terror
    The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...

    . Claims of profiling have been particularly focused on Naturalization, Customs, and Border Patrol agents accused of making Muslims' entry or re-entry into the United States more difficult and pressure-laden than that of their peers. According to a 2011 report from Brown University
    Brown University
    Brown University is a private, Ivy League university located in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. Founded in 1764 prior to American independence from the British Empire as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations early in the reign of King George III ,...

    , this sort of profiling has been encouraged in public discourse by political TV personalities like Bill O'Reilly
    Bill O'Reilly (political commentator)
    William James "Bill" O'Reilly, Jr. is an American television host, author, syndicated columnist and political commentator. He is the host of the political commentary program The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel, which is the most watched cable news television program on American television...

    .

  • The airline ticketing agent who checked in Mohamed Atta
    Mohamed Atta
    Mohamed Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta was one of the masterminds and the ringleader of the September 11 attacks who served as the hijacker-pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, crashing the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center as part of the coordinated attacks.Born in 1968...

    , the leader of the September 11 attacks, and a companion, would afterwards say that looking at the pair his first reaction was to think, "If this doesn't look like two Arab terrorists, I've never seen two Arab terrorists." But he immediately felt guilty, and had no legal grounds to search on the basis of their suspicious appearance had he wished to.

  • In December 2001, an American citizen of Middle Eastern descent named Assem Bayaa cleared all the security checks at Los Angeles
    Los Ángeles
    Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

     airport and attempted to board a flight to New York
    New York
    New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

    . Upon boarding, he was told that he made the passengers uncomfortable by being on board the plane and was asked to leave. Once off the plane, he wasn't searched or questioned any further and the only consolation he was given was a boarding pass for the next flight. He filed a lawsuit on the basis of discrimination against United Airlines
    United Airlines
    United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees (which includes the entire holding company United Continental...

    . United Airlines filed a counter motion which was dismissed by a district judge on October 11, 2002. In June 2005, the ACLU announced a settlement between Bayaa and United Airlines who still disputed Bayaa's allegations, but noted that the settlement "was in the best interest of all".

Empirical evidence


For motor vehicle searches academic research showed that the probability of a successful search is very similar across races. This suggests that police officers are not motivated by racial preferences but by the desire to maximize the probability of a successful search. Similar evidence has been found for pedestrian stops, with identical ratios of stops to arrests for different races.

Canada


Accusations of racial profiling of visible minorities who accuse police of targeting them due to their ethnic background is a growing concern in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. In 2005, the Kingston
Kingston, Ontario
Kingston, Ontario is a Canadian city located in Eastern Ontario where the St. Lawrence River flows out of Lake Ontario. Originally a First Nations settlement called "Katarowki," , growing European exploration in the 17th Century made it an important trading post...

 Police Service released the first study ever in Canada which pertains to racial profiling. The study focused on in the city of Kingston, a small city where most of the inhabitants are white. The study showed that black skinned people were 3.7 times more likely to be pulled over by police than white skinned people, while Asian people were less likely to be pulled over than whites or blacks. Several police organizations condemned this study and suggested more studies like this would make them hesitant to pull over visible minorities.

Although aboriginal persons make up 3.6% of Canada's population, they account for 20% of Canada's prison population. This may show how racial profiling increases effectiveness of police, or be a result of racial profiling, as they are watched more intensely than others.

In February 2010, an investigation of the Toronto Star
Toronto Star
The Toronto Star is Canada's highest-circulation newspaper, based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Its print edition is distributed almost entirely within the province of Ontario...

daily newspaper found that black people across Toronto were three times more likely to be stopped and documented by police than white people. To a lesser extent, the same seemed true for people described by police as having "brown" skin. This was the result of an analysis of 1.7 million contact cards filled out by Toronto police officers in the period 2003 - 2008.

Mexico


In one case in 1999, Mexican highway officers pulled over an African Mexican man suspected of being an illegal immigrant from Central America or Cuba. He was forced to sing the Mexican National Anthem
Himno Nacional Mexicano
The National Anthem of Mexico started being used in 1854, although it was not officially adopted by law until 1943. The lyrics of the national anthem, which allude to Mexican victories in the heat of battle and cries of defending the homeland, were composed by poet Francisco González Bocanegra in...

 to prove his residence.

See also

  • Affirmative action
    Affirmative action
    Affirmative action refers to policies that take factors including "race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin" into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination.-Origins:The term...

  • Contempt of cop
    Contempt of cop
    Contempt of cop is law enforcement jargon in the United States for behavior by citizens towards law enforcement officers that the officers perceive as disrespectful or insufficiently deferential to their authority...

  • De-policing
    De-policing
    De-policing is a "law enforcement strategy in which police avoid accusations of racial profiling by ignoring traffic violations and other petty crimes committed by members of visible minorities." In a sense de-policing is the opposite of racial profiling....

  • Driving While Black
    Driving While Black
    Driving While Black, abbreviated as DWB, is a phrase in the contemporary American vernacular that refers to the criminalization of black drivers. An alternate phrase, Driving While Brown, is more encompassing, referring to the crime of being a non-Caucasian driver.-Derivation:"Driving While Black"...

  • Police misconduct
    Police misconduct
    Police misconduct refers to inappropriate actions taken by police officers in connection with their official duties. Police misconduct can lead to a miscarriage of justice and sometimes involves discrimination...

  • Race and crime in the United States
    Race and crime in the United States
    The relationship between race and crime in the United States has been a topic of public controversy and scholarly debate for more than a century...

  • Arrest of Henry Louis Gates
  • Edward C. Lawson
    Edward C. Lawson
    Edward C. Lawson is an African American civil rights activist, who was the plaintiff in the case of Kolender v. Lawson, , in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that a California statute...


Resources


Jeff Shantz
Jeff Shantz (author)
Jeff Shantz is an anarchist activist, poet, and sociologist, currently teaching critical criminology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, BC....

. 2010. Racial Profiling and Borders: International, Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Lake Mary: Vandeplas).

Ronald Weitzer
Ronald Weitzer
Ronald Weitzer is a sociologist specializing in criminology and a professor at George Washington University, known for his publications on police-minority relations and on the sex industry.-Prostitution and sex trafficking:...

 and Steven Tuch. 2006. Race and Policing in America: Conflict and Reform (New York: Cambridge University Press).

External links