Racial profiling in law enforcement today has become a very prevalent issue in our society. The goals of law enforcement are simple they are to protect the people in which there department services and to up hold laws in the United States Constitution. In the law enforcement profession the art of profiling has become somewhat of a science. Profiling is defined as the act or process of extrapolating information about a person based on known traits or tendencies specifically the act of suspecting or targeting a person on the basis of observed characteristics or behavior[Mer04].
This can be a very good tactic in combating crimes like burglary and property crimes such as defacing property through vandalism but when law enforcement officer’s begin to use profiling in a racially biased manner it because something else altogether.
For over a generation there has been an unending debate surrounding the issue of racial profiling. Throughout the history of man, people have strived to understand the prejudice some harbor toward others.
It has always existed among the race of men, but it takes many different shapes and forms over the passing years. The issue of race has engulfed millions of people from the Japanese and people of Asian descent after the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Movement were a Million Men Marched on Washington, D.C. were he give his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in an act of civil protest though civil disobedience, and lastly in today’s criminal justice system the issues of race has taken on a new but familiar form though Racial profiling.
Through this paper we will examine some of the historical and present-day circumstances of the issue of racially profiling, predictions and recommendations about how the issue should be addressed in the future by criminal justice practitioners.
“We define ‘racial profiling’ as any police-initiated action that relies upon: (a) the race, ethnicity or national origin of an individual; rather than (b) the behavior of that individual, or (c) information that leads the police to a particular individual who has been identified as being engaged in or having been engaged in criminal activity” [Jim00]. The most common example of police racial profiling is “DWB”, otherwise known as “driving while black”. This refers to the practice of police targeting African Americans for traffic stops because they believe that African Americans are more likely to be engaged in criminal activity.
Under the laws of the United States racial profiling is unconstitutional. The Fourth Amendment to the bill of rights of the U.S. Constitution against the use of racial profiling. The Fourth amendment guarantees that all citizens equally treatment under the law from any unreasonable search and seizure without the establishment of probable cause. While racial profiling is illegal, a 1996 Supreme Court decision allows police to stop motorists and search their vehicles if they believe trafficking illegal drugs or weapons. More traffic stops leads to more arrests, which further skews the racial profiling statistics against African Americans. Are African Americans really committing more crimes or are they just caught more often because the police target them? Studies have shown that African Americans are far more likely to be stopped and searched. This is a vicious cycle that even the strictest law enforcement advocates would admit is patently unfair (“Ethnic Majority”, 2010).
In today’s society many would like to believe racial profiling no longer existent, in spite of this belief, it is very much a part of our daily lives. There are many ongoing debates surrounding the issue of racial profiling but in order to see how racial profiling affects our future we much know how it came to be in our past. The concept of racial profiling is anything but un-American, racial profiling has been existent throughout history in many parts of the world since the dawn of man. Since civilization began people have always been prejudice toward one race, gender, or ethnicity.
In biblical times the issues of racial profiling was very prominent. It draws together a strong backing of many nations and its people. The Bible is riddled with racial profiling, so much so that it classified certain races like the Sumerians, Canaanites, and Hittites, as inferior and unclean people. Some civilizations in Asia were prejudiced against other Asia’s based solely upon nothing more than a genetic predisposition of imbalanced eyes which kept them secluded for certain tribes. In the 1940’s, Immediately after the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941 by the Japanese, government and military officials suspected that Japanese Americans would sympathize with and even actively support Japan against the U.S. Fueled by this suspicion and a series of intercepted encrypted communications among Japanese officials that led some to conclude that Japanese Americans were being recruited as spies and a few eventually became spies.
Americas had certain prejudices and penalize an entire ethnic group by placing them in camps much like that of the concentration camps the Jews were placed in during the holocaust. The Japanese and people of Asian descent were racially profiled based solely upon the actions of just a few individuals (Le, C.N, 2011). Lastly, racial profiling existent even in our work place and college admission system today, Employers and school require applicants to list their “race” or “ethnicity” on employment and college applications which that in its self performs an act of racial profiling thousands of times over on a repeated basics.
“It’s 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[Geo01]. Just as we have some of the very best and bravest men and women fighting on the frontlines for our nation’s freedom, the same can be said for the people serving our communities. Some of the people serving our communities abuse their power and when this happens it raises issues of integrity in the criminal justice system.
Racial profiling in law enforcement has taken on a life all its own. No longer does a law enforcement officers need to establish probable cause or reasonable suspicion but an officer can just going after a person based solely upon the basis of their race or nationality. Racial profiling sends the message that the citizens the law enforcement community is supposed to protect and serve are to be judged by the color of their skin or place of origin. “According to the recent national survey, 59% of Americans believe that racial profiling by the police is widespread. Among black, 77% believe the practice is widespread. Only 14% of Americans approve of the use of racial profiling by the police: only 9% of blacks approve of it” [Rob02].
To assume that people of a certain minority group are far more likely to commit criminal acts than another individual of a different ethnicity group when you look at it from a statistical prospective would not be an incorrect statement to make. It has been proven that certain minority groups are more likely to commit criminal acts than another individual of a different ethnicity group At current levels of incarceration, for example, newborn black males have a greater than 1- in-4 chance of serving prison time, while Latinos have a 1-in-6 chance and whites 1-in-23″ (Center, 2008, Para 2).
“The disparate impact of our criminal justice system on racial and ethnic minorities raises serious questions about the way law enforcement officials, prosecutors, courts, and juries go about their jobs. Whatever their cause, racial disparities are stark throughout the system (Center, 2008, Para 2). When law enforcement officers use racial profiling as a tactic of combating crime, the people that are abiding by the law gain a sense of fear when encountering future law enforcement officers. Racial profiling defeats its purpose, it fuels mistrust and anger communities toward law enforcement because the policy encourages institutionalized racism in police forces nationwide (Carrillo, 2000, Para. 5, 6).
Police have been known to us what is suppose to be a routine traffic stops and traffic violations as a pretext to stop a vehicle and investigate the possible of other existence crimes. Several examples, in the 1990s African Americans in California were stopped for no other reason than driving while black (DWB). The root of this practice is racial stereotyping and prejudice. In 1997, Charles and Etta Carter, an elderly African-American couple from Pennsylvania, were stopped by Maryland State Police on their 40th wedding anniversary. The troopers searched their car and brought in drug-sniffing dogs.
During the course of the search, their daughter’s wedding dress was tossed onto one of the police cars and, as trucks passed on I-95, it was blown to the ground. Ms. Carter was not allowed to use the restroom during the search because police officers feared that she would flee. Their belongings were strewn along the highway, trampled and urinated on by the dogs. No drugs were found and no ticket was issued by the state trooper [Cat97].
Another example is Latino Americans. A former Washington police officer named Steven Hilsinger admitted he targeted Hispanic motorists, robbing them during traffic stops. In November and December of 2005, Hilsinger stopped Hispanic motorists for minor traffic violations. Instead of merely asking for their drivers licenses, Hilsinger took their entire wallets. The officer stole as much as $60-$220 from Hispanic American[Bil07].
On September 11, 2001 a terrorist organization lead by a man named Osama bin Laden, hijacked four Airline flights. The terrorist organization who hijacked the airlines called themselves al-Qaeda, they crashed American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center building in New York City, They crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and the last plane United Airlines Flight 93, was crashed in a field in Pennsylvania[Blo06] due to the selfless acts of heroic and the efforts of the of the passengers quick thinking realizing that the hijackers had in mind they brought down the plane before it could reach its intended target of the Whitehouse in Washington, DC.
The events that transpired on September eleventh was a heinous act but what happened after 9/11 was just as bad as the attacks themselves because many Americans began to racially profile people of Middle Eastern descent basis solely upon the fact that the attacker were. Much like what happen after the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941 by the Japanese, it set off a chain of events in American that led to an enormous wave of racism and prejudices toward the Middle Eastern people as well as Middle Eastern Americans that had immigrated to the United States.
After the terror attacks on America many Arab people felt much like the Japanese and people of Asian descent people did after Pearl Harbor, in the U.S. many Arab Americans were no longer treated as Americans but as potential terrorist. On December 2001, a man of Middle Eastern descent named Assem Bayaa cleared all the security checks in the airport. He was an American citizen and he got on a plane to New York. He had barely gotten settled in his seat when he was told that he made the passengers uncomfortable by being on board the plane.
Once Bayaa got off the plane, he wasn’t searched or questioned any further. The only consolation he was given was a boarding pass for the next flight to New York. The luggage he had checked wasn’t even taken off the plane he was originally. While an example of prejudice and discrimination, this incident was an act by private individuals, and did not involve a government agency as decision makers. It can, however, be shown to illustrate the potential toward abuse of racial profiling[Wri09].
Racial profiling has cause many people to feel like they are being victimization. When encounter by police It has a dramatically affects on an individual’s way of life and their freedom. Individuals stopped by police because of their race are placed outside the protective ambit of citizenship and identity. The individual is reduced to a race that is deemed disproportionately criminal and therefore the individual is deemed deserving of suspicion because of this immutable group membership. Race based law enforcement also generates stigmatization and dehumanization of members of the minority community[Whi08].
Racial profiling has affected many races in America today; from Latin Americans, to African Americans, to Arab Americans the list could go on and on because countless people have tasted the bitter taste of racial profiling. The first priority of Law enforcement officers are to protect, service and to prevent crime but when officers use racial profiling as a tactic of combating crime what they are actually doing is symbolizing that they believe justice is not for everyone. This student prediction that the future of criminal justice practices are in jeopardy. Community policing is the proactive form of policing were law enforcement offices are out and about getting involved within community to prevent crime. Thought community policing law enforcement is able to build a relationship with the member in the community in which they patrol.
These forms of policing help people view law enforcement not as someone there just to enforce the law but as a friendly face, the people in the community feel safer in their community, and allows law enforcement provide a safer and more efficient form of policing (Birzer & Roberson, 2009, P. 15-27). This student recommendation that radical profiling should no long be a proxy for potential criminal behavior. This student believes that the U.S. criminal justice system should do more to ensue President George W. Bush words that racial profiling is wrong, and we will end it in America and to uphold the Fourth Amendment to the bill of rights of the U.S. Constitution that guarantees that all citizens get equal treatment under the law.
Through the practices of racial profiling this student prediction that because of the tension racial profiling creates between ethnic group and the impact in which it has on our society that this form of policing will fall by the way side because there will be no community involvement in providing crime. In the future if we continue the practices this behavior of focusing only on minority groups it will would do more harm than good. After the attackers on 9/11 people in American became sensitive about the security of our nation’s much like what happened after Pearl Harbor the threat of another attack had Americans focus on only the ethnic groups of people that attack.
Having this form of mentality will hinder not help because the racial profile that then ensued will cause Americans to fail to notice others ethnicity group involvement in criminal acts. This student recommendation that frame of mind be altered to notice others ethnicity group involvement in criminal activity. This will send the message that the citizens are protect and serve and are not judged by the color of their skin or based solely upon the actions of just a few individuals.
Once again racial profiling is a wide spread pandemic in America today and is a very controversial issue. “We define ‘racial profiling’ as any police-initiated action that relies upon: (a) the race, ethnicity or national origin of an individual; rather than (b) the behavior of that individual, or (c) information that leads the police to a particular individual who has been identified as being engaged in or having been engaged in criminal activity” [Jim00]. For the criminal justice system and our nation to remain a vital institutions and role model to other nations then it has to get a handle on the issues facing it if not we will continue to be plagued with the issue of racial profiling.