Racial Profiling and Unlawful Discrimination essay

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In evaluating the legality of racial disparities in
law enforcement, the courts have clearly sought to determine the motivation
for discriminating." (Knowles et al, 207) This illustrates a wide
political and philosophical variance in the way that Americans understand
this concept of police discrimination, with the courts asking questions
seeming to imply that discrimination is not in and of itself a negative
thing.
Quite to the point, across the last eight years, the War On Terror
had promoted the idea, especially within the law enforcement culture, that
there were significant justifications for the intensification of methods
which focused specifically on the activities of individuals descending from
targeted nationalities, religions and ethnic backgrounds. Specifically,
even as the Bush administration had initiated the discourse on profiling by
explicitly stating a position of opposition where law enforcement is
concerned, it would quickly alter its stance when faced with the challenges
implied after the 9/11 attacks. This transition in perspective is well
captured by the statements of the former president when "in his first
address to Congress, President George W. Bush said that he asked his
Attorney General "'to develop specific recommendations to end racial
profiling. It's wrong, and we will end it in America.' By the term 'racial
profiling,' he was referring to a presumed unlawful use of race or
ethnicity in police interdiction. These questions have taken on a new hue
in light of the events surrounding the September 11 bombings." (Persico, 3)
To the point, the specific statements of opposition to profiling would
prove political lip service. The heightened attention on the behaviors of
Arab men, individuals with middle eastern ethnic backgrounds and those of
the Muslim faith would have the overarching effect of tacitly endorsing
measures in traffic and, especially, in airport security that seemed to
overtly target said groups.
To the point, airport security measures would take on an element of
search and questioning that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 would
absolutely endorse a culture of racial profiling. Here, it would be
denoted that "passengers with elevated ratings are subject to searches and
baggage inspections and may be questioned. Some other passengers are
searched at random. These profiling measures have been challenged in
lawsuits alleging unlawful discrimination. Some also question the
effectiveness of profiling strategies relative to random searches" (Todd &
Persico, 1) Even as these methods have been challenged, they have not been
empirically proven.
The case studies of the Los Angeles Police Department and New Jersey
State Troopers provide a suitable set of instances for understanding the
institutional factors that yield police misconduct even outside of those
geographical places in America where racism is typically seen as ingrained
in the culture. However, in order to illuminate these systemic
transgressions of law from an ethical standpoint, we must also consider the
federal response.
As recently as 2000, the United States Department of Justice has
composed legislation to deter or prosecute police corruption:

"This law makes it unlawful for State or local law enforcement
officers to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives
persons of rights protected by the Constitution or laws of the United
States. (42 U.S.C. ? 14141). The types of conduct covered by this law
can include, among other things, excessive force, discriminatory
harassment, false arrests, coercive sexual conduct, and unlawful
stops, searches or arrests. In order to be covered by this law, the
misconduct must constitute a "pattern or practice" -- it may not
simply be an isolated incident." (DoJ, 1)

Under this definition, federal law addresses that police officers
have in many documented instances been given over to behaviors which beyond
being simply contrary to the spirit of law enforcement, may also be
categorized as actions which are accommodated in specificity by the
occupation itself. As O'Connor, a Criminal Justice professor at North
Carolina Wesleyan College explains, the profession gives itself over at
many hierarchical planes, to a set of potential abuses. He delineates them
as deviance, corruption, misconduct and favoritism, separating each abuse
by semantic qualities; respectively as divergence from social norms, the
use of office for illicit gains, the transgression of institutional
regulations and nepotism. All contribute to an outlook which is accounted
for legally by the Department of Justice's statutes.
However, as the case studies reveal, the categories referred to in
O'Connor's work are all subject to the ethical individuality of the law
enforcement industry. It is not alone that law enforcement officers, by
virtue of their relative freedom from oversight in parallel to that
afforded the average civilian, are inclined to view the law as flexible to
their purposes. This is often true, and in cases of corruption that see
officers accepting bribes, entitling criminality or embezzling seized
evidence, such a motive seems amoral rather than immoral. It is merely the
decision to indulge in material rather than principle.
But the question of morality is one which does play a significant
role in motivating deviance and misconduct. The explosion of evidence in
the late '90s that racial profiling had long been a regular practice in
contending with drug trafficking on the New Jersey Turnpike prompted
widespread allegations that race and ethnicity were playing a major role in
the disproportion of traffic stops on the northeast corridor. A 1999
report by the Attorney General addressed the issue directly:
"The Interim Report reveals two interrelated problems that may be
influenced by the goal of interdicting illicit drugs: {1} willful
misconduct by a small number of State Police members, and {2} more
common instances of possible de facto discrimination by officers who
may be influenced by stereotypes and thus may tend to treat minority
motorists differently during the course of routine traffic stops,
subjecting minority motorists more routinely to investigative tactics
and techniques that are designed to ferret out illicit drugs and
weapons." (AELE, 7).

The circumstances on the Turnpike were not unique to specific
officers of the N.J. State Police Department, nor were they unique to the
state. The revelation and state acknowledgment that this had been a
practice in regular use by its officers yielded executive characterization
of such behavior as diverging from ethicalness and placed the spotlight on
trooper units throughout the country.
Still, within the framework which the study's references provide for
understanding the cases in question, the Attorney General's review falls
short here of recognizing the causes for 'willful misconduct by a small
number' of officers. This defies an assertion which is undeniable within
the context of the crisis ridden L.A.P.D., that institutionalization of
state policies that are removed from the interest of mainstream ethicalness
"can only be understood as the natural outcome of an integrated system of
criminal justice - including both police and the courts - designed to
violate the civil rights of minorities and the poor." (Whitehead, 1) This
is a means to preservation of hegemonic interests of the state such as
racial and economic imbalance. The true motives for racial profiling in
New Jersey and elsewhere become very apparent in this light.
This suggests that there is a sense of ethicality within police departments
that conforms only to such principles as they concern the support or
integrity of the law enforcement agency and its personnel. Outside of
that, it is often the case that social norms of moral order are subverted
in favor of personal and group interests or, as asserted here, in favor of
conviction at any cost. A pervasion of the Machiavellian principle in
suppression, rather than prevention or reactionaryism, instructs officers
to perjure themselves in court by routine if it be deduced that such
deception might contribute to the certainty of conviction for apparently
guilty individuals.
In spite of the Department of Justice enforced legislation deeming
certain police behaviors unlawful, "there is no private right of action
under this law; only DOJ may file suit for violations of the Police
Misconduct Provision." (DoJ, 1). This invokes an interesting question
regarding the institution of policy change in contending with corruption on
a broad scale. As examined in the study above, it may be worthwhile to
consider that private citizens be entitled the right to file suit for
transgressions of police misconduct statutes. Though critics of such a
right would argue that it could open the floodgates for frivolous lawsuits
and a subsequent misappropriation of judicial resources, some degree of
greater protection for individual rights must be considered a prime avenue
for remedying rampant police corruption. Contrary to the public, whose
direct relationship with law enforcement on the city streets and national
highways endows it with a unique insight into the pervasiveness of racially
motivated power-abuse, the Department of Justice, to whom complaints are to
be filed, is subject to many of the same corruptive impulses.
A conclusive resolution in this study yields that some measure of
increased judicial resource is necessary in order to protect civil
liberties. For incidences as routine as unwarranted traffic stops and
crimes as egregious as drug…[continue]

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