Racial Profiling Enforcement of Law and Order Term Paper

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Racial Profiling

Enforcement of law and order in the most efficient manner is one of the crucial and most challenging tasks. In order to keep the social environment peaceful and progressive, it is important for the law enforcement agencies to function with maximum efficiency within the ethical boundaries. However, in recent years, the law enforcement agencies in the United States, especially the police department, has been criticized for being biased and prejudiced towards the minorities. Their have been a number if incidences in which the minority citizens have accused the police of treating them with discrimination. Even though, the police department claims that there has been a decline in the crime rate in recent years but the accusations of racially biased policing creates doubts about the authenticity of such claims. With an increase in criticism on the practice of racially biased policing, the authorities have now started to investigate the matter.

The population of the United States is extremely diverse and it represents the individuals from several different cultural, racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds. Some of these ethnic or racial groups have a very strong presence in the United States and they make considerable contributions towards the growth and development of the country. It is therefore their right that their individual liberty should be protected and they should be treated with fairness. The government of the United States itself respects the beliefs and norms of these groups and considers them to be on of the greatest assets of the nation. It is therefore very important for the authorities to develop confidence and trust of these minority groups, on the legal and governmental system of the country. In this regard, there is a need for an increased level of coordination and cooperation among the general public and the police department, so that the criminal activities should be reduced to minimum.

Experts have given several definitions for racial profiling. One of the most popular definitions of racial profiling is: "using race as the only or main consideration in suspect profiling or other law enforcement practices." (Wikipedia) in addition to this, racial profiling can also be defined as "any consideration of race in preparing profiles of suspected wrong-doers." (Wikipedia) as the issue of racial profiling has given way to accusations of racial discrimination, the international community has become increasingly concerned about the matter. Even within the United States, some liberal white scholars believe that it is unethical and unjustified to use race as a means to identify a criminal. They argue that criminal activities are not restricted to a certain race or ethnic group and therefore it doesn't make any sense to use race as a means to identify a criminal. It is further argued that by treating the minority citizens with biasness, the police are taking a risk of creating anger and frustration among the minority citizens. This feeling of anger and frustration may further lead to violence and resistance by the minority members. Several studies conducted in this regard have revealed that an increasingly inconsistent number of minority citizens were searched, arrested and charged for crimes as compared to the majority citizens, which clearly depicts that such occurrences are because of racial discrimination. Some law enforcement officials' response to this claim is that in case of some minority groups, there is an "inconsistent" population of criminals. However, even considering their claim to be true, it is unethical and unfair to specifically target the minority citizens for investigations and arrests.

It is interesting to note that some of the social experts favor the practice of racial profiling, claiming that the racially biased policing efforts are helpful in identifying the criminals, as they work in the form of groups belonging to same ethnic or racial group. They argue that the arrests and searches of individuals from a specific ethnic group or race are due to their own inappropriate behaviors. They totally reject the notion that racial profiling is another form of racial discrimination by the law enforcement officials. According to them, it is one of the most effective tools to identify the criminals and it has proved its effectiveness in the past.

A former FBI officer Howard Teten, was the first individual to introduce the concept of identifying criminals on the basis of race (Time). He adopted the practice of developing the psychological profiles of the criminals and initiated the system of keeping track of crime strategies of specific criminals. In later years, this practice proved to be considerably fruitful, as he did not relied only on the crime scene evidences. As Teten was a psychology graduate and had considerable experience of investigations, he was able to develop several efficient and innovative methods of investigation. Since Teten's adoption of psychological profiling techniques, the law enforcement agencies began to adopt the practice of profiling as a tool to combat crime. Because of the increased success of these methodologies, this practice soon spread to almost all the law enforcement agencies, including the police department. In the beginning, the practice of profiling was limited to just psychological aspects i.e. The police officials used to identify the specific behaviors of the criminals in order to trace them. However, the lack of training among the police officials and their inability to practice this methodology in its true sense lead to the adoption of the practice of racial profiling. When the police department launched a grand operation against the drug traffickers in the 1980s, racial profiling became a common practice. As a result of the crackdown against the drug dealers, there was enormous workload and pressure on the police force. In such a stressful situation, it was almost impossible for the police officials to allocate sufficient time for developing complicated criminal profiles. They therefore started developing profiles on the basis of few aspects and unfortunately race was one of them. Although, the operation against drug traffickers of the 1980s is regarded as a success by the police authorities but they fail to realize that this success raised a challenging issue for them in the years to come. There are several studies, which have mentioned the statistics relating to the capture of drugs or arrests of gangsters and drug traffickers. However, it is surprising to note that no one has ever asked as to why the minority citizens were the specific targets of this crackdown or how many innocent and peaceful citizens were unjustifiably arrested just because they belonged to a specific minority group? It is because of this ignorance and unwillingness to accept the blame that the minority citizens feel neglected and abused.

To further prove the point, a summary of an incident of racial profiling is presented here:

One prominent victim of racial profiling was Alvin Penn, an African-American Bridgeport Democrat who is deputy president in the state Senate. On Mother's Day in 1996, a Trumbull police officer stopped Penn as he drove in a van through this predominantly white, suburban town, and asked to see his license and registration. As the officer gave the license back, he asked Penn if he knew which town he was in. Bridgeport, the state's largest city where blacks and Hispanics comprise 85% of the population, borders Trumbull - which is 98% white. "I asked why I was being stopped and why I needed to be aware of which town I was in. I wanted to know what difference that made," Penn said, recalling how he got lost and was turning around on a dead-end street when the officer blocked his van with a patrol car. "He told me he didn't have to give a reason for stopping me and said if I made an issue of it he would give me a ticket for speeding," Penn said. Trumbull, which is now under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice, is not the only Connecticut community to experience profiling. In suburban Avon, for example, former police officers corroborated the existence of the long-rumored "Barkhamsted Express," a slang term for the routine stopping of black and Hispanic motorists traveling through town from Hartford to the Barkhamsted reservoir." (Source: Driving While Black: David a. Harris: extracted from the Hartford Courant and the Boston Globe)



The sample of this study will be selected on random basis. Households in the areas, where the minority groups such as African-Americans and Spanish are in a majority, will be contacted. As the issue is expected to benefit the subjects, the response rate is expected to be higher. Approximately 100 households from each county will be contacted through questionnaires and a response of approximately 30 households is expected. The primary focus of this study will be on the African-American and Hispanic population, as they are the largest minority groups in the United States and are more exposed to racial biasness than others.


The questionnaires will be sent to the subjects via mail along with an informational brochure explaining the purpose of the study and the resulting implications from this study. It will…[continue]

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