e. height, weight, age, race, etc.), in connection with the investigation of specific criminal activity, that information allows authorities to narrow the search for individuals who match those identifying characteristics. The process is perfectly logical and obviously makes infinitely more sense than continuing to search for individuals who bear no resemblance to the descriptions provided by reliable sources.
However, the same legitimate techniques with respect to specific evidence of crimes also has a history of impermissible application in ways that deprive subjects of police investigation of their fundamental constitutional rights. For example, in the late 20th century, the U.S. Customs Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration both made extensive use of what they called "criminal indicators" in connection with their efforts to apprehend criminal drug traffickers as they attempted to enter the U.S. At the borders (Schmalleger, 2007).
Among other criteria, those sets of indicators including Hispanic origin and language, age range, gender, and country of origin, among other behavioral elements such as paying for tickets in cash, and staying only briefly in the country. According to the federal authorities, previous arrests of drug courier and distributors revealed the statistical likelihood of drug activity based on such factors. Nevertheless, in 2003, the Department of Justice (DOJ) absolutely prohibited the continued use of such indicators as a violation of civil rights that exposes law enforcement authorities to substantial liability (Schmalleger, 2007).
Likewise, studies conducted by the DOJ and other incorporating Bureau of Justice (BOJ) statistics of police traffic stops nationwide suggested a significant discrepancy between the proportion of black and Hispanics in the U.S. population and the frequency with which police initiated traffic stops of members of those minorities in comparison to non-minority drivers. Furthermore, whereas traffic stops generated relatively few arrests, the majority of those motorists of whom police requested consent to search their vehicles in circumstances where search without consent was absolutely prohibited by virtue of the absence of probable cause to suspect criminal activity were non-white. Finally, the numbers of arrests of minorities in connection with such traffic stops were also highly disproportionate in terms of the proportionate representation of racial minorities, both in the universe of drivers as well as in the overall population (Walker, Spohn, et al., 2004).
Similar data collected in states like New Jersey and Maryland indicated that state police regularly employed what they also called "indicators" of suspected drug activity partially based on apparent race and ethnicity in targeting specific vehicles for traffic enforcement, particularly on highways implicated in drug routes between states in the northeast and southwest (IOJ, 1999; Walker, Spohn, et al., 2004). In those states (and others) state troopers had included racial and ethnic criteria in the operations procedures and officer routinely targeted drivers of Criminal Profiling in the Age of International Terrorism:
The U.S. Constitution prohibits the partial application of law enforcement and of any law of the United States with respect to any person, particularly as a function of race or ethnicity, which are afforded the highest level of protection and judicial scrutiny under the tests established by the Supreme Court (Dershowitz, 2002; Schmalleger, 2007). However, many experts have suggested that the new age of post-9/11 anti-
American terrorism and its origin in radical Islamic fundamentalism justifies limited suspension of various elements of constitutional protections as a necessary measure against anti-American terrorism. That suggestion raises serious concerns among constitutional scholars, civil libertarians, and especially, innocent members of Muslim society who have no connection to Islamic terrorism. Many experts agree that the manner in which U.S. authorities attempt to balance those competing concerns will have profound implications, both in the war against Islamic radicalism, applications of modern constitutional law, and on American society itself in the future.
Dershowitz, a. (2002) Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age. New York: Little Brown & Co.
Peak, K. (2002) Policing America: Methods, Issues, Challenges (Third Edition). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Schmalleger, F. (2007). Criminal Justice Today: An Introductory Text for the 21st Century. Hoboken, NJ: Prentice Hall
U.S. Institute of Justice and Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (1999) Police-Public Contact Survey; Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences; Mar 2004
Zalman, M. (2008). Criminal Procedure: Constitution and Society, Fifth Edition.
Princeton, NJ: Pearson. Walker, S., Spohn, C., DeLone, M. (2004).…