Racial profiling is one of the most pressing civil right issues of our time. It extends beyond directs victims to negatively affect all persons of color of all generations and income levels. It undermines the legitimacy of the criminal justice system, and hinders effective policing in the communities that need it the most. A Resource Guide on Racial Profiling Data Collection System defines racial profiling as 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. In the context of traffic stops by police officers, racial profiling should be defined broadly as encompassing officer's use of race or ethnicity as a factor in deciding to stop, question, search or arrest someone. Racial profiling has been monitored in a number of jurisdictions, and in nearly all of these jurisdictions was found to be a significant problem.
a) Racial Profiling violates civil rights
Racial profiling affects law abiding citizens as well as offenders innocent persons of color are stopped, question and searched for reason that would not lead to stops of white drivers. People of color report stops based on minor equipment violations such as items hanging from the rear view mirror and even stops followed by inquiries such as "whose car is this you're driving?" Or "what are you doing in this neighborhood?"
Racial profiling not only subordinate the civil rights of entire communities to the goals of criminal justice, but it is an ineffective crime prevention tool that ultimately victimized the very people that it's supposed to protect.
b) Racial Profiling undermines police community relations
The widespread perception among people of color that they unfairly targeted by the police because of their race has led to a lack of trust in the police. This mistrust harms both the police and communities of color, by impeding effective police work. Communities of color needs effective policing. People of color are more likely than whites to be victims of crime. They need the protection offered by effective police work, and the police want to do their job effectively. Mistrust of the police frustrates this goal because it makes people less likely to cooperate with the police by reporting crimes and aiding police investigation. The investigation and eradication of racial profiling serves the common interests of police and communities of color.
c) Racial Profiling is unsound policing
Racial profiling not only constitutes discrimination against people of color; it is also an unsound, inefficient method of policing. One traditional law enforcement jurisdiction for racial disparities in police stops and searches is that it makes sense to stop and search people of color in greater numbers, because they are more likely to be guilt of drug offenses. The reality is that people of color are arrested for drug offenses in connection with vehicle stops at a high rate because they are targeted at a high rate, not because they are more likely than whites to have drugs in their cars. Studies have shown that even when people of color are searched at higher rates, they are no more likely than whites to be found with contraband.
Now that we have examined the different problems of racial profiling we can move on to explore the cause of each of those problem. First, racial profiling is caused in part by overextending the boundaries of ordinary profiling. For clarification, profiling means an officer is using cumulative knowledge to identify certain indicators of criminal activity. Race may be one of those factors but it cannot stand alone. Racial profiling is when race is the only factor. There is no other probable cause. It is the blurring of the line between the two types of profiling that is problematic. Second, the cause of the apathetic attitude towards racial profiling is painfully easy to explain. Minorities are reviewed as unequal.
The impact of racial profiling extends beyond those who directly experience it. The effects of racial profiling on broader society include confirmation of feelings of racism, fear and financial costs. It also impacts on our community, to the law enforcement profession and to the officers involved in racial profiling. This means that the social and economic cost of racial profiling is widespread. This sections that follow describe how racial profiling is affecting community, law enforcement profession and officers.
Impact on our Community
Racial profiling is most commonly associated with driving while black or brown also known as DWB. This practice, however, is not limited to vehicle stops it also extends to other aspects of living in the minority community "walking while black; standing while black; shopping while black." Racial profiling states the cost associated with race related police abuses are significant and include psychological trauma, humiliation and degradation and a decline in the legitimacy of the criminal justice system. Police brutality lawsuits and institutional racism cost taxpayers ten millions of dollars.
Impact on the Law enforcement profession
Most law enforcement agencies in the United States have embraced community-oriented policing (COP) as the guiding philosophy and problem solving or problem oriented policing (POP) as the primary crime reduction strategy. Both require the police and the community to work collaboratively and establish a rapport based on mutual respect and misunderstanding. The failure of the police to instill public trust in the criminal justice system can only result in the failure to achieve the basic purpose of the police in a democratic society, "to protect and serve."
Impact on Officers
Racial profiling can results to lack of respects to the criminal justice system. This lack of respect and trust results in tension between officers and many in the minority community. Tension can result in officers working in hostile working environment for extended periods of time. Tension and hostility also results in higher levels of fear, which results in more frequent confrontations and incidents requiring the use of force. The more the police use force, the more the community resist, which then requires even more uses force.
The factors that brought about the racial profiling controversy are complicated and endemic to our society. It is not likely that the police have the capacity to solve many of these problems. The potential solutions to the racial profiling controversy are the following:
a) Controlling the Discretion of the police
The solution to the racial profiling controversy may lie in the ability to control the discretion of the police. For several reasons this may not be an easy task. Most police decisions are highly discretionary. Some discretion is necessary. Most departments do not provide direction to officers on how to use their discretion. Most policing occurs quite a distance from active supervision and policies are not universally effective like conceptual policies that provide broad direction and operational policies that provide specific procedural steps. The research reveals four factors that affect the public's perception of the legitimacy of a traffic stop; (1) Stops must be initiated for a legitimate reason; (2) Stops and searches must be predicted upon an appropriate legal or policy standard; (3) Stops must be perceived to be effective in the pursuit of a legitimate law enforcement need; (4) A violator's perception of an officer's attitudes and behaviors can affect the perceived legitimacy of the stop.
b) Control Consent Searches in the same way we controlled the abuses associated with custodial interrogations
When police officers use right their motives are seldom questioned. But when they are wrong some citizens perceive the officer's actions arbitrary and even discriminatory. Controlling consent searches may be the best way to address the racial profiling controversy. Consent searches are a critical enforcement tool. There is a clear need to minimize the level of intrusion into the lives of the general public. There is a clear need to interdict dangerous substances. It is important for officers to articulate the grounds for searching. Controlling consent searches may be possible using the Miranda decision as a guide. This decision controlled a historically abusive police procedure by requiring officers to inform subjects of their Constitutional rights. Consent searches could be controlled in a similar way if officers were required to inform individuals of their right to refuse consent.
1) In a moment I am going to ask for your permission to search your car.
2) Anything I find during this search can be used against you in a court of law.
3) You have the right to refuse my request to search your car, and your refusal cannot be used against you.
4) You may revoke your consent for me to search at any time, even after I have started.
5) May I now if I have permission to search your car?
It is not clear whether or not the voluntary imposition of this Miranda like procedure will control consent searches and appropriately address the racial profiling controversy.
c) Deploy policing resources on the basis of actual not perceived demand