Racial profiling by the police departments across nation

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Police profiling has been a method used by police departments across the nation to identify possible criminals. The usage of this method by law enforcement agencies has brought much controversy across the country. Many minority groups feel that they have been victims of this method in many different ways. Furthermore, many questions have been raised about the legality of racial profiling. Hence, new ways to solve racial profiling have been introduced and are been introduced.

Racial Profiling by the Police

"Since the earliest periods of American history, racial and ethnic minorities have received considerable scrutiny by law enforcement personnel" (Higgins, Gabbidon, Vito, 2009, p. 12). Racial profiling, a method that law enforcement officials have used to catch drug couriers and other criminals, was evolved from an older technique of criminal profiling. "The older method became popular in the United States in the middle of the twentieth century after a psychiatrist used it with spectacular success to find someone who had been terrorizing New Yorkers" (Kops, 2007, p. 26). In more recent times, some scholars have attached the term of racial profiling to the practice of singling out minority groups for the increase of police scrutiny in hopes of reducing crime (Higgins et al., 2009, p. 12-13). According to Knowles, Persico, and Todd, minority motorist in the United States are more likely than white motorist to be stopped and have their cars searched by the police for any contraband (p. 204). "During the 1990s legal suits began to expose the discriminatory practices of police agencies [across the country]" (Higgins et al., 2009, p.13). Many minorities became outraged because they became the main targets of racial profiling. Racial Profiling is a pervasive across the United States and new ways to fix the problem need to be introduced.

According to Weitzer and Tuch (2005), "race is one of the most consistent predictors of attitudes toward the police" (p.1010). The dominant racial group will typically see the police as an ally. While minority groups are more likely to hold negative views on the police. Furthermore, minority groups will likely say that racial profiling is a widespread problem (Higgins et al., 2009, p.13). On the other side of the spectrum, whites in the U.S. have traditionally showed robust support for the police. "At the same time, whites tend to see [minority groups] as inclined to criminal or violent behavior" (Weitzer & Tuch, 2005, p.1010). In a General Social Survey half of the white respondents view [minorities] as violence prone (Weitzer & Tuch, 2005, p. 1010). "For whites who subscribe to these views, there is a tendency to condone police suspicion and disparate treatment of [minorities] as rational discrimination" (Weitzer and Tuch, 2005, p. 1010).

Racial profiling, or the use of race to predict the conduct of individuals for criminal activity, has been the subject of much scrutiny and debate (Cater, 2004, p.17). Traditionally, those supporters of the use of race as an element of criminal profile have said that the practice is only a reflection of racially disparate crime rates. They believe that if, "African Americans, for example, commit more crime, it only makes sense to include race as an element of profiles used to predict criminal conduct. Opponents of this practice respond with some studies showing that rates of drug use and other crimes are not, in fact, racially disproportionate, "or at least not disproportionate as to justify the massive racial disparities regarding whom law enforcement officers single out for suspicion. Racial profiling inflicts several injuries upon the recipients. "First-hand experience with being singled out for suspicion because of one's race substantiates and reinforces the already pervasive belief among racial minorities that the criminal justice system is racially biased" (Carter, 2004, p. 23). As stated by the proposed federal End Racial Profiling Act of 2001:

Racial profiling harms individuals subjected to it because they experience fear, anxiety, humiliation, anger, resentment, and cynicism when they are unjustifiably treated as criminal suspects. Racial profiling damages law enforcement and the criminal justice system as a whole by undermining public confidence and trust in the police, the courts, and the criminal law (Carter, 2004, p. 23).

People who are subjected to racial profiling feel unfairly singled out because they are part of a minority group, not because there is a legitimate reason for suspicion. "This whole categorization of all members of a certain race happens only when racial minorities are involved" (Carter, 2004, p. 24). It is rare when the same method is used on the dominant population. Usually this happens because "we think of white criminal as an individual deviant, a bad actor" (Carter, 2004, p. 24). The second form of injury caused by racial profiling involves the feeling of victimization or powerlessness, "both during the racially motivated encounter of and while seeking redress" (Carter, 2004, p.24). Furthermore, the victims of racial profiling often find that they get stonewalled when they try to seek remedies for racial profiling, which cause those minority groups to give up and accept racial profiling as a way of life.

Yet since these groups realized that they were targets, some citizens have done much litigation, new areas of research have been done to determine, if indeed, minority groups were target of racial profiling. The Gallup, data-driven news based on U.S. polls, "found that more than 80 per cent of Blacks and 60 per cent of Whites felt that racial profiling was widespread" (Higgins et al., 2009, p. 13). Further, 40 per cent of blacks and 5 per cent of whites felt that they had been victims of profiling. According to Walker and Katz (2008) many civil rights leaders believed that the police was stopping African American drivers solely on the basis of their race and not on the basis of suspected criminal activity (p.53). Other data that was produced by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as part of a lawsuit against the "Maryland State Police indicated that while African Americans represented only 17 percent of all drivers on Interstate 95 and 18 percent of all observed traffic law violators, they represented 72.9 percent of all drivers stopped by the state police " (Walker & Katz, 2008, p.53).

A good example of criminal profiling occurred in 1998, when Sergeant First Class Rossano V. Gerald, who was accompanied by his 12 year old son Gregory. Rossano, who was driving across the Oklahoma border, was stopped twice by police officers and was searched once (Trende, 2000, p.331). According to the plaintiffs, Gerald and his son were forced to sit in a sweltering squad car while the officers ransacked their vehicle for two hours. "The plaintiffs further maintain that this stop and search occurred simply because Gerald and his son are black" (Trende, 2000, pp.331-332). The defendants maintained that during their stop, the state troopers had maintained reasonable suspicion that the driver was trying to transport drugs into the state, which justified the stop and the search. The case of Gerald is not unique, in actuality this is one of many cases that had allegations on officers using race as part of a decision to stop or detain a suspect.

Another case of racial profiling was in "Volusia County Florida. In the late 1980s, Sheriff Bob Vogel and his deputies began applying a drug profile stretch of I-95 that ran through Volusia County, Florida (Trende, 2000, p.337) Sheriff Vogel kept no statistics on the number of people pulled over, a team of news reporters from the Orlando Sentinel got a hold of several hours of video taped footage from officers, which included over 1100 stops. "The Pulitzer Prize winning reporting that followed revealed that 70% of those pulled over were black or Hispanic, even though minority motorist consisted of only 5% of drivers along this particular stretch of highway (Trende, 2000, p.337). These allegations were not enough to sustain a lawsuit, but the footage did expose the disparity of race profiling done by the police. Cases like the Volusia County report puts " substantial burdens upon large numbers of innocent persons who happen to share a racial characteristic" (Carter, 2004, p. 27). The stops of these drivers is both inefficient and an unfair way of carrying out the law (Carter, 2004, p.27).

Another example of police racial profiling happened to Robert Wilkins, an African American Harvard Law School graduate and public defender for the District of Columbia, was pulled over on I-68 near Cumberland, Maryland (Trende, 2000, p. 338). The officer who stopped him requested permission to search the car. Wilkins's cousin who was driving the car refuse, and Wilkins cited a case law to illustrate the illegality of the search. " The police officers ignored both of the refusal and the warning, and ordered Wilkins and his family to stand in the rain while a drug dog sniffed their car" (Trende, 2000, p. 338). When the search yielded no drug possession, the officer issued Wilkins's cousin a traffic citation and released both of them. As a result of this stop, Wilkins contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and filed a suit. According to Trende:

During discovery, the ACLU found that a smoking gun of the caliber of which attorneys only dream: the Maryland State Police had, only a week earlier, published a memo asking police officers to be on the lookout for drug couriers, who would be predominantly black males and black females (Trende, 2000, p. 338).

As part of the settlement the State of Maryland agreed to keep statistics on the number of African Americans stopped and searched.

In recent years there has been other various forms of anecdotes regarding the incidence of racial profiling on the highways. For example, Christine Todd the governor of New Jersey has admitted that racial profiling occurs in New Jersey (Trende, 2000, p.340). "A New Jersey state trooper validated this admission by filing suit, claiming that he was required to implement a racial profile" (Trende, 2000, p. 340). Furthermore, in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, "an African American secured a settlement after he was arrested by a group of officers who called themselves the Special Nigger Arrest Team" (Trende, 2000, p. 340). According to Barlow (2002), "many police offices view racial profiling as an appropriate form of law enforcement" (p.337). These police officers might not use the term racial profiling to describe what they do, but police officers practice this "because they believe that it is precisely what their supervisors and the majority of the public want them to do" (Barlow, 2002, p. 337). Furthermore, an "officer stated that he stops and questions African Americans because it is precisely what his supervisors want him to do" (Barlow, 2002, p. 338).

In response to concerns on racial profiling many new strategies have been introduced at all levels of the government, and law enforcement agencies across the country. "Representative John Conyers (D-MI) introduced The Traffic Stops Statistics Act of 1997" (Trende, 2000, p. 341). This act would, in part, require the Justice Department to study the rates at which the different minority motorist are pulled over by police departments. The bill passed the House of Representatives, but the Senate did not act upon the bill, Representative Conyers reintroduced the act to congress once again. "Although it did not, and it will probably never will, become law, partly due to strong opposition by police officers, the passage of the Conyers Bill by the House brought a huge volume of media and attention to the issue of racial profiling" (Trende, 2000, p. 341). Furthermore, In 1999 President Clinton called racial profiling "morally indefensible" and a directive to the federal law enforcement agencies "to collect and report data on the race, ethnicity, and gender of individuals stopped, questioned, and searched" (Weatherspoon, 2003, p. 726). In a similar case, President Bush raised the issue of racial profiling a speech to Congress on February 27, 2001 (Weatherspoon, 2003, p.726). Further, President Bush requested the U.S. Attorney General to developed specific recommendations on how to end racial profiling.

To expand on President Bush's agenda on racial profiling, "on June 18, 2003, President George W. Bush issued guidelines to bar federal agents from using race or ethnicity in routine investigations" (Muffler, 2006, p. 2). The Guidance Policy acknowledges that acts of racial profiling violate the constitutional rights of individuals who are selectively stopped on the basis of their race or ethnicity. "Moreover, the Guidance Policy provides guidance on when law enforcement activities, such as stops and investigations, are permissible acts of racial profiling" (Weatherspoon, 2003, p. 728). These guidelines exempt investigations of terrorism and other national security concerns. According to Weatherspoon (2003) "without further clarifications and guidelines, this broad exception may result in a continuation of racial and ethnic profiling" (p. 728). The Guidance Policy is an excellent tool for law enforcement officials to conduct business in a day-to-day basis. "However, the Department of Justice's Guidance Policy fails to provide mandatory guidelines which set forth uniform standards for federal law enforcement officials to follow" (Weatherspoon, 2003, p. 728).

In further attempts to stop racial profiling in 2002, "legislators have proposed educational and awareness programs on preventing racial profiling by law enforcement officers" (Weatherspoon, 2003, p. 730). The Racial Profiling Education and Awareness Act of 2002 would have authorized the U.S. Attorney General to carry out education and awareness on racial profiling within the Department of Justice. Furthermore, this Act would allow the Department of Justice to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in implementing such programs. "The proposed Act would have acknowledged that racial and ethnic profiling exists and has not been an effective tool to uncover criminal activity, in part because those who have been profiled were law-abiding citizens" (Weatherspoon, 2003, p. 730). By the acknowledging that racial profiling does exist, state and local law enforcement agencies can focus on how to address the pervasive problem. Unfortunately, congress has failed to pass the Act. To date, "no federal statute explicitly provides a cause of action for racial profiling" (Carter, 2004, p. 44).

"Many argue that racial profiling is largely a state and local problem and believe there is no good reason for ordering federal law enforcement agencies to record race and origin of everybody they question, search, or arrest" (Muffler, 2006, p. 5). They insist that the current activity on racial profiling at both the state and local levels as an adequate response to the problems that have come up. Furthermore, some individuals believe that law enforcement officers are more than capable of correcting racial profiling and want to do so. They also say that there is "not enough is known about the issue for Congress to offer broad solutions that affect states and localities" (Muffler, 2006, p. 5).

In other cases supporters of stopping racial profiling say that data collection will assist law enforcement agencies in becoming more effective in identifying problems. Furthermore, it "can indicate to the community a level of commitment to unbiased policing" (Muffler, 2006, p. 4). Furthermore, the head of the agency of department should be held responsible for new policies and procedures. "In this view, the top administrator must set the cultural tone of the agency in word and action" (Muffler, 2006, p. 4). Also, check and balances and a review system can be established " to ensure that laws, policies, and procedures relating to racial profiling are carried out at all levels in an acceptable fashion" (Muffler, 2006, p. 4). Those who violate the established rules of operations should be provided with disciplinary actions and training.

The U.S. Justice Department has the capabilities to address racial profiling at their level. A number of federal laws give the Justice Department authority to proceed with litigation to combat racial profiling. "For example, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 provides a mechanism for the Justice Department to bring a pattern or practice cases against law enforcement organizations who engage in racial profiling" (Weatherspoon, 2003, p. 732). Also, the Justice Department may engage in investigations of racial profiling under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (Weatherspoon, 2003, p. 732). The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 provides the Department of Justice the proper tools to fight racial inequality. This Act can "seek declaratory and equitable relief to remedy a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of their rights under the Constitution" (Weatherspoon, 2003, p. 732). Hence, if the Department of Justice is unable to reach agreements on racial profiling with law enforcement agencies, the department may seek action in a federal court against the agency (Weatherspoon, 2003, p.732).

Racial profiling or the profiling of individuals has been in America since the beginning. To date, racial profiling is very prominent across the nation's law enforcement agencies. The racial profiling issue has been proven to exist by research that has been conducted across the country. Furthermore, most of the majority and the minority groups are both aware of its happenings. Many individuals have confronted and continue to confront the unjust profiling of those minority groups. As shown in this literature, many individuals at all the levels of the government know about the pervasive problem. Yet, much progress has to be done to control this problem that affects mainly minorities. Presidents and political leaders alike have tried to address the problem and have come up with guidelines to put a stop to it, but still, changes have not been made. The legislature has halted on passing a federal law that prohibits these actions against American minorities. The Department of Justice, under its jurisdiction, has the ability to promote and enforce guidelines on state and local police agencies. Still, many new strategies have to be promoted and executed to allow minorities to live a life without discrimination for being different than the majority of Americans. This problem need not to be solved by the government alone, it is a problem the country has to face together. Until racial profiling is addressed properly, many minorities in America will be treated disproportionally.

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