Racial Profiling in Law Enforcement
From the moment the states become the United States, the act of racial profiling has been around in America. The actual “principle of targeting individuals based on their race and ethnicity” goes all the way back to slavery (Nation Institute of Justice, 2013). Yet back then, the primary part of the profiling was based on race. The word “profiling” itself was first used when associating with drug couriers or drug trafficking around the 1970’s. In New Jersey of 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice began to investigate the New Jersey State Police due to suspiciousness of publically racial profiling (Carmen, 2011). That April, “two state troopers fired eleven shots into a van” that held four black men who were on their way to a basketball clinic (Carmen, 2011). After the shooting, the troopers retrieved their police dogs and searched the vehicle and the four men. To the trooper’s surprise, all they found was a bible and some basketball equipment. The media of course immediately took hold of this and other smaller yet similar stories and exploited it. The ACLU works to protect everyone and anyone who they feel have been denied their rights, from lesbians, bisexuals, those of color, those with disabilities and so much more (ACLU, 2005). Not long after the media and ACLU exploited the issue of racial profiling, the ACLU came out with a publication called “Driving While Black: Racial Profiling on Our Nation’s Highways.” This publication did not only discuss the New Jersey incident but several other cases where they felt racial profiling had taken place (Carmen, 2011). “DMB” then became a popular vernacular from the colored communities. The phrase implies that the motorist may be pulled over simply because he or she is black (Carmen, 2011). Because this issue went nationwide, by June of 1999, “President Clinton spoke at the Strengthening Police –Community Relations conference in Washington, D.C.” (Racial Profiling Data Collection, n.d.) During this conference “President Clinton directed the Departments of Justice, Treasury, and Agriculture to collect data on race, ethnicity and gender of all individuals subject to stops by federal law enforcement officials” (Carmen, 2011). “In response to allegations of racial profiling, jurisdictions around the country began to track information about those who are stopped, searched, ticketed, and/or arrested by police officers” (Racial Profiling Data Collection, n.d.). And “more than twenty states have passed legislation prohibiting racial profiling and/or requiring jurisdictions within the state to collect data on law enforcement stops and searches” (Racial Profiling Data Collection, n.d.). There are also hundreds of other jurisdictions in the United States that voluntarily collect data. For example, in South Carolina, Mount Pleasant, Richland County, Spartanburg Public Safety Department and our Highway Patrol voluntarily collect data, effective in January of 2000 (Racial Profiling Data Collection, n.d.). There are only three states that do not collect data at all. Those three states are North Dakota, Mississippi, and Hawaii.
Outside of the UCLA, there is another organization that anyone can be a part of. They call themselves the NAACP. “The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination” (NAACP, 2009). It is very safe to say that they take Racial Profiling in law enforcement to heart. You also do not have to be African American to be a part of this organization.
It is statistically proven that black males are more likely to be stopped than white males. In response, David Cole, a professor at Georgetown says, “blacks are thirteen times more likely to be sent to state prisons for drug convictions than are whites, so it would seem rational for police to assume that all other things being equal, a black driver is more likely than a white driver to be carrying drugs” (Schmalleger, 2014, p. 188). According to observations by a sociologist named Amitai Etzioni, in 2001 she stated as awful as racial profiling is those who officials who partake in this act are not necessarily racist (Schmalleger, 2014, p. 188). It can be sad to see how people take this issue so lightly. It is even more irritating to see how some believe this is just a way for black males to gain attention. The Hutchinson Report defined Racial Profiling by saying “It is practically an article of faith among you black males that are more likely than whites to be stopped, frisked, spread-eagled, and arrested by the police, often on the flimsiest of charges” (Schmalleger, 2014, p.187). It is understandable that by “creating a profile about the kinds of people who commit certain types of crimes may lead officers to generalize about a particular group and act according to the generalization rather than specific behavior” (National Institute Of Justice, 2012). But when is too far too far? Racial Profiling can become dangerous and cause and many problems. As the ACLU says, “The despicable practice of racial profiling, however, has led countless people to live in fear” providing that this practice can put an emotional toll on those of color (ACLU, 2005). When talking about Racial Profiling, most people think of it as the discrimination towards blacks, but we can’t forget the other races, religions and ethnicities. “Since September 11, 2001, new forms of racial profiling have affected a growing number of people of color in the U.S., including members of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities” (ACLU, 2005).
We all know that racism exists and that Racial Profiling in Law Enforcement is real. But this is not an institutional problem but the individual officer’s problem. Racism in itself is a very sticky topic. I can’t say racial profiling in law enforcement will cease completely for the United States have always had this problem. It is more than great that the States have started to do something about this problem, but it is still fairly resent.
American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation (2005). Racial Profiling.
Carmen, Alejandro del.(2011). Profiling, Racial: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives.
National Association of Colored People. (2009). Mission. Retrieved from
National Institute of Justice. (n.d.). Racial Profiling. Retrieved from
Racial Profiling Data Collection Resource Center. (n.d.) Retrieved on November 7, 2013.
Retrieved from http://www.racialprofilinganalysis.neu.edu/index.php
Schmalleger, Frank. (2014). Criminal Justice: A Brief Introduction. (10th ed.) Boston, MA:
- Macy’s responds to racial profiling allegations (huffingtonpost.com)
- Sharpton, Macy’s CEO to meet on racial profiling (nydailynews.com)
- New York Under fire for Racial Profiling (808opinions.wordpress.com)
- ACLU to discuss racial profiling (wptz.com)
- Actors allege racial profiling in Marion County (thestate.com)