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Police prejudice and racial profiling is responsible for many false arrests, convictions, and death of African Americans. It is a difficult and unfortunate part of life that certain groups of human beings must face these so called obstacles in their life because they are a minority or because of their skin color. Police racial profiling has been an ongoing problem that African Americans have been dealing with for over 500 years.
For the longest time, law enforcement officials have use profiling as a part of their tactic to apprehending criminals. However, in recent times profiling has become a major concern because law enforcement officials are unable to separate their tactic of criminal profiling from racial profiling. According to Perry (2016), racial profiling is “when the members of a particular or racial or ethnic group become subject to greater criminal justice or institutional surveillance than others”. In addition to this, racial profiling can also be seen as the fact that individuals in certain ethnic groups are more likely to predict culpable behaviours.
For example, an officer may see two Black individuals shaking hands in a high drug crime area and assume that a drug transaction is taking place. As a multicultural nation, Canada protects its core values such as the freedom from discrimination and arbitrary. Although both the Government and police services have acknowledged that racial profiling is unacceptable and intolerable, it persists to this day. Certain activities conducted by law enforcement officials can make people feel as if they are being racially profiled. This paper will aim to examine the stereotypes, the interaction the racial profiling has on our legal system, and arguments for and against racial profiling.
Myths and Stereotypes can have a major impact on all ethnicities. The representations of African-Americas, in the past and in the present, are demonstrated as stereotypes that disproportionally put then at a disadvantage in their lives. This can particularly be seen in the words that are associated with African-Americans. According to Brooms and Perry (2016), the stereotypical words associated with white skin colour be “respectability, civility, and trust” whereas black skin colour is usually associated with “poverty, danger and distrust” (pg. 168). These words not only have a negative impact on their personal life, but also on their work life too.
Black men working in professional settings are at a higher risk for racial microaggressions and this is because they are often employed in White institutions or companies where they experience many forms of discrimination. However, this idea of racial microaggressions in the work place could be attributed to the fact that their life opportunities are significantly narrowed due to their skin colour. Therefore, these young Black males have no choice but to work under the employment of white management.
Another interesting myth is the fact that most crimes in the United States are committed by African-Americans. To coincide with this, there has been myths in the past that pertain to African-Americans preying on White people. Although there may be some truth to this myth, it is likely that it is over exaggerated. For example, in 2005, 86% of White Americans who were murdered were actually murdered by other White Americans. Therefore, it was proven through statistics that African Americans were not the ones “preying” on White Americans. This is simply a stereotype about African Americans that dates back for many years.
This very well could be due to the fact that Black male avatars are generally portrayed as more violent and aggressive than white avatars in video games and mass media. Furthermore, the continuous representation of Black males portrayed this way further imposes the fear and resentment towards Black males. These negative stereotypes of Black men as dangerous criminals are deeply impeded in the PSYCHE of society. According to Brooms and Perry (2016), it is a contributing factor to the racial disparities of White officers killing young unarmed Black men. Of course, racial profiling is not limited to interactions involving the Black community alone. It applies to any group that is being stereotyped largely based on their race or colour.
Considering the police-citizen race tensions, it is important to note the impact that racial profiling has had on the United States of America. Racial profiling can affect many different ethnic groups. However, one of the most affected group has been African-Americans. One of the most prime examples of racial profiling can be seen in 2012 when George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Following this, Trayvon was essentially tried in the court for his own murder. Since then, this kind of racial profiling has been responsible for the emergence of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Some victims of racial profiling include: Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, and Michael Brown.
However, it is important to note that this list is not exhaustive and that there are many more victims of racial profiling in both the United States and Canada. Subsequently, police officers in the United States have still directed lethal force towards young Black men. On February 9, 2019, Willie McCoy was shot 25 times while he was asleep at a drive though because police claim that there was a gun on his lap. However, since 2012 there has been little to no cases of racial profiling against civilians of other ethnic groups.
Another prime example of racial profiling that is closer to home can be seen in the case of Donald Marshall Jr. In 1983, Marshall was an 18-year-old Aboriginal that was convicted of the murder of Sandy Seale (R v. Marshall, 1983). Although Marshall did not murder Sandy Seale, he still spent 11 years in jail before he was finally exonerated (R v Marshall, 1983). Early on in the investigation, one of the officers ultimately decided that Marshall stabbed the victim despite the lack of evidence supporting his conclusion. According to R v. Marshall (1983), there was a general sense that Indians were not seen as equal as the Whites. There were two witnesses that were intimidated by police and ultimately were coerced into providing alternative versions of events that supported the investigation into Marshall. Despite the wrongful conviction, racial profiling played a significant role in the imprisonment of Donald Marshall Jr.
Despite the literature surrounding racial profiling, there are many arguments that focus on the positive effects of racial profiling. Racial profiling can be seen as beneficial because it allows law enforcement agencies to look for specific criminals based on similar ideologies. Meaning that, if law enforcement agencies know what type of person fits the profile of the criminal, it can help save value resources. Furthermore, this can lead to the assumptions that law enforcement officials will be able to apprehend more criminals.
According to Pudnick (2017), racial proﬁling is often advocated as a means of maximizing the effectiveness of scarce resources in controlling crime and preventing terrorist attacks. However, it can be hard for police officers to be able to accurately distinguish between races, particularly when different racial groups share similar physical features. For instance, it may be difficult for officers to be able to differentiate Punjabis, who are perceived as having gang and drug trade affiliation in British Columbia, from other South Asians. However, this is not the only argument for racial profiling.
Many advocates of racial profiling contend that it is a necessary tool during an investigation because statistics show that people from certain demographics often are more likely to commit certain crimes associated with that background than those from an unrelated background. In addition to this, many law enforcement agencies adhere to the fact that it would be irresponsible to disregard this insight simply because it may be considered racist. In a reasonable scenario, law enforcement officials typically use all the information that they have access to in order to deter present and future criminal activity. If some level of racial profiling were to provide crucial intelligence that did indeed deter crime, the conclusion is perhaps that racial profiling should in fact remain a part of law enforcement’s more general professional arsenal.
Despite the literature surrounding the arguments for racial profiling, the other side of the debate need to be addressed. One of the first arguments in contradiction to racial profiling has to do with the idea that it is indeed racist. According to Pundik (2017) racial profiling “involves taking the suspect’s behaviours to be determined by his race, age, and gender, none of which is within his control”. The act of racial profiling is well-known to law enforcement officials however, the generalizations that coincide with racial profiling has been known to create tension in specific communities.
These tensions may further lead the community to feel as if they are constantly under suspicion. When this happens, it’s probable assume that these individuals are less likely assists law enforcement officials in solving crimes and more likely to engage in suspicious behaviours. According to Tanovich (2002), this is one of the reasons why most law enforcement groups oppose racial profiling. Eventually over time, the practices of racial profiling on minority groups will contribute to the overrepresentation of ethnic groups within the criminal justice system.
Subsequently, racial profiling is also known to violate section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada. Section 15 of the Charter states that all individuals are equal before the law and prohibits discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, and colour, among other grounds. Yet, cases pertaining to section 15 of the charter are in fact rare.
Furthermore, sections 15 of the Charter ensures equality in the application of the law and the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of race or ethnicity. Any form of unequal treatment would be in violation of this section. However, section 15 cases with respect to race are rare. In fact, there are only a handful of instances where the Supreme Court of Canada has directly dealt with race under section 15. For example, race was a factor in both R v RDS and R v Williams but neither case specifically concerned the issue of police officers engaging in racial profiling.
The limited use of section 15 in racial profiling cases underscores the difficulties of proving racial discrimination. Specifically, it is the plaintiff who bears the burden of ruling out any competing explanations that are unrelated to race for the detaining officer’s behaviour and it is typically not difficult to generate such explanations as a defence after the fact. Also, the decision to act on the basis of race may be an unconscious one, in that a police officer may or may not be aware of his racist attitudes when acting on a hunch. Lastly, the evidence upon which racial profiling can be demonstrated is generally circumstantial in nature.
Although there are many more arguments that oppose the use of racial profiling, the discussed issues are overwhelming, and, unfortunately, are often overlooked in discussions of the validity of the practice.
This paper argues for a more controlled use of racial profiling than some Canadian Courts currently allow. When racial profiling commences, there is the possibility that a person’s Charter rights are impacted negatively due to the assumptions about their appearance. It is important to acknowledge the importance of a system in which Crown can disprove or legitimize the use of racial profiling. However, when police officer do engage in racial profiling tactics, it is important for the Crown to acknowledge the legitimacy of doing so.
We all make mistakes and often jump to conclusions but I’d we control our emotions, our actions , and rationalize each situation thoroughly from the perspective of others, over reaction or escalation of any single situation could be prevented and understood to simply be a necessary function of law enforcement.
Overall, the basis of racial profiling can be a highly problematic practice that has more disadvantages than it does benefits. When an individual has been racially profiled it becomes challenging for the community to trust the legitimacy of law enforcement agencies. Although it may be hard to break the chain of racial profiling, police agencies should aim for a moderate method of racial profiling. Meaning that, they should acknowledge the stereotypes of certain ethnic groups however, they should only be able to persecute an individual when they have hard concrete evidence.
Overall, this debate remains important for law enforcement officials to engage in so that they are able to build a relationship with the communities that they serve. When assessing the permissibility of racial profiling, the challenge is to balance the protection of rights against the need to ensure effective policing.
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