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Racial profiling is a continuous, concerning problem in the United States of America. It occurs on a daily basis, in cities and states all over the country. Police officers tend to apply racial profiling by relying solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin to associate that individual with committing a crime. This practice can be used to determine who to stop for minor traffic violations, also referred to as “driving black”, or which individuals to search for illegal contraband based off of their race without evidence that they have actually committed or been involved in a criminal activity, as well as which individuals to administer the use-of-force against. Racial profiling is a troubling, illegal violation of the United States of America’s Constitution that in the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment promises “equal protection under the law to all” and “freedom of unreasonable searches and seizures.”
A change, or reform needs to be put in place. Many reform suggestions were stated in the literature used to support my stance on this issue. Dunn suggested there be traffic stop data collection forms which should be completed by the police officers after each traffic stop, whether or not a ticket was given. This will be in order to determine whether racial of ethnic disparities exist in the patterns of the traffic stops of the police officer. As well as, conducting a traffic census of the population of drivers eligible to be stopped or ticketed within certain geographic areas. This method will show potential problems with racial biased policing in particular areas under supervision. Warren and Tomaskovic-Devey suggest that both the amount of media coverage and legislative activity have an influence on officers’ racial profiling. Therefore, a federal proposal should be introduced to exemplify national legislative possibilities. Introducing a national bill can cause police officers to realize they are under scrutiny and it will drastically improve their performance rates as well as decrease policing profiling. Both federal and state bills can send a message to police on issues of concern by the public even if they do not pass.
Lastly, Alpert, Dunham and Smith believed the best way to assure the officers are being fair, legal and just as well as reduce the reality or perception of racial profiling is through, “police departments having clear policies and directives explaining the proper use of race in decision making. Additionally, police officers must be trained and educated in the overall impact of using race as a factor in deciding how to respond to an individual. Third, the department must maintain a data-collection and analysis system to monitor the activities of their police officers as it applies to the race of the citizen. The fourth suggestion involves the use of record checks of police officers that can set in motion a process that results in the detention and arrest of citizens. Lastly, the completion of a record of interrogation for later intelligence has implications for the citizen. The use of this intelligence tool must depend on suspicion of criminal activity rather than on the race or ethnicity of the citizen.”
I believe the best way to reform this problem is a mixture of all of these great suggestions written by the previous researchers. To decrease, and eventually put a halt to racial profiling I believe that the first step to be taken is to tackle the problem with new police officers in the academy. The laws, morals and expectations of their job should be imprinted in their head. They should be trained well and educated on their moral obligations. Next, I believe that supervisors should maintain data for every police officer of each citizen they pull over. Their race, the reason for the stop, and whether a warning or a ticket was given should be reported. As well as a camera on each officers uniform that records each stop to ensure their reliability and so the supervisors can monitor the activities of each officer. Many citizens believe that police officers can do anything they want and get it away with it, to ensure that this is not the case police departments should implement a policy that threatens either suspension or loss of job if the officer is not up to par with their job performance. Lastly, I believe the more effective reform for racial profiling would be to bring more media attention to the issue and introduce a legislative bill such as what Warren and Tomaskovic-Devey suggested, something similar to the passage of the Senate Bill 76, but instead of an individual state, introduce it nationally, that “required the collection and correlation of data on traffic stops by state officers, which include the race of the driver, whether and on what legal basis the officer performed a search, whether the search turned up contraband, and whether an arrest resulted.” Recent overviews of the literature suggest that there is a disproportionality between the rates of traffic stops and searches amongst Caucasians and individuals of color, as well as treatment by an officer post-stop. The high racial disparities found in non-moving traffic violations, such as, driving with a suspended license or without wearing a seatbelt, among African Americans in the cities of Cleveland and Shaker, offenses that are normally detected through electronic surveillance or once a traffic stop has already been made, are consistent with researchers Ponder and Meehan’s conclusion that, “officers must be ‘searching’ for, or obviously noticing, African American drivers.”
Next, Warren and Tomaskovic-Devey’s research proves to reform advocates that it is possible to reform racial profiling by effectively and purposefully using the media to draw attention to the problem, and by working to convince the legislature to act on producing a bill to decrease and eventually put a halt to racial profiling. Warren and Tomaskovic-Devey reviewed data from a study of traffic stops and searches on the state of North Carolina highways. “Warren and Tomaskovic-Devey looked at the incidence of searches of African American drivers relative to the popularity of media coverage of racial profiling and reviewed this activity against the backdrop of legislative action in North Carolina to attempt to determine whether the enactment of anti-profiling legislation influenced police searches of African Americans. The authors then combined the two public reactions to police activity, media coverage and legislative activity into “the politics” of racial profiling.” North Carolina passed a law on racial profiling named Senate Bill 76. The law required the correlation and retrieval of data on traffic stops done by the officers of the state of North Carolina which consisted of the race of the driver stopped, whether and on what legal basis the officer performed a search, whether the search turned up contraband, and whether an arrest resulted. The Bill brought down all searches, and “significantly reduced the probability of a consent search”. The rate of success police had in finding illegal contraband as well as making arrests after searching an individual increased as well because they focused more on who presented real suspicious behavioral clues which indicated potential criminal activity rather than those who just fit a racial or ethnic profile.
In addition to racial profiling being the likely cause of an unnecessary stop, studies also show that an individual’s race can also impact an officer’s use of force post-stop. In an article written by researchers, Kahn, Steele, McMahon, and Stewert, use-of-force case files were selected from a sample of 212 available incidents occurring during 2012 from a metropolitan police department on the West Coast. The different cases were chosen from a primarily Caucasian city, with minorities making up a slim percentage of the total population. All of the cases involved the police officer using force at some point during the interaction, producing the report. “The sample of the study contained 139 cases consisting of 62 Caucasian, 42 African American, and 35 Latino suspects. The results showed that both African American and Latino suspects received higher levels of police force earlier in interactions, where Caucasian suspects escalated in force at a more significant rate after the initial force levels compared with racial minorities. Racial disparities were also highlighted in officers’ reactions to the level of suspects’ resistance. When African American and Latino suspects resisted, they received significantly more force than when Caucasian suspects resisted. Results from the current study highlight how suspect race differentially changes and shapes an interaction between law enforcement officers and suspects.”
Lastly, while investigating racial profiling by the Miami-Dade Police Department, researchers found African American drivers were treated worse than Caucasian or Hispanic drivers in most measures of post-stop outcomes. “Altogether, 2% of Caucasian and Hispanics were arrested after a traffic stop, where 3.7% of African American drivers were arrested. African Americans were also more likely than Caucasians or Hispanics to have their vehicles towed, were more likely to receive a pat-down search, or to have record checks conducted on themselves or their vehicles. African Americans were substantially more likely than Caucasians or Hispanics to be the subject of an F.I. Card.” The data found in this study did not stipulate that police officers of a certain race or ethnicity targeted drivers of a certain race or ethnic group for differential treatment. With regarding the topic of racial profiling it is important to scrutinize perceptions of the police due to them playing the role of the authority figures that are supposed to maintain order in our country, as well as, protect all of our citizens, despite their race, ethnicity or religion. Many people, particularly, those who do not interact with law enforcement often, may vicariously experience police-citizen interactions through the things they hear from others or on the media. This is why it is so important for police officers to perform well on the job, as well as remain unbiased in order to avoid the social conflict between police officers and the civilians they are supposed to protect. The study investigates the different perceptions that Caucasians and individuals of color have towards the police while striving to understand why these perceptions may be different, due to underlying discriminatory practices.
Racial profiling is ineffective. It distances communities from law enforcement, impedes community policing efforts, and causes law enforcement to lose its credibility and trust among the individuals they are sworn in to protect and serve.
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