Friday, February 10, 2012

Do police officers racially profile?

Racial Profiling has been a huge issue in the United States and still continues to be so. 

Racial profiling is defined as the practice of targeting certain individuals based on the color of their skin.  An up to date example of racial profiling in today’s world would be after the attacks on the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001 it has been reported that many Arab Americans, Muslims, and Asian Americans have been targeted at airports.  Just because Arabs were responsible for the attacks that day, does not mean that all terrorism via airports would be due to Arabs.  By assuming that the only terrorists we have to watch out for are Arabs, I feel like we are dropping our guard to others that will hurt us in other ways.

Racial profiling is a problem and should not be considered an active practice.  Still today some police officers use racial profiling as a means to serve and protect.  Some call it a hunch others call it racist.  Here is a short video clip asking the very question do police officers racially profile?  Let me know what you think.

How does one tell if someone is solely using race to profile someone or if it is strictly just an instinct or a "feeling" that something isn't right?  Would a police officer approach a white person in downtown Detroit at 3 a.m. walking the streets?  Most likely, but would you consider this to be racial profiling as well?  I would.  I feel as though racial profiling is used when someone doesn't "fit in".  We have all heard the example of the African American man getting pulled over coming home from the office in a brand new Lexus due to the fact that he simple didn't fit in. 

Regardless of the situation racial profiling is wrong.  As seen above the majority of our states have no racial profiling ban, whatsoever, in place.  How can we, as future officers of the law change this?  Just because we are the law doesn't mean the law should not apply to us.  Sometimes the law isn't taken seriously because the ones that are suppose to serve and protect abuse it.  We as future crime fighters need to take a stand and figure out how we can change some of the issues that are so prevalent at hand. 

Many racially profiling cases are never reported.  When the police are the ones that are breaking the law (at least the ones in the states that use bans) it’s hard to figure out who we are supposed to report these incidences too.  If possible you would get the officers name and badge number and report him or her to the appropriate person i.e., the sheriff or lieutenant.  Some people feel if one person is using race then everyone in that department must me doing it as well.  That’s not always so.  Just remember if one person doesn’t or won’t help there is always someone above him/her.  

There are many reports and annual surveys in place to determine whether or not police officers racially profile.  My question to you as future crime fighters is what would you do if you saw someone racially profile, do you think this tactic is okay, and how are we to stop this from happening in the future?


  1. I think Professor Gates was probably being belligerent and that is what got him arrested. Perhaps the officer said something that sparked a reaction out of Gates? Only they know for sure what happened during their interaction but it is difficult to imagine that any officer would make an arrest in that situation when confirming Gates' identity and homeowner status is such a simple thing to do.

    I do not have answers for your questions but I do not think that anti-profiling laws really do much. I think everything depends on the ethics and life experiences of the individual officers. As a black man I admit that I worry about whether or not I'm going to be treated fairly by police. The ironic thing about that is that my worst experience with the police was with a black officer!

    This is a bit of a tangent but I just remembered an experience I had when I was in training to be a 911 operator. Part of the training is to ride around the various parts of the city so that you will have at least some idea of where the calls are coming from. We were driving through a low income apartment complex in the afternoon shortly after school had been let out. There were a kids outside playing & I remember both of the trainers that were with us making comments implying that the little boys were probably drug dealers. That didn't sit well with me because in my eyes they were just kids. We're probably talking 10 year olds here! The point I'm trying to make is that I think police, and anyone involved in police work, become desensitized & begin to associate certain types of actions with certain cohorts (ages/races/genders). I actually think that this is actually a natural side effect of the job but if the officer doesn't have the mental fortitude to keep those types of feelings in check and you couple those feelings with any prejudice the officer might already have then it can be explosive. I think agencies need to come up with some type of program that reinforces thee idea that each citizen should be dealt with as an individual.

  2. I think that police racially profiling someone is just another way for police to invade our privacy and rights and should be banned. For example, your above example using the African-American man in the Lexus...just because he is African-American driving a nice car does not mean he is committing a crime. Police in that situation probably wouldn't pull over a white dude in a Lexus just because but if a black man is driving a Lexus, he MUST be up to something. I think that this mentality is wrong because police are using little reasons to pull people over that they are racially profiling. Police should treat people the same; if he wouldn't pull over a white man in a Lexus for going five over the speed limit then he shouldn't pull the black man over for doing the same thing just so he can potentially search his vehicle.

  3. I found your blog quite interesting and being a minority myself. I think in some instances profiling may be useful in attempting to apprehend criminals but when race alone is the motive in suspicion I don't think that is the right way of policing but I can imagine in certain instances where it may be useful if something seems out of place or in addition to other aspects of a person.

  4. I agree that officers are still constantly racially profiling. I know that it is wrong but most officers would probably say that they are doing it because in most cases and situations those are the particular type of people that commit certain crimes. However, I also agree that it has to do with ethics and discretion. Not all officers are racially profiling people. I feel that it all depends on the officer, their education and experience on the force. Everyone thinks that we are no longer prejudice against people like back in the old days. I agree with that to some extent. However, is racially profiling somewhat the same as being prejudice? I would have to say that I feel that it is to some extent. For officers to racially profile they must have a gut instinct that certain races commit these crimes. Does that mean that all of the people who are a particular race commits these crimes then? I’m not sure but I feel that it is a topic to think about. Overall, I feel that officers should and need to do their job according to the law, not according to hunches.

  5. Racial profiling does still exist and happens more then it should. Even though there is a ban on several states to racial profile it still occures every day. Their are some officers out there that feel that they are above the law and just because they are police officers are not subject to prosecution. As a futur law enforcer if I came across an individual that was racialy profiling I would have them think about what they are going to do before making their actions.