Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Police Profiling

Police Profiling: For Better or For Worse


      Police Profiling: some may say blatant prejudice while others would argue a valuable a necessary part of policing. Many non-officers will be quick to state that police profiling is blatantly wrong and even close to unconstitutional. On the other hand, long time officers, like many I know that are close to state that it is necessary to being a good cop and even staying safe on the streets. 

      Believing all cops profile is also, in itself, a generalization that does not always hold true.

 "Ronald Davis, police chief for Palo Alto, Calif., told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on Tuesday, that racial profiling was “ineffective,” "insulting," and "just didn't work."
- CNSNews.com

      To play devils advocate, profiling can save the police a lot of time and in essence, money. After working for a while a police officer will begin to learn and react to certain trends that occur on a daily basis. For instance, if 7 out of 10 orange cars pulled over have a brick of cocaine in the trunk a police officer will recognize this. If the officer decided to start profiling they will begin only pulling orange cars over, and in essence, they will start to recover more illegal cocaine than ever before. This benefit is obvious for the simple reason that officers will now be far more productive and effective from taking very dangerous drugs off of the street. 

      An officer also needs to be very observant of those they encounter on the street. This is not fool proof, and once again I am using generalizations to illustrate an overall point. Officers should know what kind of individuals are most likely to be aggressive or armed. A simple example little people will argue with is drunk people. If police profile all drunk people as potentially dangerous they will be more cautious and ready to handle any fit of anger the individual may have. 

      Although some sort of point can be made for profiling in practice profiling can appear to be racist or prejudice against younger people. 

A personal experience: I was driving in a car with a friend who happened to be black. Whether this influenced what happened is hard to tell but a definite possibility. We were pulled over on college in the snow because my registration was 3 days expired. Of course, technically this is a valid reason for one to be pulled over. A second officer arrived behind our car before the first one got out and they approached the car from both sides. The officer asked if I was in a hurry and since I thought that he was hinting that I was speeding I said no. At this time he said ok good and opened my door and asked would i mind getting out. His wording may not have exactly been an order but his body positioning and tone didn't seem to give me much of a choice. Once I got out he considered it consent to search my car for marijuana and pat both me and the passenger down. He took ashes and some old cigarette butts and claimed them to be remnants of marijuana. I laughed and said no and eventually after 20 minutes we were allowed to be on our way.

      I know for a fact if we were professors we would not have been treated the same way. Being college students made the police act differently towards us which is blatant profiling.  One would also say that we were more likely to have been carrying something illegal than a family man but since i was not i did feel violated by the stereotype.

      This is also true for many African Americans in America especially in urban areas. Many believe this is what causes there to be a disproportional amount of African Americans in Prison.

All in all, if police can profile on attitude rather than race then it can be an effective tool. Unfortunately, we are all human and this is near impossible for most.


  1. Police profiling is obviously a sensitive issue, mostly because of the racial sensitivity. However, I believe that this article does a good job pointing out the story from two different perspectives. I think that people forget that police are wrongly stereotyped as well, and that not all of them racially profile African American in order to make arrests. Racial profiling will forever be a subject in the criminal justice system, but the stereotype that all police officers do it needs to be changed.

  2. I agree with the emphasis on police men needing to measure attitudes more than race. I also understand it is natural part of humanity to do otherwise. I simply cannot agree on merely accepting it as a part of human nature and write it off as such. For example, Arizona, I believe it is the worst illustration of racial profiling. At any moment a civilian may be stopped and asked to show proper documentation of immigration status. By simply looking at an individual how can you tell?