Criminal Justice Reflection

Law enforcement officers use different methods in preventing, investigating and detecting crimes.  In view of the criminality in the present society, law enforcement officers have learned to employ creative and innovative methods so that they could effectively perform their functions and protect the society.  Some of these methods are stopping, questioning, and searching individuals on the streets or on the road.  Since these methods have proven to be very effective in stopping and preventing crime the society has tolerated and accepted these police practices. 

However, there is one law enforcement method that has been the subject of debate.  This method is called racial profiling.  Racial profiling came from the word known as profiling which is a method used by law enforcement officers to examine evidence found in crime scenes and the victim to develop a description of the offender.  Profiling enables the investigators to get clues on the possible identity of the offender.  Profiling is an accepted method as it helps the investigators narrow down the possible suspects in a crime.  However, racial profiling is a different matter. 

According to Amnesty International USA, racial profiling occurs when a race is used by law enforcement as basis for criminal suspicion in a specific investigation (Racial Profiling, 2010, p.1).   When a police officer stops a vehicle and searches for illegal drugs inside the said vehicle simply because the man who is driving and the occupants of the vehicle are black men there is racial profiling.  When airport personnel accosts and searches the body of a passenger and places him inside a room for interrogation for fear that he may be carrying a bomb simply because he looks like a Middle Eastern man there is racial profiling.  When an FBI agent enters the place of residence of an African American family and searches for possible evidence of drugs simply because they are black there is racial profiling.

The government often says that racial profiling is a result of the war on terror it is currently waging.  They say that the racial profiling being conducted today would not have happened were it not for the 2001 terror attack.  Based on what I have learned, however, racial profiling is not a recent practice.  There is evidence that racial profiling has been practiced by law enforcement officers even before 2001. The only difference is that before the targets of racial profiling are African Americans whereas nowadays the targets of racial profiling are Arabs and Muslims (Abu B. Bah, 2006, p.1).    

    I have also learned that racial profiling is an accusation that is very difficult to prove.  The law enforcement officers claim that racial profiling does not exist.  They affirm that race is not indicative of criminality.  It is not a clue to a persons state of criminal mind.  Police officers often state that the reason why some people who are stopped, searched and questioned on the streets and on airports belong to the minorities is that the criminal statistics shows that many crimes are committed by minorities.

I believe that racial profiling has been going on even before 2001.  I also believe that racial profiling is a practice that has no place in a democratic society.  It is a method that is not only ineffective in preventing crimes but it also violates the United States Constitution.  First, racial profiling does not help in criminal investigations because when law enforcement officers focus on race they tend to pay less attention to other factors that are indicative of actual criminal behavior.  The search for a suspect who fits a particular description based on race may be enough to distract the police officers from detecting which individuals are behaving suspiciously.  A good example would be the 1901 case of President McKinley wherein the secret service agents were distracted because they were looking for a dark complexioned man with a moustache.  As a result, a white man was able to conceal the murder weapon in his arm and pass through the President McKinleys security (Threat and Humiliation Racial Profiling, National Security, and Human Rights in the United States, 2010, p.1).

Moreover, racial profiling violates the right of the targeted individuals to equal protection of the law.  The constitution protects the right of the people to equal protection of the law.  Likewise, Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. (Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights) I believe that when individuals are subjected to racial profiling the state creates fear to all the people whether targeted or not.  When this happens one of the possible consequences is that the targeted individuals or the minority groups may refuse to cooperate with the local law enforcement officers.  Even those who are not targeted objects to racial profiling and want this police practice stopped. 

Many states have taken the initiative to put a stop to racial profiling.  One of these states is New Jersey which experienced first hand the problems that could happen when racial bias and prejudice are tolerated.  In April 1998, New Jersey troopers open fired into a van carrying four minority men who are unarmed which severely injured three of the men inside the vehicle (Chris Megerian, 2009, p.1). 

To put a stop to racial profiling in New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine signed the racial profiling law which created a state oversight that will prevent racial profiling(Chris Megerian, 2009, p.1).   Under the law, the Department of Law and Public Safety was created that will examine the data on motor vehicle stops, trooper misconduct and disciplinary actions.  It will also audit the departments traffic stops, internal affairs training and issue public reports.  The creation of the Department of Law and Public Safety is a manifestation of the importance of the principle of checks and balances.  If there is an independent body which is tasked to review the actions of another body and to determine the punishment imposable for any violation then any kind of unlawful and illegal conduct among police officers can be prevented. 

I think racial profiling has no place in a democratic society because it tolerates bias and prejudice.  It discriminates not only against the African Americans or the Latinos but even against the Muslims and Arabs.  Our history has shown the discrimination does not produce any positive effect to our society.  Discrimination was the reason why slavery was allowed to exist in the first place.  Discrimination was the reason why Jim Crow Laws were passed in the Southern States which recognized the validity of providing separate facilities for the whites and the blacks during the 19th Century.  Discrimination was also the basis why in the past black students and white students were placed in different educational institutions.  Discrimination was also the reason for the countless number of violence.  One of the worst cases of violence was the Rodney King incident where Los Angeles police beat up Rodney King which resulted in one of the worst riots in our history. 

Racial profiling should be stopped.  The United States government cannot continue to tolerate bias, prejudice and discrimination while at the same time proclaim that this country is a democracy.  The Unites States government cannot say that we are a humane society if its officers directly commit violation of human rights.  I do not wish for the time to come when I will be subjected to questioning and interrogation simply because I fit the description of a known terrorist.  It is an act of intrusion into my personal space and a violation of my rights.


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