Has Racial Profiling Contributed to an Increase in Successful Arrest Rates by Police

According to (Amnesty international USA, 2010), racial profiling is the practice by which race is used as a basis for suspicion without any reference to a specific individual. The definition is expanded to include ethnicity, nationality, religion and any other form of identity. Racial profiling is usually performed by police or other law enforcement officials (such as airport security guards) dealing with the public.  Racial Profiling had been used for many years until cases in the 1990s raised arguments about the legality of the practice.  Racial profiling is still in existence as evidenced by the abnormal number of non-white citizens that are stopped in cars or searched at the airport on a regular basis.

The debate about racial profiling begins at the Constitutional level.  Under the Constitution of the United States, no citizen shall be treated differently or unfairly because of race, creed or ethnicity.

The Fourth Amendment states that citizens are safe from search and seizure without probable cause and the Fourteenth Amendment requires that all people be treated equally under the law.  This makes strict racial profiling illegal however it is legal for police to search vehicles and persons if they have reasonable suspicion of illegal activity or substance.  Police used racial profiling with the mistaken idea that they were catching more criminals. In reality statistics show no basis that racial profiling catches more criminals, or that using racial profiling is beneficial in any way.  Critics argue and statistics support that racial profiling is illegal and ineffective at catching criminals.  It also puts police departments at risk because of possible lawsuits that can arise from innocent minorities being profiled, imprisoned and sometimes abused wrongfully (Amnesty international USA, 2010).

A common practice for law enforcement is stopping African American male drivers more often than other ethnicities.  They are more often stopped and searched because they are believed to be more likely to be involved in illegal activity than any other group. According to (Cole, 1999, 75) Police rely on that fact when they stop and search his car.  If the police do find something then is their search and possible racial profiling warranted  Again it can be argued that proper police work will catch this offender based on behavior and observation and it will be done legally.

According to (Amnesty international USA, 2010), there are clear statistics that show racial profiling does not work. On the War on Drugs, for example, even though African Americans vehicles were stopped and searched the most often of any group, drugs were actually found in more Caucasians vehicles.  Racial profiling allowed Timothy McVeigh escape from the vicinity of the Oklahoma City building because police were operating on the theory that Arab Terrorists were to blame.  The same logic has been shown with The War on Terror.  Continued racial profiling gives terrorists a formula for who they should focus on recruiting.  It has been demonstrated in multiple situations that in order to catch criminals, police need to focus on behavior and put aside considerations of race and ethnicity.
The main argument that some police have is not that they are racial profiling anymore, but that they are involved daily in a dangerous job that in order to survive, they need to be able to use any tools they have.  The level of distrust of cops is still an issue, due to problems of corruption and instances of racial profiling, but it does seem that police are doing a better job than in the past (Cloud, S.,  Dale, 2001).

In airports since September 11th, there have been increased security measures to reach the boarding gates.  There are many reports of people who felt that they were unfairly profiled as being a security risk, yet security can legally search anyone who wants to pass that security checkpoint.  There have been court cases that have been fought over whether or not a citizen was wrongly profiled and if they were not guilty of a crime, why they were held for a long period of time.

Opponents of racial profiling argue that race should not be a factor when considering police action for any reason.  The question is then what indicators do they use  The job of police and security guards are to keep the public safe.  They are given certain latitude to make sure that they are able to do their job, but at what point are they crossing a line  Racial profiling is not a substitute for proper police work.  Behavioral Analysis and procedural policing should be the only things used to catch criminals.

In  (Cole, 1999), Professor David Coles says that in terms of states statistics, the California figures had a disproportionately high number of African Americans and Hispanics whose  cars  were stopped and searched in comparison to Caucasian and Asian drivers.  He has other statistics that support why racial profiling is an ineffective and dangerous practice.  His book further investigates the entire legal system and its overall inadequacies for poor people accused of crimes.

Due to the efforts of several organizations and the realization of the general public and various law enforcement officials, some police departments are working on retraining and educating officers how to be a better police officer and not using racial profiling when examining suspects.  There are examples to be found of the efforts that police are making to correct this problem of racial profiling.  When an innocent is accused based on what they and others consider to be racial profiling, there should be an effort by law enforcement to recognize, apologize and address the issue with either additional training or clear directives to send a clear message that not only is racial profiling illegal, but it is ineffective and unproductive.

In the late 90s several jurisdictions around the country began to gather data about who police stop, ticket and search in order to gather concrete data about their police procedures and with that data allow them to enable policy changes and allot resources more effectively.  (Data collection resource center, 2008). This represents a recognition and appreciation of the problem, and is thus a positive step.  (Cloud, S.,  Dale, 2001) cites evidence that the police seem to be working on changing their behavior and the standard of racial profiling in order to become more trusted by the public and better able to do their job.


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