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Police Racial Profiling

Police Racial Profiling
30 January, 2018

In order to understand what police racial profiling is, it is crucial to define racial profiling as a phenomenon in general. Racial profiling is a term used to define the practice of accusing an individual of crimes based on their origin, nationality, race or ethnicity. Nowadays, this term is mostly used in regard to police brutality and racial profiling. Different practices implemented by the police show that very often crime is associated with a group of specific characteristics. As a result, racial characteristics become a reason to stop a car driven by, for example, African-American for minor violations or a pedestrian with the aim of searching for contraband.  

The other example deals with the targeting of citizens of Arab countries. It is caused by the attacks on World Trade Center on September 11th. In this case, racial profiling is applied to these people even considering the fact that they have no connection to the terrorist acts.

Racial Profiling in Law Enforcement

At present, people of different occupations are accused of applying racial profiling in their work. These people are called law enforcement agents and include security guards, police officers, members of airport security and pilots. They are free to deny a person his/her right to go on the flight, use airport facility or simply buy things at the shop if they are considered to be suspicious based on their ethnicity.

However, in case ethnicity or race form only a part of characteristics of a suspect, pursuing such person by a law enforcement agent is not considered to be a racial profiling.

Racial Profiling in America

The issue of racial profiling causes serious debates nowadays. Many opponents of profiling (including racial, religion, ethnicity profiling, etc.) argue that such form of treatment of citizens deprives them of their constitutional right to freedom and equal treatment. One of the examples of such treatment was presented in a report for Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in 2011. The report showed that Blacks and Hispanics became the subjects of profiling in most cases despite the fact that generally they were not involved in any illegal activities. Moreover, such treatment by the police officers is caused by prejudices and assumptions that they are dangerous individuals due to their origin and due to the illegal action committed by some of the representatives of the same race. For instance, in Illinois, Hispanic drivers were stopped for searches of contraband twice more often than the white people despite the fact that in general the whites were reported to carry more contraband.  

As a result of racial profiling, the cases of police engagement in actions of using excessive force are reported more often. Despite the Constitutional norms, the instances of unauthorized searches have been on a raise. The cases of excessive force were reported in different states including Cleveland, Portland, New Orleans, etc. As a result, use of excessive force by the police became a big problem discussed at a national level. Systematic violations of human rights by the police officers became reasons of deaths, as well. One of such examples is Eric Garner’s case when a man was chocked to death by a policeman. In response to such actions, DOJ made recommendations to revise the policies, which deal with using force by the officers and make necessary improvements in their training. However, simple recommendations are not enough in this case and the state involvement is extremely important.

Racial profiling after 9/11 resulted in reducing citizen’s trust in police forces and law enforcement agents. Besides, racial profiling in airports, in the streets, etc. result in reduced effectiveness in fighting crimes. One of the studies performed by the LAPD shows that the mistakes of the past made by the police officers and unfair treatment of minority communities members have a long-lasting effect and cause mistrust among citizens even long after the event took place. Consequently, strong racial profiling laws are necessary at all levels to improve the situation and restore trust in police forces.

Currently, there are no laws dealing with the issues of racial profiling in twenty American states. At the same time, those states that have acting laws dealing with the issue under discussion, they are of low effectiveness. Such situation requires immediate improvement in order not to make the situation worse.

In response to numerous cases of racial profiling, US Department of Justice issues a guide on the use of profiling. According to the guide, profiling is divided into legitimate and illegitimate. The first one deals with cases when race, ethnicity, etc. are used for the description of a suspect, while the latter deals with cases of using stereotypes to accuse people of making illegal actions. The other important issues indicated in a document is that use of personal characteristics of an individual (skin color, origin, etc.) can only be based on information related to a specific investigation. The guide also contains information related to training, data collection and other practices, which are important for eliminating cases of racial profiling.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that the document contains many provision, which was previously required by the civil right groups, it does not address all the areas. In particular, the document does not deal with the problems connected to national security issues.

However, despite all the limitations of the guide, it offers policies that are stronger than the ones implemented by most of the US states.


Despite all pros and cons of racial profiling, the issue is being widely discussed at both local and federal levels nowadays. The phenomenon of racial profiling and using of excessive force by the police officers and law enforcement agents have a negative influence on the outcomes of investigations, as well as result in reduced trust of people to the public authorities. Such unreasonable action as unnecessary stops, confiscation of property, harassment and even killing people have to be addressed immediately by the government. Clear and strict policies related to police officers training, instances of profiling, elimination of the excessive use of force should be implemented in all US states.

30 January, 2018
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