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Racial profiling is the act of suspecting or targeting a person of a certain
According to the
'Racial profiling' refers to the practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual's race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. Criminal profiling, generally, as practiced by police, is the reliance on a group of characteristics they believe to be associated with crime. Examples of racial profiling are the use of race to determine which drivers to stop for minor traffic violations (commonly referred to as 'driving while black, Asian, Native American, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, or brown'), or the use of race to determine which pedestrians to search for illegal contraband.
Besides such disproportionate searching of
A study conducted by Domestic Human Rights Program of Amnesty International USA, found that racial profiling had increased from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to 2004, and that state laws had provided inconsistent and insufficient protections against racial profiling.
Sociologist Robert Staples emphasizes that racial profiling in the U.S. is "not merely a collection of individual offenses" but, rather, a systemic phenomenon across American society, dating back to the era of slavery, and, until the 1950s, was, in some instances, "codified into law". Enshrinement of racial profiling ideals in United States law can be exemplified by several major periods in U.S. history.
In 1693, Philadelphia's court officials gave police legal authority to stop and detain any Negro (freed or enslaved) seen wandering about. Starting around the mid 18th century, slave patrols were used to stop slaves at any location in order to ensure they were being lawful. In the mid 19th century, the
Prior to U.S. immigration restrictions following the
In the late 1990s racial profiling became politicized when police and other law enforcement fell under scrutiny for the disproportionate traffic stops of minority motorists. Researchers from the
Terry v. Ohio was the first challenge to racial profiling in the United States in 1968. This case was about African American people who were thought to be stealing. The police officer arrested the three men and searched them and found a gun on two of the three men, and Terry (one of the three men searched) was convicted and sentenced to jail. Terry challenged the arrest on the grounds that it violated the search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment, however, in an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court decided that the police officer acted in a reasonable manner, and with reasonable suspicion, under the Fourth Amendment. The decision in this case allowed for greater police discretion in identifying suspicious or illegal activities.
In 1975, U.S. v. Brignoni- Ponce was decided. Felix Humberto Brignoni-Ponce was traveling in his vehicle and was stopped by border patrol agents because he appeared to be Mexican. The agents questioned Ponce and the other passengers in the car and discovered that the passengers were illegal immigrants, and the border agents subsequently arrested all occupants of the vehicle. The Court determined that the testimonies that led to the arrests, in this case, were not valid, as they were obtained in the absence of reasonable suspicion and the vehicle was stopped without probable cause, as required under the Fourth Amendment.
In 1996, the
The Court also decided the case of
In June 2001 the
In April 2010, Arizona enacted
According to SB 1070, law-enforcement officials may not consider "race, color, or national origin" in the enforcement of the law, except under the circumstances allowed under the United States and Arizona constitutions. In June 2012, the majority of SB 1070
Some states contain "stop and identify" laws that allow officers to detain suspected persons and ask for identification, and if there is a failure to provide identification punitive measures can be taken by the officer. There are currently 24 states that have "stop and identify" statues, however, the criminal punishments and need to produce identification vary from state-to-state. Utah HB 497 requires residents to carry relevant identification at all times in order to prove resident status or immigration status; even so, police may still dismiss provided documents under suspicion of falsification and arrest or detain suspects.
In early 2001, a bill was introduced to Congress named "End Racial Profiling Act of 2001" but lost support in the wake of the September 11th attacks. The bill was re-introduced to Congress in 2010 but also failed to gain the support it needed. Several U.S. states now have reporting requirements for incidents of racial profiling. Texas, for example, requires all agencies to provide annual reports to its Law Enforcement Commission. The requirement began on September 1, 2001, when the State of Texas passed a law to require all law enforcement agencies in the state to begin collecting certain data in connection to traffic or pedestrian stops beginning on January 1, 2002. Based on that data, the law mandated law enforcement agencies to submit a report to the law enforcement agencies' governing body beginning March 1, 2003 and each year thereafter no later than March 1. The law is found in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure beginning with Article 2.131.
Additionally, on January 1, 2011, all law enforcement agencies began submitting annual reports to the Texas State Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Education Commission. The submitted reports can be accessed on the Commission's website for public review.
In June 2003 the Department of Justice issued its Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies forbidding racial profiling by federal law enforcement officials.
Supporters defend the practice of racial profiling by emphasizing the
The use and support of racial profiling has surged in recent years, namely in North America due to heightened tension and awareness following the events of
In December 2010, Fernando Mateo, then president of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, made pro-racial profiling remarks in the case of gun-shot taxi-cab driver: "You know sometimes it's good that we are racially profiled because the God's-honest truth is that 99 percent of the people that are robbing, stealing, killing these drivers are blacks and Hispanics." "Clearly everyone knows I'm not racist. I'm Hispanic and my father is black. ... My father is blacker than
Proponents of racial profiling believe that inner city residents of Hispanic communities are subjected to racial profiling because of theories such as the "gang suppression model". The "gang suppression model" is believed by some to be the basis for increased policing, the theory being based on the idea that Latinos are violent and out of control and are therefore "in need of suppression". Based on research, the criminalization of a people can lead to abuses of power on behalf of law enforcement.
Critics of racial profiling argue that the individual rights of a suspect are violated if race is used as a factor in that suspicion. Notably, civil liberties organizations such as the
Conversely, those in opposition of the police tactic employ the teachings of the
In the case of racial profiling drivers, the ethnic backgrounds of drivers stopped by traffic police in the U.S. suggests the possibility of biased policing against non-white drivers. Black drivers felt that they were being pulled over by law enforcement officers simply because of their skin color. However, some argue in favor of the "veil of darkness" hypothesis, which states that police are less likely to know the race of a driver before they make a stop at nighttime as opposed to in the daytime. Referring to the veil of darkness hypothesis, it is suggested that if the race distribution of drivers stopped during the day differs from that of drivers stopped at night, officers are engaging in racial profiling. For example, in one study done by Jeffrey Grogger and Greg Ridgeway, the veil of darkness hypothesis was used to determine whether or not racial profiling in traffic stops occurs in Oakland, California. The conductors found that there was little evidence of racial profiling in traffic stops made in Oakland.
Research through random sampling in the South Tucson, Arizona area has established that immigration authorities sometimes target the residents of barrios with the use of possibly discriminatory policing based on racial profiling. Author Mary Romero writes that immigration raids are often carried out at places of gathering and cultural expression such as grocery stores based on the fluency of language of a person (e.g. being bilingual especially in Spanish) and skin color of a person. She goes on to state that immigration raids are often conducted with a disregard for due process, and that these raids lead people from these communities to distrust law enforcement.
In a recent journal comparing the 1990s to the present, studies have established that when the community criticized police for targeting the black community during traffic stops it received more media coverage and toned down racial profiling. However, whenever there was a significant lack of media coverage or concern with racial profiling, the amount of arrests and traffic stops for the African-American community would significantly rise again.
Between 2003 and 2014, the
Racial profiling not only occurs on the streets but also in many institutions. Much like the book Famous all over Town where the author
The NYPD has been subject to much criticism for its "stop and frisk" tactics. According to statistics on the NYPD's stop and frisk policies, collected by the Center for Constitutional Rights,[
In June 2019, the independent Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD (OIG-NYPD), under New York City's Department of Investigation (DOI), released a Report which found deficiencies in how NYPD tracked and investigated allegations of racial profiling and other types of biased policing against NYPD officers. The Report concluded that NYPD had never substantiated any complaints of biased policing since it began tracking them in 2014.
On September 14, 2001, three days after the
In December 2001, an American citizen of Middle Eastern descent named Assem Bayaa cleared all the security checks at
The events of 9/11 also led to restrictions in immigration laws. The U.S. government imposed stricter immigration quotas to maintain national security at their national borders. In 2002, men over sixteen years old who entered the country from twenty-five Middle Eastern countries and North Korea were required to be photographed, fingerprinted, interviewed and have their financial information copied, and had to register again before leaving the country under the
In 2006, 18 young men from the
Statistical data demonstrates that although policing practices and policies vary widely across the United States, a large disparity between racial groups in regards to traffic stops and searches exists. However, whether this is due to racial profiling or the fact that different races are involved in crime in different rates, is still highly debated. Based on academic search, various studies have been conducted regarding the existence of racial profiling in traffic and pedestrian stops. For motor vehicle searches, academic research showed that the probability of a successful search is very similar across races. This suggests that police officers are not motivated by racial preferences but by the desire to maximize the probability of a successful search. Similar evidence has been found for pedestrian stops, with identical ratios of stops to arrests for different races.
The studies have been published in various Academic Journals aimed towards Academic professionals as well practitioners such as law enforcers. Some of these journals include, Police Quarterly and the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, so that both sides of the argument are present and evaluated. Of those gathered the most noted study refuting racial profiling was the conducted using the veil of darkness hypothesis stating that it will be difficult, if not impossible, for officers to discern race in the twilight hours. The results of this study concluded that the ratio of different races stopped by New York cops is about the same for all races tested.
Some of the most referenced organizations, who offer evidence on the existence of racial profiling, are The American Civil Liberties Union, which conducted studies in various major U.S. cities, and RAND. In a study conducted in Cincinnati, Ohio, it was concluded that "Blacks were between three and five times more likely to (a) be asked if they were carrying drugs or weapons, (b) be asked to leave the vehicle, (c) be searched, (d) have a passenger searched, and (e) have the vehicle physically searched in a study conducted. This conclusion was based on the analysis of 313, randomly selected, traffic stop police tapes gathered from 2003 to 2004."
A 2001 study analyzing data from the
A 2005 study found that the percent of speeding drivers who were black (as identified by other drivers) on the
A 2010 study found that black drivers were more likely to be searched at traffic stops in white neighborhoods, whereas white drivers were more likely to be searched by white officers at stops in black neighborhoods. A 2013 study found that police were more likely to issue warnings and citations, but not arrests, to young black men. A 2014 study analyzing data from
As a response to the
Shopping experiences is one of the many examples where everyday racial profiling occurs. Discrimination alters the experience of shopping, arguably raising the costs and reducing the rewards derived from consumption. When a store's sales staff is hesitant to serve black shoppers or suspects that they are prospective shoplifters, shopping no longer becomes a form of leisure. It is not only based on the customer's skin color, but by simply pre-judging based on the persons appearance is still a way of contributing to this issue. Racial profiling in retail has become so prominent, that over the years, researchers developed the term "shopping while black" which describes the experience of being denied service or given poor service because one is black. Usually, it involves a black person being followed around or closely monitored by a clerk or guard who suspects he or she may steal, but it can also involve being denied store access, being refused service, use of ethnic slurs, being searched, being asked for extra forms of identification, having purchases limited, being required to have a higher credit limit than other customers, being charged a higher price, or being asked more rigorous questions on applications. These negative shopping experiences contribute to the decline of shopping in stores as people prefer to shop online to avoid these sort of interactions that are deemed degrading, embarrassing, and highly offensive. Many research experiments have been conducted to measure outsiders response to the treatment of people. Findings have been both positive and negative with some having the courage to speak up about the issue and defend the victim, while others simply stand by and watch while this discrimination occurs.
In a particular study, Higgins, Gabbidon, and Vito studied the relationship between public opinion on racial profiling in conjunction with their viewpoint of race relations and their perceived awareness of safety. It was found that race relations had a statistical correlation with the legitimacy of racial profiling. Specifically, results showed that those who believed that racial profiling was widespread and that racial tension would never be fixed were more likely to be opposed to racial profiling than those who did not believe racial profiling was as widespread or that racial tensions would be fixed eventually. On the other hand, in reference to the perception of safety, the research concluded that one's perception of safety had no influence on public opinion of racial profiling. Higgins, Gabbidon, and Vito acknowledge that this may not have been the case immediately after 9/11, but state that any support of racial profiling based on safety was "short-lived".
One particular study focused on individuals who self-identified as religiously affiliated and their relationship with racial profiling. By using national survey data from October 2001, researcher Phillip H. Kim studied which individuals were more likely to support racial profiling. The research concludes that individuals that identified themselves as either Jewish, Catholic, or Protestant showed higher statistical numbers that illustrated support for racial profiling in comparison to individuals who identified themselves as non-religious.
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, according to Johnson, a new debate concerning the appropriateness of racial profiling in the context of terrorism took place. According to Johnson, prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks the debate on racial profiling within the public targeted primarily African-Americans and Latino Americans with enforced policing on crime and drugs. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon changed the focus of the racial profiling debate from street crime to terrorism. According to a June 4–5, 2002 FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, 54% of Americans approved of using "racial profiling to screen Arab male airline passengers." A 2002 survey by Public Agenda tracked the attitudes toward the racial profiling of Blacks and people of Middle Eastern descent. In this survey, 52% of Americans said there was "no excuse" for law enforcement to look at African Americans with greater suspicion and scrutiny because they believe they are more likely to commit crimes, but only 21% said there was "no excuse" for extra scrutiny of Middle Eastern people.
However, using data from an internet survey based experiment performed in 2006 on a random sample of 574 adult university students, a study was conducted that examined public approval for the use of racial profiling to prevent crime and terrorism. It was found that approximately one third of students approved the use of racial profiling in general. Furthermore, it was found that students were equally likely to approve of the use of racial profiling to prevent crime as to prevent terrorism-33% and 35.8% respectively. The survey also asked respondents whether they would approve of racial profiling across different investigative contexts.
The data showed that 23.8% of people approved of law enforcement using racial profiling as a means to stop and question someone in a terrorism context while 29.9% of people approved of racial profiling in a crime context for the same situation. It was found that 25.3% of people approved of law enforcement using racial profiling as a means to search someone's bags or packages in a terrorism context while 33.5% of people approved of racial profiling in a crime context for the same situation. It was also found that 16.3% of people approved of law enforcement wire tapping a person's phone based upon racial profiling in the context of terrorism while 21.4% of people approved of racial profiling in a crime context for the same situation. It was also found that 14.6% of people approved of law enforcement searching someone's home based upon racial profiling in a terrorism context while 18.2% of people approved of racial profiling in a crime context for the same situation.
The study also found that white students were more likely to approve of racial profiling to prevent terrorism than nonwhite students. However, it was found that white students and nonwhite students held the same views about racial profiling in the context of crime. It was also found that foreign born students were less likely to approve of racial profiling to prevent terrorism than non-foreign born students while both groups shared similar views on racial profiling in the context of crime.