The term, “Racial Profiling” indicates towards discriminatory practices of law enforcement agencies wherein law enforcement officials target individuals on the basis of their race, religion or origin. Profiling is an important part of criminal law if it is used in a positive manner. Profiling is an effective tool that helps law enforcement agencies in solving various crucial crimes. On the other hand, racial profiling is a discriminatory practice that deprives individuals of their fundamental rights and they suffer just because they belong to certain race, ethnicity, religion or region. This paper intends to discuss racial profiling along with discussing use of racial profiling in policing practices.
Racial profiling is one of much debated issues in the area of criminal law. It affects the rights of individuals and at the same time, it affects the working on law enforcement agencies. Racial profiling is not less than a splotch on a civilized society like United States of America. A country that claims to be the guardian of liberty of humans cannot assure fair treatment to its own citizens. Millions of people face discrimination in their daily life just because they are different from white Americans or merely because they believe in different faith or belong to different region (Muffler).
Police has always been accused of racial profiling practices, they target African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Arabs and others on the basis of doubts. These people are unnecessarily harassed and questioned by police in different matters. Police always treat African Americans as if they are criminals. Police treat them with suspicion and they are forced to face detention, searches and long humiliating interrogations. They are arrested without warrants if any crime takes place in the neighborhood. A close monitoring is always done on areas where larger population of African Americans reside.
Racial profiling: Absolutely illegal
A discriminatory practice on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or region can never be justified. Our constitution does not allow such discriminatory practices and racial profiling is not only unethical but it is absolutely illegitimate. Laws of any civilized nation cannot treat people differently and discriminately. Various legal provisions indicate racial profiling as illegal. There are a number of guidelines by various American courts that suggest racial profiling as illegal. In a number of cases, law enforcement officials have been reprimanded or punished by American courts for practicing racial profiling (Rice and White).
A common question arises that if constitution and laws say that racial profiling is illegal how come law enforcement officials practice racial profiling. The answer lies in the fact that African Americans have been pigeonholed as second grade citizens and criminals after facing hundreds of years of slavery. They have been given rights but they are still segregated and their white counterparts have not given them the respect that they deserve. This problem is psychological than it is legal or constitutional. Law enforcement officials are also part of the society that they guard and they think similarly like their society thinks.
Racial profiling: Several instances
There are a huge number of incidents of racial profiling. After 9/11 Arabs, Muslims and Asians were openly targeted by law enforcement officials. They were searched, detained and arrested merely on doubts and without concrete reasons. Policy makers closed their eyes towards these unfortunate practices of racial profiling and thousands of people were subjected to sufferings. A number of people were forcefully deported to their countries without any opportunity of justify their part. Such incidents prove that in case of any untoward incidents, law enforcement officials do not apply their mind. Law enforcement officials do not bother to investigate things and take decisions that are discriminatory and are absolutely based on race, region, ethnicity and religion (Birzer).
Incidents of racial profiling are not new and they have been in practices since a long time. Thirty one years old Johnny Gammage was killed by the law enforcement agencies while he was driving his cousin’s jaguar on 12th October, 1995 in Pennsylvania. He was forced to pull over and was brutally beaten up by police. Police claimed that Gammage has started the fight but an eyewitness told that police laid him down on the pavement and kicked him brutally (Rice and White). However all accused police officers were tried and acquitted by the court at a later stage.
A twenty two years old African American from New Guinea Amadou Diallo was shot dead by four white policemen of New York police department on 4th February, 1999. Police fired several rounds and the victim succumbed to injuries of nineteen bullets. A report of state attorney general suggested that this unit was involved in racial profiling (Roy). These white policemen used to stop African Americans on roads and also used to search and investigate them unnecessarily. The most unfortunate aspect of the incident is that all police officials were acquitted of all charges by the court after trial (Roy).
Another African American Nineteen years old Timothy Thomas was killed by John Roach on 7th April, 2001in Ohio. Thomas had several pending cases and warrants against him for traffic violations, misdemeanors. Police claimed that Thomas did not stop when he was directed to stop by the officer. It created suspicions in the mind of police officer since he was already involved in several crimes. Officer tried to stop him and then shot him when he did not stop. This killing created a major public outcry on the streets but unfortunately the accused of killing the young boy was set free of all the charges that were labeled against him (Muffler).
Racial profiling: A debated issue
Racial profiling is one of the most complex and debated issues in the area of criminal law. Racial profiling affects various aspects of the criminal law. Such practices question the intention and competence of law enforcement officials who are involved in racial profiling. If such practices are still existing, questions are raised on the effectiveness of our legal system and intention of policy makers. A developed society like America cannot afford such practices even after more than two hundred years of its independence (Holbert & Rose).
There are many scholars and individuals who express their concern on increasing incidents of racial profiling. They believe that such a segregation and discrimination of law enforcement officials is not in the interest of the society. They blame governments and policy makers for the existence of racial profiling in the modern times. They also believe that politicians overlook the longer interest and keep raking issues that benefit them in short term. Various sociologists and scholars believe that the issue of racial discrimination is kept alive to rip votes of people (Ramirez et al.).
Racial profiling: Repercussions
Racial profiling substantially affects the whole system of governance, criminal system, law enforcement, as well as the society. When people are harassed by law enforcement officials and guilty remain unpunished, victims start believing that the system is rotten and it can be manipulated. They indulge in various negative behavior and incline towards various crimes. The whole system comes into the question and people do not believe in abiding laws. On the other hand, racial profiling encourages law enforcement officials to commit more crimes.
Racial profiling adversely affects the psyche of people who are victimized by law enforcement officials. They feel detached from the society and start thinking in negative ways. They feel the discrimination that police officials in their daily lives and develop a sense of abhorrence towards law enforcement agencies and the society. Youngsters who are victimized by the law enforcement authorities are easy catch of criminals and they are engaged by deadly criminals or terrorists in various destructive activities. It has been observed in a number of cases that decent teenagers and youngsters have been misguided by terrorists and used for various suicidal missions (Ashar).
A society cannot remain intact for a longer time if one or more sects of society are segregated. Racial profiling segregates African Americans from white Americans and they feel that they are subjugated citizens of the American society. Apart from African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, Arabs, Muslims and Asians also face racial profiling which is indeed disastrous. All these people are part of American society and it is not reasonable to harass them on the basis of their race, region, ethnicity and religion. Everyone should be treated equally like other citizens as the constitution suggests.
Racial Profiling: A different Perspective
Racial profiling is illegal and there is no place for racial profiling in the law. Law enforcement agencies are accused of racial profiling practices and they have been found guilty in a number of cases but there is a need of utmost precaution while deciding such cases. It has been observed that people do not hesitate from making false allegations on law enforcement officials. There is another aspect of the story that law enforcement officials present. Law enforcement agencies keep complaining that many people make false allegations once they are caught. Law enforcement officials say that their hands are tied and they think hundred times before arresting a criminal because of the fear that they may face disciplinary and legal actions even if false allegations are made against them (Banks).
Having observed an overview and succinct analysis of the abovementioned subject, the paper concludes that racial profiling is one of much debated issues in our society. Racial profiling is not only disputed issue but is absolutely illegal and unethical. Racial profiling does not only affect the criminal law but it substantially affects the society. People who are victimized by law enforcement officials in name of racial profiling may develop a negative mindset towards the society as well as the law enforcement officials. They can be misguided by the criminals and terrorists and be used in various destructive activities. Apart from that racial profiling is a blot on a society like America. Racial profiling is not less than a challenge for our constitution and policy makers. Appropriate steps are required to be taken in order to eliminate such evil practices from our system.
Ashar, Sameer M. "Immigration Enforcement and Subordination: The Consequences of Racial Profiling after September 11." Connecticut Law Review, 34 (2002): 1185-1201. Electronic.
Banks, R. Richard. "Beyond Profiling: Race, Policing, and the Drug War." Stanford Law Review, 56(3) (2003): 571-603.
Birzer, Michael L. Racial Profiling: They Stopped Me Because I'm ------------! Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2012. Electronic.
Holbert, S., & Rose, L. The Color of Guilt & Innocence: Racial Profiling and Police Practices in America. USA: Page Marque Press, 2004.
Muffler, Steven J. Racial Profiling: Issues, Data, and Analyses. New York: Nova Publishers, 2006.
Ramirez, D., McDevitt, J., & Farrell, A. . A Resource Guide on Racial Profiling Data Collection Systems: Promising. USA: Northeastern University, 2000.
Rice, S. K., and White, M.D. Race, Ethnicity, and Policing: New and Essential Readings. New York: NYU Press, 2010. Electronic.
Roy, Beth. 41 Shots-- and Counting: What Amadou Diallo's Story Teaches Us about Policing, Race and Justice. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2009. Electronic.