Profiling in Law Enforcement: is it Effective Policing?

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Profiling in law enforcement is a form of racism in America. This practice is used by police officers on the basis of race or ethnic status of individuals. This form of profiling is also known as criminal profiling or offender profiling and is used to identify likely suspects. Profiling is also used to link cases that have been committed by the same individual. This paper will present several arguments against police profiling. First, the negative impact profiling has in policing and the effects it has on the communities trust in police officers. Second, the efforts of policy makers to try to combat the issue of police profiling. Finally, the ineffectiveness of police profiling.

Introduction

Police profiling based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and national origin is not only wrong but it continues to plague our country despite there being constitutional guarantee of equal treatment under the law. Police officers target citizens of a specific race based on the belief that that specific race is more likely to commit certain crimes. Profiling also occurs when immigrants or tourists of certain countries travel to the United States and are targeted because of the country they are traveling from. Officers often target them because the country they are coming from has a history of smugglers coming to the U.S. with contraband.

Over the years, our policy makers have made several attempts to try to resolve the issue of police profiling, but to date, no bill has been passed. To target innocent citizens simply because of the way they look is an abusive practice. For too long, communities have been exposed to this ineffective tactic that only sparks fear in citizens and a reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement. Eliminating police profiling would improve relations between communities, especially those of minorities and would give the proper attention to the real criminals who are committing crimes and not the innocent citizens who are unfairly targeted because of their appearance. Howard Teten, former FBI chief, is credited by criminologists for popularizing the term “profiling” (Nittle, N. K.).

The relationship between minority communities and police demonstrates several of the more complex and lasting problems in policing throughout the world. Although amicable, the relationship can be problematic. Minority communities and minorities are often underprivileged when it comes to services and police protection they are in need of and entitled to. Particularly, police might abstain from focusing on criminal acts such as theft, domestic violence, etc. within a certain minority group due to the belief that members of that group partake in such behaviors. This is striping minorities of their basic rights and a refusal to assist in improving the relationship there is between minority communities and police.

The mission for law enforcement should always be to build and preserve trust within citizens, especially those who reside in minority communities while also protecting them, regardless of race or ethnicity. Several police agencies have implemented procedures, policies, and trainings due to the massive media attention this problem receives. With these implementations, police officers generate trust and unity within the community and are better prepared in dealing with the prejudices and biases that are in their departments.

The severeness of police and community prejudice in opposition to minority groups is dependent on social and historical factors. The longer minorities are seen as inferior, the more likely they will continue to be discriminated against. Police officers approach with minorities demonstrates the values of the community at large. When other communities are hateful towards a particular minority community, police might feel that behavior of discrimination is right and justified. A larger problem is the conflict that stems directly from police officers and minorities.

On the police’s side, the conflict can take the form of brutality, excessive force, and harassment against citizens. According to analyzed research from millions of traffic stops in the United States, it was found that Hispanic and black drivers are more likely to be pulled over, cited, searched and arrested at traffic stops, rather than white drivers who are pulled over. It has been noted by researchers that the discrepancies alone are not suggestive of racial bias.

This is refuted when reports show the rate in which police officers encounter contraband by motorists who are searched. Evidence has been found to show that minorities are held to a double standard and are searched with less evidence being found. The findings of this research stem from a nationwide database that was created by researchers that include patrol and state stops. In 2017, computer scientists announced their first scientific paper based on the threshold test. The paper focused on approximately 4.5 million traffic stops from 100 cities in North Carolina from 2011 to 2015.

Researchers found that there was evidence of a double standard. When pulling motorists over, police officers needed less suspicion to search Hispanic or black drivers over white drivers. When this test was applied to collected records, researchers discovered the same pattern applied across the United States (Abate-Stanford, T.). The main problem with this situation is that once a police officer pulls a motorist over, they are free to search the vehicle, to a certain extent.

Many times the police officer has the permission of the motorist to perform the search. The motorist might give their consent to the search because they have nothing to worry about. They might also feel intimidated by the police officer and think that if they are opposed to the search, then they will be in trouble. In any case, where permission was not granted to the police officer, it has to be proven that the officer had probable cause to search the vehicle.

This is where the police officer has to show that there were “facts and circumstances” to perform the search based on the belief that the motorist has committed a crime or is in the process of committing a crime (Winter 2002). In July of 2016, the death of Philando Castile during a traffic stop shined the light not only on racial profiling, but also on excessive force by police. Castile, a young African American male, was a riding as a passenger in Diamond Reynold’s (Castile’s girlfriend) vehicle when the vehicle was pulled over by two police officers. In the backseat of the vehicle was Reynolds’ daughter. One of the police officers instructed Castile to hand him his driver’s license and registration. Castile disclosed to the police officer that there was a firearm in the car.

While attempting to pull out his driver’s license, the officer told Castile not to reach for the firearm. Castile tried to explain that he was reaching for his driver’s license. The officer thought Castile had reached for the firearm, leading him to shoot Castile seven times. Castile died shortly after from his injuries. The incident was live-streamed by Reynolds and went viral. Before being fatally shot, Castile had been pulled over by police in the past about 46 times, accumulating over $5,000 in fines. During the investigation, it was revealed that Reynolds’ vehicle was pulled over for having a broken taillight and because police officers initially thought, he matched the description of a suspect in an armed robbery (Board, N. A.).

He was wrongfully targeted and paid the price with his life. In November of the same year, the police officer was charged with three felonies. The following year he was acquitted of the charges and fired by the City of Saint Anthony police department. In the past, different bills have been introduced to no avail in the effort of ending racial profiling. In 2001, the End Racial Profiling Act of 2001 was introduced to Congress.

Although the bill received support, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 diverted the attention and the bill lost support. In 2010, the Act was reintroduced but failed to receive any support. In June 2003, legislators introduced the “Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies.” These guidelines prohibited federal law enforcement officials from racially profiling individuals.

During an address to a Joint Session of Congress, former President George W. Bush “declared that racial profiling is wrong and will end in America” (Justice.gov). President Bush also assigned Attorney General John Ashcroft to reevaluate “the use of Federal law enforcement authorities of race as a factor in conducting stops, searches, and seizures and other law enforcement investigative procedures” (Justice.gov). As a result of this, the Civil Rights Division was advised to create guidelines for Federal officials to assure the end to racial profiling in law enforcement.

In 2014, a revised “Guidance on the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies” was released by the Department of Justice. According to The American Civil Liberties Union, the original Guidance “contained gaping loopholes that gave federal law enforcement express permission to discriminate” (ACLU Response to Revised DOJ Guidance on the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies). The revised guidance will “prohibit profiling based on national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity, in addition to race and ethnicity.

It also will apply to state and local law enforcement agencies participating in federal law enforcement task forces” (ACLU Response to Revised DOJ Guidance on the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies) while also eliminating many of the current carve-outs for activities conducted by law enforcement regarding the integrity of the borders and/or the protection to national security.

Currently, the Guidance fails to eradicate the authorization of discrimination by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the border. It also fails to do the same with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at and anywhere near the border. In March of 2017, the “End Racial Profiling Act of 2017” was introduced and first sponsored by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson (D-TX). The purpose of this bill is to prohibit racial profiling by a local, state, federal, or tribal law enforcement agency or agent. Racial profiling, by definition, is the “practice of relying on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identify, or sexual orientation in making a routine or spontaneous law enforcement decision” (Conyers, & John.).

Any citizen, who is injured by racial profiling or the Department of Justice, can file a civil action to impose the prohibition. The bill calls for federal law enforcement agencies to preserve procedures and policies aimed at eliminating racial profiling inclusive with procedures for handling complaints, training on racial profiling issues, and the collection of data. The Department of Justice is obligated to annually report racial profiling by law enforcement agencies (Conyers, & John.). To date, the bill has failed to pass. With guidance’s and policies such as these, it is difficult to comprehend how and why police profiling continues to happen so often. The bills that are introduced to Congress should include a way to independently collect data on the stops and searches conducted by law enforcement to have a precise measure of the magnitude of police profiling.

There should also be funding for law enforcement training that would teach police officers how to spot suspicious behavior. Activist groups such as Black Lives Matter have brought into the spotlight the use of excessive force by police officers on unarmed black men. This has been followed by nationwide protests and raised awareness to the issue worldwide about the unfair an unequal treatment black people receive by police officers, many of them white, in the United States. Aside from addressing racial profiling, the use of excessive force by police also needs to be addressed.

One leads to the other and both go against the United States Constitution, despite being commonly practiced by police officers (Natarajan, R.). In recent years, there have been high profile cases of excessive police force on black men. One case stands out among the others, the death of Eric Garner at the hands of a New York police officer. On July 17, 2014, police officers targeted Garner when he was selling loose cigarettes on the street on packs without tax stamps, a petty crime that black people are often targeted at higher rates than others are.

When police officers approached Garner, he denied selling cigarettes and argument ensued leading officers to attempt to arrest him. Officer Daniel Pantaleo attempted to put Garner’s wrists behind his back, resulting in Garner pulling his hands away. Officer Pantaleo then put his arm around Garner’s neck, placing him in a chokehold (prohibited by the NYPD) for about 15 to 20 seconds.

He was then knocked down to the ground, with the side of his face pushed onto the pavement with four other officers on top of him, repeatedly yelling, “I can’t breathe” (Goodman, J. D., & Baker, A.). Garner lost consciousness during the altercation. When this happened, police officers turned him over so he could breathe easier. He laid unconscious for about ten minutes while paramedics arrived. When paramedics did arrive, they did not perform CPR at the scene since they thought that Garner was still breathing and that it would harm him if they did.

One hour later, he was pronounced dead at the hospital. Officer Pantaleo denied choking Garner, despite there being footage of the incident and the medical examiner reporting that the cause of death was “”Cause of Death: Compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police”” and “”Contributing Conditions: Acute and chronic bronchial asthma; Obesity; Hypertensive cardiovascular disease”” (Goodman, J. D., & Baker, A.). Eric Garner’s death sparked days of protests and brought awareness to the ongoing issue of police profiling and police brutality. Incidents like this continue to hinder the relationship between minorities and law enforcement. These incidents further damage the efforts to improve the relationship between the two.

As long as police profiling and excessive force continues to happen, minorities can only hope that there will ever be a decent relationship between them and law enforcement. In law enforcement, profiling is not only wrong, it is also ineffective. These assumptions based on race, create negative racial stereotypes which harm this country’s diverse democracy and damages the effort to maintain a just and fair society. The basis of race for decision-making among police officers has a severe cost to both our nation and the citizens who suffer discrimination.

Our country was built on the notion of “liberty and justice for all” (Justice.gov). profiling an innocent citizens exclusively because of the way they look is an abusive practice. It has been proven not to be an effective strategy in law enforcement. Research has shown that racial profiling averts the attention of law enforcement from actual, suspicious behavior, and objective signs. It also deteriorates the trust between the community and police officers resulting in people being hesitant to work with law enforcement, report crimes, or give information that would help in catching criminals (Elliott, J.). According to the American Civil Liberties Union, at airport security checks, Sikhs are screened 100% of the time at the airport.

FBI monitoring actions (spying) cause innocent Muslims to be afraid of surprise visits from the FBI at their front doors or mosques (Elliott, J.). High-profile criminal investigations have also been hindered because of racial profiling. An example of this is the Oklahoma City Bombings that took place in 1995. At first, Arab males were the persons of interest for law enforcement. In the end, white American men set the bombs. Another example is in 2002, during the investigation into the Washington D.C sniper, it was originally thought that a white male committed the shootings. This allowed the perpetrators, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, both African American males, to pass through multiple roadblocks, allegedly with the murder weapons in their vehicle, undetected (Nittle, N. K.).

Conclusion

In conclusion, not only is police profiling wrong, it doesn’t work. Innocent citizens are wrongfully targeted and many have paid their lives for it. To target innocent citizens based on their appearance, race, ethnicity or national origin is an abusive practice and it needs to end. Policy makers have tried time and time again to try to resolve the problem but have not been able to pass a bill that addresses or resolves the problem. With the passing of bills that would punish police officers for these ineffective tactics, there would be fewer cases of racial profiling and excessive force. It would improve the relationship between minority communities and law enforcement.

This ineffective and unethical tactic is sparking fear within the citizens of minority communities leading to distrust with the police officers who are tasked with protecting them and less cooperation between the community and law enforcement. Eliminating racial profiling would also save a lot of time since too often law enforcement wrongly targets innocent citizens based on the crimes committed by that race or ethnicity. This would give the proper attention to the real perpetrators who are committing crimes and not the innocent citizens who are targeted because of their appearance.

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Profiling in Law Enforcement: Is it Effective Policing?. (2019, May 14). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/profiling-in-law-enforcement-is-it-effective-policing/

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