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Racial profiling has become a noteworthy and controversial issue nowadays. Even giving its’ definition causes plethora of debates. In general, racial profiling refers to discriminatory actions of law enforcement officials when the main reason to suspect an individual in breaking the law is the person’s race, ethnicity, ancestry, Aboriginality, national or cultural background. In such cases the specific group of characteristics is believed to be associated with crime, and the entire community of individuals is implied to have criminal propensity.
The perfect example of racial profiling is the constant suspect that followed Arab and Muslim Americans after September 11th terrorist attacks: detention on any minor immigrant violations, intense scrutiny at airports and other locations. Sure thing, often the law enforcement officers’ actions are based on race, ethnicity, religion in combination with the alleged violation of law. In such cases the understanding of racial profiling becomes wider and eliminates the majority of racial profiling situations occurring. Although racial profiling is most frequently associated with traffic stops, it deals with any situation when minorities were stopped, interrogated or searched because of their race, ethnicity, or religion.
Individual law enforcement agent who profile suspects solely on the basis of race or ethnicity violates the rights of those minorities. When race and ethnicity become factors in suspicious behavior, the civil rights of racial and ethnic minorities as a group are violated. This tactic also leads to a negative interaction with the police.
Setting prejudice aside, once police know that racial differences in propensity to crime exist it may be hard if not impossible to ignore them when estimating the probability that a person is an offender. This problem is compounded by the fact that such estimations are informal or intuitive.
However, the law enforcement official should always have an objectively reasonable suspicion that the person is quilty in an offense. In practice it is often difficult to define what a reasonable suspicion really is. This is, probably, the basic reason why so many racial-pro%uFB01ling cases take place. If the suspicion was based on prejudice or stereotype, it can not be called reasonable any way. Even if the exercise of law enforcement discretion was subconsciously racist, it is considered unreasonable and will result in racial profiling finding. Unconscious and unintentional racism in the formation of criminal pro%uFB01les is still racial pro%uFB01ling. Unfortunately, nowadays courts are often reluctant to find the police guilty in overt and conscious race discrimination, even if racial profiling arguments were accepted. The reason is that the police are considered a more credible witness than the compliant.
When analyzing unintentional racism we should look not only at the overt behavior, but also at the traditional normative practices in law enforcement organizations. Very often the atmosphere and culture in the specific organization or department is already racist, considering all minority group members except the Whites to be second-class people. That is how racism may represent not a person’s conscious decision making, but the cultural phenomenon that is pre-conscious. Racial pro%uFB01ling as the behavioral expression of police culture, results from such cultural predilections.
Police assessment of suspicion depends on training, communication, and experience received in the company of fellow of%uFB01cers. The interpretation of the specific circumstances largely depends on the worldview that was developed through socialization into the police role. The main problem is that these experiences and interpretations are often full of race stereotypes that influence the law enforcers’ behavior giving it racial undertones.
Moreover, what the police officers consider to be criminal pro%uFB01ling may, in reality, re%uFB02ect racist stereotypes. For example, when officer sees two Black men shaking hands in an isolated place in a high crime area, the police officer may suspect the drug transaction. This would not happen, if they were White. Another example is an evasive action (MacAlister, 2011). An African American who is aware of his historical community being constantly harassed by the police, may consciously avoid the police officer approaching him not because of guilt, but in order to protect himself and avoid troubles.
On the whole, the disparities in police attitude to racial profiling may be based on prejudice, cognitive bias or stereotypes, and race-based deployment. Prejudice is the one to contain conscious intent, while cognitive bias and stereotypes may be unconscious suppositions about the criminality of different races or ethnical groups. Race-based deployment, in its turn, is a local organizational practice of law enforcement that may involve participants’ intent and consciousness, as well as exclude it (Ryberg, 2011).
Furthermore, it is being actively debated whether or not the intentions and motives of law enforcement officials should be taken into consideration when assessing the racial profiling practices. What really matters is the consequences that these practices cause in creating the inequality for certain groups of individuals. Human rights law regards racism from the point of view of the effects it causes to individuals offended, not from the intent of the perpetrator, which need not be proved. To my mind, if the discrimination has already occurred, the initial intention of law enforcers any way can’t constitute a weighty excuse for the person or community offended. Moreover, the police officers tend not to recognize racism in their actions. They consider it a part of sound, work-related criminal profiling that has nothing to deal with race discrimination. This feature of police is not easily changed by training or educating, as it is a consequence of cognitive bias and ingrained stereotype thinking.
Allegations of racial pro%uFB01ling frequently arise in the context of defences to criminal charges, when the accused seeks to have evidence excluded. Racial pro%uFB01ling also arises in other forms of legal proceedings. It has recently arisen in the context of human rights complaints, where those who believe that they have been discriminated against by law enforcement of%uFB01cers seek a remedy from an administrative tribunal (MacAlister, 2011, p. 98). Furthermore, racial pro%uFB01ling has arisen in the context of civil suits, where the victim of alleged racial pro%uFB01ling seeks monetary damages for what they perceive to have been adverse treatment. These cases are quite varied in their nature, but apply similar analyses in determining whether racial pro%uFB01ling occurred.
The influence of racial profiling on citizens attitude to police should be analyzed, as the attitude of public has a direct impact on the effectiveness of law enforcement. Racial profiling usually causes tension and trouble between the public and police. Any enforcement based on race undermines confidence and trust in the system. Nevertheless, the success of many police initiatives is impossible without cooperation with citizens. If the opinion of the police is negative, there exists a risk that law enforcement efforts can be hindered.
The attitude of public to racial profiling has always been diversified and often contradictory. For example, many U.S. citizens expressed their negative attitude to the use of racial profiling by law enforcement officers to prevent crime and terrorism in the country. In this situation the special study was held to examine the different context of public approval. Survey-based experiments and multivariate analyses were used. The results determined that college students were more likely to stand against racial profiling due to their educational background, while White students might approve the use of racial profiling than non-White students (MacAlister, 2011). Many citizens believe that use of racial profiling by police officers is institutionalized and routine, as a greater amount of sanctions is given to minorities.
The main argument for the use of racial profiling by law enforcement is the fact that it helps to target those who are more likely to be offenders. In such a way using race as a targeting factor correlated with crime the police can detain more criminals. Sure thing, the discussions are being held whether or not this method is legitimate when manifested in disproportionate use of stops and friskings of minority groups or becoming the tool in fighting terrorism. However, the force of this apparently appealing argument has not been left unchallenged (Ryberg, 2011, p. 79).
First, the argument can be challenged on the empirical ground. When the law enforcement official starts using the empirical evidence as a basis in their work, it often helps to receive sufficient results, but race appears to be not the highest effective targeting indicator among the others. Moreover, it is supposed that in the long term it also won’t be effective in anti-terrorism war, as terroristic organizations tend to be rather flexible in adapting to racial characteristics in members recruiting process.
Secondly, the argument is challenged on normative grounds. Even if the use of racial profiling is totally supported by the existing empirical evidence, its’ costs will probably overweight the received result of apprehending more criminals. There are certain constraints – for example, forbidding the use of racial profiling independently of the fact that this method may be proper in terms of higher hit rates for criminals (Ryberg, 2011).
Thirdly, it can be objected that the rise of criminals hit rates as a result of racial profiling use is tantamount to the fact that amount of criminals is decreasing. I think that this tactic may, on the one hand, cause a decrease in law breaking among members of the targeted minority, but, on the other hand, the majority may feel more free to violate law as they are suspected and stopped less. Due to the fact that the majority is numerically larger—and also that the elasticity of offending to policing must be less for the targeted group than for members of the majority—it may be assumed that the increasing potency of racial profiling may lead to overall increase of crime in the society.
In addition, profiling may have the unexpected negative consequences, such as the segregation of residential areas and the loss of deterrence, which are neither emotional nor personal, but reflect rational strategies for responding to the situation of profiling. Such costs must be included when weighing the pros and cons of a profiling practice. The social cost of racial profiling can be generally divided into three broad groups:distressed individuals, disconnected communities and diminished domestic security capabilities (MacAlister, 2011).
Moreover, racial profiling appears to be unreliable when communicating with crime witnesses. Eyewitness accounts based on racial descriptions at the expense of other identifying traits are often burdensome and offensive to innocent individuals, who just belong to the same race as the suspected. To my mind, racial descriptors should be supplemented with modern forensic methods to achieve an “overall evidence” approach. Among these techniques are DNA phenotyping, which gives information about the suspect’s racial ancestry, and molecular photofitting, which describes the individual’s physical attributes using biometric comparison (Ryberg, 2011).
Often the method of racial profiling appears to be totally ineffective when it comes to exposing the criminals. For example, using this tactic, law enforcement organizations failed to detain at least one terrorist. Therefore, instead of racial profiling the use of other types of profiling may be suggested. Thus, the “smart profiling”, which is also called “anti-profiling” or “reverse profiling”, is a withdrawal from a number of potential suspects certain people who can not be criminals (MacAlister, 2011).
Racial profiling deals not only with potential criminal recognition, same way it involves the law enforcers. Various researches held demonstrate the salience of minority status in understanding racial and ethnic differences in perceptions of the police (Ryberg, 2011). Blacks and Latinos have less trust and confidence from citizens, than do Whites and other racial minorities. Racial identity of a police officer is especially important for people, who suffered from racial injustice themselves. It influences citizens’ perception of police behavior and evaluations of police encounters. This finding is important as it provides some evidence that increasing the number of minority officers may be one viable option for improving citizen–officer relations.
Eliminating racial profiling in law enforcement is a crucial task for the government of each country. In the U.S., for example, the federal justice department plays the key role in confronting racial profiling, as well as in its creating. The election of President Barack Obama had considerable positive consequences for racially biased policing of the country. In my opinion, eliminating racial profiling is impossible without the aggressive enforcement of civil rights laws, which will encourage local police chiefs and employers to monitor and address discrimination inside their organizations.
In conclusion, the ways of controlling racial profiling in law enforcement can be expressed in various organizational initiatives: educating officials concerning the effects of racial profiling usage; holding special trainings with practical issues discussions and reproduction of the most problematic situations; monitoring data on racial profiling decisions and actions that deal with the problem. In addition, legislation together with media coverage is what can really reduce racial disparities while searches and stops. The quality of policing could be improved by external political and social pressure. The appropriate level of publicity, as well as the required internal reforms, may be the key to ensure that law enforcement practices are scrutinized and that the social and political pressure for change is escalated.