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Racial profiling is a continuous, concerning problem in the
United States of America. It occurs on a daily basis, in cities and states all
over the country. Police officers tend to apply racial profiling by
relying solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin
to associate that individual with committing a crime. This practice can be
used to determine who to stop for minor traffic violations, also referred to as
“driving black”, or which individuals to search for illegal contraband based
off of their race without evidence that they have actually committed or been involved
in a criminal activity, as well as which individuals to administer the
use-of-force against. Racial profiling is a troubling, illegal violation
of the United States of America’s Constitution that in the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendment promises “equal protection under the law to all” and “freedom
of unreasonable searches and seizures.”

            A change, or reform needs
to be put in place. Many reform suggestions were stated in the
literature used to support my stance on this issue. Dunn suggested there be traffic
stop data collection forms which should be completed by the police officers
after each traffic stop, whether or not a ticket was given.
This will be in order to determine whether racial of ethnic disparities exist
in the patterns of the traffic stops of the police officer. As
well as,
conducting a traffic
census of the population of drivers eligible to be stopped or ticketed within
certain geographic areas. This method will show potential problems with racial biased
policing in particular areas under supervision. (Dunn, 2016) Warren
and Tomaskovic-Devey suggest that both the amount of media coverage and
legislative activity have an influence on officers’ racial profiling.
Therefore, a federal proposal should be introduced to exemplify national
legislative possibilities. Introducing a national bill can cause police
officers to realize they are under scrutiny and it will drastically improve
their performance rates as well as decrease policing profiling. Both
federal and state bills can send a message to police on issues of concern by
the public even if they do not pass.
(Harris, 2009)

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            Lastly, Alpert, Dunham and
Smith believed the best way to assure the officers are being fair, legal and just
as well as reduce the reality or perception of racial profiling is through, “police
departments having clear policies and directives explaining the proper use of
race in decision making. Additionally, police officers must be trained and
educated in the overall impact of using race as a factor in deciding how to
respond to an individual. Third, the department must maintain a
data-collection and analysis system to monitor the activities of their police officers
as it applies to the race of the citizen. The fourth suggestion
involves the use of record checks of police officers that can set in motion a
process that results in the detention and arrest of citizens. Lastly,
the completion of a record of interrogation for later intelligence has
implications for the citizen. The use of this intelligence tool must depend
on suspicion of criminal activity rather than on the race or ethnicity of the
citizen.” (Alpert et al., 2005)

I believe the best way to reform this problem is a
mixture of all of these great suggestions written by the previous researchers. To
decrease, and eventually put a halt to racial profiling I believe that the
first step to be taken is to tackle the problem with new police officers in the
academy. The laws, morals and expectations of their job should be
imprinted in their head. They should be trained well and educated on their
moral obligations. Next, I believe that supervisors should maintain
data for every police officer of each citizen they pull over.
Their race, the reason for the stop, and whether a warning or a ticket was
given should be reported. As well as a camera on each officers uniform that
records each stop to ensure their reliability and so the supervisors can
monitor the activities of each officer. Many citizens believe that police officers
can do anything they want and get it away with it, to ensure that this is not
the case police departments should implement a policy that threatens either
suspension or loss of job if the officer is not up to par with their job performance. Lastly,
I believe the more effective reform for racial profiling would be to bring more
media attention to the issue and introduce a legislative bill such as what Warren
and Tomaskovic-Devey suggested, something similar to the passage of the Senate
Bill 76, but instead of an individual state, introduce it nationally, that “required the collection
and correlation of data on traffic stops by state officers, which include the
race of the driver, whether and on what legal basis the officer performed a
search, whether the search turned up contraband, and whether an arrest resulted.”

Recent overviews of the literature suggest that
there is a disproportionality between the rates of traffic stops and searches amongst
Caucasians and individuals of color, as well as treatment by an officer
post-stop. The high racial disparities found in non-moving traffic
violations, such as, driving with a suspended license or without wearing a
seatbelt, among African Americans in the cities of Cleveland and Shaker, offenses
that are normally detected through electronic surveillance or once a traffic
stop has already been made, are consistent with researchers Ponder and Meehan’s
conclusion that, “officers must be ‘searching’ for, or obviously noticing,
African American drivers.” (Dunn, 2016)

            Next, Warren and
Tomaskovic-Devey’s research proves to reform advocates that it is possible to
reform racial profiling by effectively and purposefully using the media to draw
attention to the problem, and by working to convince the legislature to act on
producing a bill to decrease and eventually put a halt to racial profiling. Warren
and Tomaskovic-Devey reviewed data from a study of traffic stops and searches
on the state of North Carolina highways. “Warren and
Tomaskovic-Devey looked at the incidence of searches of African American drivers
relative to the popularity of media coverage of racial profiling and reviewed
this activity against the backdrop of legislative action in North Carolina to
attempt to determine whether the enactment of anti-profiling legislation
influenced police searches of African Americans. The authors then combined
the two public reactions to police activity, media coverage and legislative
activity into “the politics” of racial profiling.” (Harris, 2009)

North Carolina passed a law on racial profiling
named Senate Bill 76. The law required the correlation and retrieval of
data on traffic stops done by the officers of the state of North Carolina which
consisted of the race
of the driver stopped, whether and on what legal basis the officer performed a
search, whether the search turned up contraband, and whether an arrest resulted. The
Bill brought down all searches, and “significantly reduced the probability of a
consent search”. The rate of success police had in finding illegal
contraband as well as making arrests after searching an individual increased as
well because they
focused more on who presented real suspicious behavioral clues which indicated potential
criminal activity rather than those who just fit a racial or ethnic profile.

            In addition to racial
profiling being the likely cause of an unnecessary stop, studies also show that
an individuals race can also impact an officer’s use of force post-stop. In
an article written by researchers, Kahn, Steele, McMahon, and Stewert, use-of-force
case files were selected from a sample of 212 available incidents occurring during
2012 from a metropolitan police department on the West Coast. The
different cases were chosen from a primarily Caucasian city, with minorities
making up a slim percentage of the total population. All of the cases involved the
police officer using force at some point during the interaction, producing the

 “The sample of
the study contained 139 cases consisting of 62 Caucasian, 42 African American,
and 35 Latino suspects. The results showed that both African American and
Latino suspects received higher levels of police force earlier in interactions,
where Caucasian suspects escalated in force at a more significant rate after
the initial force levels compared with racial minorities. Racial disparities
were also highlighted in officers’ reactions to the level of suspects’
resistance. When African American and Latino suspects resisted, they
received significantly more force than when Caucasian suspects resisted. Results
from the current study highlight how suspect race differentially changes and
shapes an interaction between law enforcement officers and suspects.” (Kahn,
Steele, J.S, McMahon, J.M, Stewert, G, 2017)

            Lastly, while investigating
racial profiling by the Miami-Dade Police Department, researchers found African
American drivers were treated worse than Caucasian or Hispanic drivers in most
measures of post-stop outcomes. “Altogether, 2% of Caucasian and Hispanics
were arrested after a traffic stop, where 3.7% of African American
drivers were arrested. African Americans were also more likely than Caucasians
or Hispanics to have their vehicles towed, were more likely to receive a
pat-down search, or to have record checks conducted on themselves or their
vehicles. African Americans were substantially more likely than Caucasians
or Hispanics to be the subject of an F.I. Card.” The data found in this study did not stipulate
that police officers of a certain race or ethnicity targeted drivers of a certain
race or ethnic group for differential treatment. (Alpert et al.,

With regarding the topic of racial profiling it is
important to scrutinize perceptions of the police due to them playing the role
of the authority figures that are supposed to maintain order in our country, as
well as, protect all of our citizens, despite their race, ethnicity or religion. Many
people, particularly, those who do not interact with law enforcement often, may
vicariously experience police-citizen interactions through the things they hear
from others or on the media (Eschholz, Blackwell, Gertz, Chricos, 2002). This
is why it is so important for police officers to perform well on the job, as
well as remain unbiased in order to avoid the social conflict between police
officers and the civilians they are supposed to protect. The study
investigates the different perceptions that Caucasians and individuals of color
have towards the police while striving to understand why these perceptions may
be different, due to underlying discriminatory practices.

Racial profiling is ineffective. It
distances communities from law enforcement, impedes community policing efforts,
and causes law enforcement to lose its credibility and trust among the
individuals they are sworn in to protect and serve.


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