Racial Profiling within Law Enforcement

Posted on: 9th May 2023

Question

Main premise of the paper should be about racial profiling within law enforcement and its effects its had on minorities such as Blacks and Hispanics.

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Solution

Racial Profiling within Law Enforcement

Racial profiling is the act of targeting people for investigation or arrest because of their race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. It is a form of bias and discrimination. Of course, people have prejudices and stereotypes about certain groups - some they know exist and others they do not even realize they hold. But it is wrong to let those assumptions affect their actions in ways that may violate the rights of innocent people. And yet racial profiling does happen--even within law enforcement agencies who should be sworn to uphold fairness and justice without regard for race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or any other personal characteristic. And its effects on minorities such as Blacks and Hispanics can be devastating: making them feel like they are under siege from forces beyond their control; turning them into objects of suspicion and scorn, rather than individuals deserving of respect; and ultimately leading to a mistrust of the criminal justice system that is corrosive to society as a whole. The essay will discuss how racial profiling in law enforcement came about, its effects on minorities, and possible solutions.

The practice of racial profiling within law enforcement can be traced back to the early days of European colonization of the Americas (Hinton and Cook 262). At that time, white Europeans saw people of color as inherently inferior and believed they were justified in treating them accordingly. This attitude was reflected in the way laws were designed and enforced. For example, colonial legislatures passed criminal laws that targeted particular groups of people - often with little or no basis. Slave codes deprived black slaves of their rights as human beings; vagrancy laws made it a crime to be unemployed; anti-jogging laws penalized Native Americans for performing traditional ceremonial dances. In the 20th century, racial profiling by law enforcement spread to other parts of the world. For example, during World War II, the Japanese-American community in the United States was targeted for internment based on their ethnicity (Komisarchik, Sen, and Velez). Decades later, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Arabs and Muslims were unfairly singled out for scrutiny and harassment by law enforcement officials.

Racial profiling in law enforcement is unconstitutional. It violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, which prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion (Gonzalez 74). In addition, it undermines public confidence in the criminal justice system and can lead to costly lawsuits. Yet, the practice continues largely because law enforcement officials can get away with it. Victims of racial profiling are often reluctant to come forward for fear of being labeled a troublemaker or a terrorist. They may not know their rights or feel that they have any recourse if they’re mistreated. Police officers, prosecutors and judges are reluctant to acknowledge that they engage in racially biased enforcement of the law. And legislatures have passed laws that give them wiggle room to get away with it.

The public has been made aware of many high-profile cases involving racial profiling within law enforcement in recent years. For example, in Philadelphia, police officers who initiated a pursuit against an unarmed black driver in his vehicle shot him to death when he fled on foot. They mistakenly thought that there was a gun in the car - but it turned out that the driver was unarmed. In New York City, the police department established a “stop and frisk” policy, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of innocent black and Hispanic citizens being stopped and searched on the street, even though they had done nothing wrong (Rosenblatt). And in Arizona, the state passed a law known as SB1070, which allows police officers to stop anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally without any evidence or probable cause.

Racial profiling within law enforcement is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. There are many ways to do this (Shjarback et al.). First, law enforcement officials need to be aware of the constitutional and legal prohibitions against racial profiling. They need to be taught how to identify and investigate crimes without relying on race or ethnicity. In addition, victims of racial profiling should be encouraged to come forward and file complaints. The government should also keep track of the number of incidents of racial profiling and publish annual reports so that the public can see what is happening. Finally, lawmakers should pass new laws prohibiting racial profiling and providing meaningful penalties for those who engage in this unfair and discriminatory practice. For example, George Floyd was killed in police custody due to a racially motivated assault. The government should make sure that something like this never happens again.

In conclusion, racial profiling within law enforcement is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. It violates the Constitution, undermines public confidence in the criminal justice system, and can lead to costly lawsuits. The government should take steps to prevent it, including educating law enforcement officials about their constitutional rights and responsibilities, encouraging victims to come forward and file complaints, and tracking the number of incidents of racial profiling. Lawmakers should also implement new laws to prevent this unfair and discriminatory practice.

Works Cited

Gonzalez, Cynthia. "We've Been Here before: Countering Violent Extremism through Community Policing." Nat'l Law. Guild Rev. 74 (2017): 1.

Hinton, Elizabeth, and DeAnza Cook. “The mass criminalization of Black Americans: A historical overview.” Annual Review of Criminology 4 (2021): 261-286.

Komisarchik, Mayya, Maya Sen, and Yamil Velez. “The Political Consequences of Ethnically Targeted Incarceration: Evidence from Japanese-American Internment During WWII.” (2020).

Rosenblatt, Natalie. "“Stop-and-Frisk” Policing in New York City: An historical evaluation of the controversial policy." (2021).

Shjarback, John, et al. "Minority representation in policing and racial profiling: A test of representative bureaucracy vs community context." Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management (2017).

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