Free Research Paper On Racial Profiling In The United States
Racial profiling may be legally allowed in certain cases in the United States, but research suggests that it is does not have a positive impact on the country as a whole. The legal and law enforcement systems in the United States rely too heavily upon the idea of racial profiling in many ways, and the system should be re-evaluated to ensure that it can adequately survive without the implementation of unfair and discriminatory practices by law enforcement personnel. Law enforcement personnel who commit racial profiling offenses should also be educated and monitored to ensure that they do not continue to abuse power within their sphere of influence. This discussion will focus on the realities of racial profiling, and why racial profiling makes poor policy.
Racial profiling is commonly associated with poor or unethical policing. When police and other law enforcement personnel utilize racial profiling in their day-to-day work as law enforcement professionals, it becomes seriously problematic for minority groups on a cultural level. Racial profiling has many different definitions, but the spirit of the concept remains the same throughout each of these definitions: racial profiling always involves the abuse of power by one authoritarian individual over another, less privileged individual on the basis of the second individual’s race or ethnic group (Gardner, 2014). The action of this law enforcement personnel or these law enforcement individuals has little to do with the actions of the target, but is instead based on the individual’s race or ethnic group (Gardner, 2014).
Before discussing the many different impacts of racial profiling, it is important to understand what racial profiling looks like on a day-to-day basis. Racial profiling may be blatant—for instance, an airport security employee stopping a passenger for search solely based on that passenger’s race—or it may be subtler and almost unconscious (Gardner, 2014). In all societies—American society is certainly no exception—there are unconscious racial biases that almost always play into the existence of racial profiling (Gardner, 2014). There are very real sociological reasons why there are more black men in prison than any other group, and most research suggests that racial profiling and unfair sentencing laws play a significant role in the development of these cultural inequalities (Gardner, 2014).
Historically, racial profiling has been completely legal in the United States. It has only been in recent years that the country as a whole has come to understand that there are social ills that have been done as a result of racial profiling. Since the 1960s, many laws have been put into place that are designed to protect individuals of non-privileged racial groups from the privileged (Skolnick, 2007).
The fact remains that despite the fact that most minority groups do not have higher rates of crime than their analogous white socioeconomic groups, minority groups are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement (Warren and Tomaskovic-Devey, 2009). Warren and Tomaskovic-Devey (2009) write, “Scholarly research has documented repeatedly that minority citizens are disproportionately stopped, searched, and arrested relative to their baseline populations. In recent years, policymakers have brought increased attention to this issue as law-enforcement agencies across the United States have faced allegations of racial profiling. In the 1990s, the politics generated by accounts of racially biased policing placed heightened pressure on law-enforcement agencies” (Warren and Tomaskovic-Devey, 2009). Despite these improvements in policy, there are still de facto practices that act in such a way to normalize racial profiling in the United States legal and law enforcement systems (Warren and Tomaskovic-Devey, 2009).
Although most public figures acknowledge that racial profiling is wrong and that people of all races commit crimes of varying magnitudes, the fact remains that the United States still allows racial profiling in certain situations (Warren and Tomaskovic-Devey, 2009). The United States Supreme Court case United States v. Armstrong (1996) essentially allowed racial profiling in the United States, by stating that as long as law enforcement does not blatantly ignore other likely suspects of a majority race, racial profiling is not legally problematic under either the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution—which ensure the protection against search and seizure without a warrant and equal protection under the Constitution for all individuals regardless of racial group, respectively (Warren and Tomaskovic-Devey, 2009).
Warren and Tomaskovic-Devey (2009) go on to suggest that there are ways to reduce racial profiling in law enforcement, and that this reduction in racial profiling does not necessarily lead to a decrease in productivity in the law enforcement world. They write, “However, to date, few studies have explored whether the increased social and political scrutiny placed on police organizations influenced or changed their general pattern of enforcement among black and white citizens The findings suggest that media accounts and the passage of new legislation were particularly powerful influences, which thereby reduced racial disparity in searches. Declines in the use of consent searches and an increased probability of finding contraband also were influenced by the politics of racial profiling” (Warren and Tomaskovic-Devey, 2009). In short, racial profiling builds bad relationships between minority groups and the general law enforcement population. However, law enforcement personnel, according to Gardner (2014), should be trying to build better relationships with these groups, rather than trying to tear them down.
Racial profiling may be an irritation in some ways, but in other ways, it is a huge problem for American society. In recent months, there have been a spate of incidents involving black men and police; in some of these cases, the altercations between these individuals and law enforcement officials have led to deaths. For instance, there have been a number of outcries in the United States over the death of a number of unarmed men at the hands of police; the poor behavior on the part of law enforcement is reminiscent of the incident with Rodney King many years ago, and the outcry—while not as violent—has been significant (Gardner, 2014).
There can be no doubt that racial profiling is problematic in a number of ways. American society is not a society that should be allowing racial profiling to occur, especially in this day and age—there is no excuse for allowing this type of behavior in the public sphere. While racial profiling may seem like a good idea, there is no evidence that it is even marginally helpful insofar as preventing crime is concerned. While it is problematic and irritating for individuals who are stopped too frequently by police, there is also a darker side to racial profiling. This darker side—the one in which minority individuals are killed disproportionately by law enforcement personnel—is a side that America must learn to handle to ensure that the freedoms that the country holds dear are not stripped away.
Racial profiling may be legally allowed in certain cases in the United States, but research suggests that it is does not have a positive impact on the country as a whole. The legal and law enforcement systems in the United States rely too heavily upon the idea of racial profiling in many ways, and the system should be re-evaluated to ensure that it can adequately survive without the implementation of unfair and discriminatory practices by law enforcement personnel. Law enforcement personnel who commit racial profiling offenses should also be educated and monitored to ensure that they do not continue to abuse power within their sphere of influence.
Gardner, T. (2014). Racial Profiling as Collective Definition. Social Inclusion, 2(3), 052. doi:10.17645/si.v2i3.126
Mosher, C. (2011). Racial Profiling/Biased Policing. Sociology Compass, 5(9), 763-774. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9020.2011.00403.x
Skolnick, J. (2007). RACIAL PROFILING-THEN AND NOW. Criminology & Public Policy, 6(1), 65-70. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9133.2007.00422.x
Warren, P., & Tomaskovic-Devey, D. (2009). Racial profiling and searches: Did the politics of racial profiling change police behavior?. Criminology & Public Policy, 8(2), 343-369. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9133.2009.00556.x
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