Racial Profiling: Individual Prejudice or Organizational Protocol?

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Racial Profiling: Individual Prejudice or Organizational Protocol?

Kelly Baymiller

March 26, 2005

Racial profiling is generally defined as discrimination put into action based on a stereotype. No one is excluded from the potential to experience some form of racial profiling, regardless of one's race, gender, or religion. Racial profiling has existed in various forms since slavery. During the reconstruction of the South, the first sense of racial profiling began with "Black Codes". "Black Codes" were created to maintain a new form of slavery. These "codes" made it punishable by imprisonment and indentured servitude for any African American who loitered, remained unemployed, drunk, or in debt. The "Black Codes" were a transparent form of what we call racial profiling today. From a ruling class perspective, the minority groups are constantly undermined, intimidated, attacked, imprisoned, discredited, and sometimes shot and killed. These acts take place in order for the ruling class to maintain control and in most cases unjustly abuse their power. Today, the most common form of racial profiling is done by the police and targeted toward African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans. It is otherwise known as "DWB", "driving while black" or "driving while brown". This refers to the practice of police targeting African Americans and any other non-White ethnic group at traffic stops because they believe that minorities are more likely to be engaged in criminal activity. The first public attention of racial profiling by the police began in mid-1980, when the (DEA), Drug Enforcement Administration, released guidelines that would profile drug couriers. The DEA notified all the police departments across the country to search for narcotics traffickers on major highways. Dependent on the area, the police were told which ethnic group to focus on because that group would tend to dominate that drug trade in that area. Although very successful in decreasing drug trafficking, lawsuits increased because of the extra scrutiny police officers were putting on innocent minorities while practicing the use of racial profiling. The racial lobbyists were also outraged because they felt there was enough evidence to prove the police had focused on "dark skinned" drug traffickers, while the lobbyists implied that "light skinned" drug traffickers were not apprehended. While racial profiling is illegal, the Supreme Court was fully aware that profiling was being put into practice and continued to allow the police to stop motorists and search their vehicles if they believe they are trafficking illegal drugs or weapons. More traffic stops lead to more arrests, which further skews the racial profiling statistics against African Americans and other non-White ethnic groups. Studies have shown that African Americans are the most likely targeted for these "routine" stops, but it only fuels the continuance of a viscous cycle that will take more than just a new rule to repair. Researching the police training, I found evidence to support the theory that racial profiling is prejudices put into practice. Police officers are faced with balancing their knowledge of training against the potential for racial profiling. It all begins with their education at the training academy and continues with ongoing in-service training. In-service training is achieved by pairing with a street partner, which is another police officer that is wise to the way of the streets in that specific area. At any point a different form of training, "informal training", can begin. I refer to this training as "informal" because this training is the type that you learn through your own perception of gathered information. This is not training that is necessarily taught, but can include one's own prejudices and steps are not taken to prevent these prejudices from entering into the officer's decision making process. A police officer will use their own...
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