Imagine driving to work, running late for an important meeting. You are driving the posted speed limit, obeying all traffic laws, and you car is in perfect working order. All of a sudden, flashing red and blue lights are behind you and you’re being pulled over. The officer treats you as a suspect right off the bat, smothering you with questions concerning what you’re doing, where you’re going; yet never really telling you why you’ve been pulled over. Without any warranted reason the officer wants to search your car. After much hassle you are finally free to go, yet still have no explanation as to why you were pulled over to begin with. Now imagine you are black and the officer is white. You have probably just experienced racial profiling.
Racial profiling is a problem which is gaining widespread notoriety in the United States. It may be the most important homeland issue we face today. Racial profiling is a clear violation of the civil rights of United States citizens. Not only does racial profiling affect civilians, but it actually makes law enforcement ineffective. Most efforts to investigate and eradicate racial profiling have failed due to unclear findings and a lack of accountability on the part of law enforcement. New measures must be taken in conjunction with current measures to curb racial profiling. A stringent federal program to monitor and survey our nation’s police officers is needed. The public also needs to become more involved in efforts to stop racial profiling. Until these measures are taken, racial profiling will continue to eat away at the heart of our nation.
Racial profiling is one of the most important civil rights issues facing our country today. Not only does racial profiling affect the direct victims, it negatively affects all people of color, in all generations, of all levels of economic standing. The integrity and accountability of law enforcement agencies is lost due to racial profiling. This integrity is lost in the communities that need effective law enforcement the most, making it close to impossible for police officers to do their jobs. Racial profiling can be defined as “any police-initiated action that that relies on the race, ethnicity or national origin rather than behavior of an individual or information that leads the police to a particular individual who has been identified as being, or having been, engaged in criminal activity” (Ramirez, 13). When referring to traffic stops, racial profiling should be defined as an officers use of race or ethnicity as a factor in deciding to stop, question, search or arrest someone.
There are two types of racial profiling, hard and soft. “Hard profiling uses race as the only factor in assessing criminal suspiciousness” (MacDonald, 132). A good example of hard profiling would be an officer seeing a black person and, without more to go on, pulling him over for a search assuming he may be carrying drugs or weapons. “Soft profiling is using race as one factor among others in gauging criminal suspiciousness” (MacDonald, 132). For instance, imagine police had information that a Latino gang, which drives red Hondas, was running drugs along the freeway. A police officer sees a Latino driving above the speed limit in a red Honda, and pulls him over in hopes of finding drugs. This would be a fine example of soft profiling.
Racial profiling can also be stretched to include characteristics associated with minority or gang related behavior. Peter Noel points out in his Village Voice article that “a baseball cap, worn at an angle, accounts for 10% of stops. A red or blue bandanna accounts for 20% of stops. Large hooded sweatshirts account for 10 percent of stops” (Noel, 42).
The majority of racial profiling instances occur on the freeway. Police officers are pulling over a disproportionate number of minority drivers in order to look for drugs and other contraband. Even if the driver commits a traffic infraction, the reason the officer pulls him over,...
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