Table of Contents
Racial profiling or discrimination explains a bias by enforcement agencies towards certain people not based on their behavior but personal characteristics such as race, religion, and ethnicity. American law enforcement agencies mainly at the state and local levels demonstrate a racial bias towards racial and ethnic groups. The enforcement agencies have different treatments for whites compared to other racial and ethnic groups including the African-Americans, Hispanics, Mexicans, and Latinos. Furthermore, profiling has led to targeting and victimization of ethnic groups affecting the image and public trust in law enforcing agencies. The paper explores racial profiling, discrimination, and poor officers’ conduct as a problem of American policing and offers solutions. Racial profiling of ethnic and racial populations has led to loss of public confidence in law enforcement and racial groups victimization.
The issue of racial profiling and the use of force by police officers represent a major problem in American policing. American law enforcement agencies have been accused of bias in applying the law when dealing with different racial groups. In particular, the enforcement agencies are accused of discriminating against African-Americans. In theory, the rights and dignity of all Americans are recognized and protected by the constitution (Floyd, 2004). It is the police who have the primary mandate of ensuring the rights of an individual in America. The law enforcement agencies and the judiciary primary bodies are to protect the rights of Americans. However, they appear to be the leading violators of their constitutional mandates. Floyd (2004),, notes that racial profiling by American law enforcement agencies has led to the marginalization of the rights of African-Americans and victimization. The tension between Africans and Americans and the police has affected cooperation to fight crime leaving communities vulnerable (Floyd, 2004).
A report by global human rights group Amnesty International shows that the United States ranks first in the racial profiling index. Amnesty International notes that law enforcement agencies in the United States use race, religion, and ethnicity as a proxy for criminal suspicion (Amnesty International, 2004). The human rights body further notes that estimated 32 million Americans or the entire Canada population are the victims of racial profiling which is mainly targeting racial, religious, and ethnic groups while walking, flying, driving, shopping and even in places of worship for Muslims. Amnesty International condemns 46 states for failure to ban religious discrimination and 35 for allowing “stop and frisk” which allows the police to target specific racial groups, mainly African-Americans (Amnesty International, 2004).
Warren (2011), notes that racial profiling has an adverse impact on the whites’ and blacks’ attitudes or perception of the police. Blacks expressed more dissatisfaction than whites towards police. Warren (2011) notes that the decades of ethnic profiling and tension between the police and different ethnic groups explain the divergent opinions. Racial profiling and discrimination can be seen in incarceration rates and the bias by the judiciary. The number of incarcerated people in America climbed from 500,000 to 2.3 million people between 1980 and 2008. African-Americans make almost 50% or 1 million of the incarcerated population. Hispanics and African-American combined make up to 58% of the total number of persons incarcerated. Estimated 14 million whites compared to 2.6 African-Americans report using illicit drugs yet African-Americans make 50% of the total incarcerations. Therefore, a black is likely to be convicted and serve more time than a white person for a similar crime (Criminal Justice Fact Sheet).
The data from the authors proves a problem in the American policing model. Racial profiling affects the public trust in the police. The tension between minority groups, such as blacks, and the police prevents the members from reporting a crime. The broken relationship explains high rates of crimes in black neighborhoods.
History of the Racial Profiling and Police Mistrust
Racing profiling by law enforcement can be traced to the slavery or enslavement of the African-Americans and the global campaign against extremists in Muslim countries. Immigration is another factor contributing to racial tension. Racial profiling began centuries ago, after the emancipation act and the American civil war. Racial tensions and profiling motivated the African-American movements of the 1960’s and brought the leaders such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King (Skolnick, 2007). White supremacy ideologies still contribute to tensions with the police and racial minorities, being the two agonizing sides. The murders of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and violent police response to demonstrations in the 1960’s reflect the decades of racial tensions between whites and other ethnic groups (Skolnick, 2007). Modern racial profiling and discrimination occur through suspicious treatment of racial, ethnic, and religious groups.
Causes of Racial Profiling and Biased Police Force
Political, social, and economic discrimination of minority groups have led to a poor relationship with authorities. Economic and social discrimination leading to poverty and wide gaps in resources distribution have caused a spike in crime rates. Youths from minority and low-income areas feel isolated and discriminated (Kingston & Webster, 2015). The economic discrimination combined with historical racial tensions, mainly between whites and blacks create the current challenge in law enforcement. Officers have adapted to a system that identifies certain ethnic groups with crime prolonging tension and victimization of the groups.
Security is a social concern affecting all members of the society including members of minority communities, individual police officers, enforcement agencies, and government at all levels (federal, local, and state). Community members are the most vulnerable in the group and suffer from bad policies such as racial profiling of members. Families in low-income minority communities are the most affected since their children fall victims to biased officers and judicial system.
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Attempted Interventions and Law Enforcement Image
Enforcement agencies have attempted to repair the broken public image and relationship with minority communities through the community-oriented policing model. A Canadian study on racial profiling and the relationship between youths and police found low level of communication as a major challenge. Minority youth avoid face to face interaction with police officers (Giwa et al. 2014). Giwa notes that community policing model emphasizes on police officers improving relationships and communication with the community. Attending social meetings, interactive activities and including members in policing decisions are effective ways of breaking racial tensions. The community policing model stresses officers to be friendly and build social relationships with community members (Giwa, James, Anucha, & Schwartz, 2014). Community policing model has failed to reduce racial tensions and repair the damaged police image. Therefore, achieving image repair requires structural changes.
Recommendation or Solution
Racial profiling is deeply entrenched into the law enforcement system including the police and the judiciary. Only applying the community policing model will not improve centuries of racial tensions and socio-economic discrimination between different minority ethnic groups and the police. Profiling is an indication of a biased justice structure as seen with the extremely high incarceration rates for blacks. Repairing the tainted enforcement agencies image requires structural changes in enforcement agencies. Police officers should stop applying discriminative practices, such as stop and frisk, and reckless violence against the minorities. Community policing framework only applies when the relationship between enforcement agencies is hospitable. The current relationship is full of tension and cannot support a community-oriented policing model. Changing structures including an end and review of biased incarceration will change the public perception and attitudes of the justice system.
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Structural changes are guaranteed to work, and the results are measurable. For example, a drop in crime after application of structural changes and community policing is an indication of a success. Second, improved relationships between enforcement agencies and community members, including the youth, is a measurable outcome. Finally, surveys or studies of the public perception and attitudes towards the police offer insight into the success of the structural changes.