Racial Targeting and Profiling in the United States
The practice of targeting individuals for police investigation based on their race alone in the last few years has been an increasingly prominent issue in American society. Numerous magazines, newspapers, and journals have explored the issue of race-motivated police actions. Recently, the ABA Journal did a study of New Jersey and Pennsylvania traffic stops from 1998 to 2001, concluding that black drivers were more likely to be pulled over and arrested than whites. The study also delves into the legal ramifications of the 1996 United States Supreme Court ruling in the Whren v. United States case, which held that police officers subjective motivation for stopping a motorist on the highway was irrelevant as long as a probable cause was present - such as a traffic violation existed for making the stop. The Whren court decision validated the pretext stop, which occurs when police officers ostensibly stop motorists for traffic violations but are in fact motivated by the desire to obtain evidence of other crimes. Police officers, however, argue that racial profiling is common sense and is sensible, statistically based tool that enables them to focus their energies efficiently for providing protection against crime to law a-biding citizen.
In Taylor and Whitney, a study investigating the existence of an empirical basis for racial profiling and crime, they concluded that society must acknowledge the statistics behind crime rates in order to understand the concept of racial profiling; such information is available in annual crime reports. Statistics are facts and numbers which cannot be disputed and provide the experiential basis for racial profiling. The FBI Bulletin also addressed the necessity to consider statistics in addressing the issue of racial profiling. However, unlike Taylor and Whitney who argue for the use of statistics to support racial profiling, the FBI Bulletin promotes the usage of statistics in order to reduce and hopefully eliminate racial profiling. The FBI Bulletin states that if agencies were mandated to keep consistent statistical reports on the attributes and nature of their traffic stops, then racial profiling will not be as rampant. A written record of all traffic stops would do so by attributing individual responsibility to the police officers involved in such violations.
The issue of profiling, not only racial profiling is one that affects both the local and national levels. There are many different perspectives that people are taking toward the idea of race-motivated police traffic stops. The frequency of traffic stops among college students and whether or not race is a cause in such traffic stops has many other factors that that need to be taken into consideration, such as gender, age, vehicle, location, and attire.
The issue of racial profiling in America is one of great importance to the future of American society. This issue is not new to our society;...