Racial Profiling

Racial profiling refers to law enforcement officers or agencies where a key factor in whether to take action, such as making a stop or arrest, is mainly based on race, ethnicity or national origin, rather than information and evidence. The practice is controversial, and there is some data to suggest that it is ineffective in controlling crime.

In 1942, during World War II following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. Attorney General Warren ordered that local authorities should apply the Alien Land Law against Japanese landowners in California in order to prevent further attacks. Britain had used similar legislation from 1940, interning large numbers of Germans, including many Jewish refugees from the Nazi regime, in a specially built camp on the Isle of Man in an effort to deter subversion and identify "fifth columnists."

In the United States, racial profiling was used in the 1990s during a clampdown on the illegal drugs trade in police stop-and-searches, provoking national debate. The issue was referred to as "driving while black," or "driving while brown." The police targeted a larger number of street arrests and established racial-based practices. Law enforcement officers have justified unreasonable vehicle searches with the presumption that minorities, most of which people of color, are more likely to transport contraband or drugs.

The resulting statistics are inconclusive as to the effectiveness of this strategy, as disproportionate searches tend to give disproportionate results. More minority-based searches by the police will most likely lead to more arrests among the targeted groups. Critics have argued against police practices to stop and search vehicles based on the race and national origin of drivers or passengers, defining them as a form of discrimination. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLE) launched a campaign against racial profiling, aimed at tackling "law enforcement and private security practices that disproportionately target people of color for investigation and enforcement."

Racial profiling is also challenged by the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees a person's civil rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. Disputes also focus on the proper application of the 14th Amendment, which entails a clause on the equal protection of citizens. A Gallup survey conducted in 1999 in the United States showed that more than half of those polled recognized certain police practices as racial profiling. More than 80 percent of those polled said they disagree with such practices.

In the days after "9/11," the U.S .Congress passed the USA Patriotic Act, reforming a large number of provisions in federal criminal procedure and laws on foreign intelligence surveillance. The reforms facilitated the access of federal investigators to all kinds of documentary and electronic evidence, using wiretaps and all necessary data from Internet providers and communication companies. Furthermore, Section 412 of the Patriot Act allows the U.S. Attorney General to detain persons of foreign origin considered a threat to national security for up to seven days without charge. Under the provisions of the Act, the Attorney General needs to demonstrate only "reasonable grounds to believe," that the detainee will commit espionage, sabotage or terrorist attack, try to overthrow the government, or in another way endanger the national security. The USA Patriot Act also envisages that a person detained for violating the rules on entry into the United States, who cannot be repatriated, may remain under detention in the United States for an indefinite period without criminal charges against him.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Racial Profiling
Deborah Kops.
Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2007
Race, Ethnicity, and Policing: New and Essential Readings
Stephen K. Rice; Michael D. White Roberts.
New York University Press, 2010
Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in An Actuarial Age
Bernard E. Harcourt.
University of Chicago Press, 2007
Point: The Case for Profiling
Reddick, Sharon R.
International Social Science Review, Vol. 79, No. 3-4, Fall-Winter 2004
Counterpoint: The Case against Profiling
Fauchon, Christina.
International Social Science Review, Vol. 79, No. 3-4, Fall-Winter 2004
Racism versus Professionalism: Claims and Counter-Claims about Racial Profiling
Satzewich, Vic; Shaffir, William.
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Vol. 51, No. 2, April 2009
Racial Profiling and Police Subculture
Chan, Janet.
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Vol. 53, No. 1, January 2011
Racial Issues in Criminal Justice: The Case of African Americans
Marvin D. Free Jr.
Praeger, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Picasso as a Criminologist: The Abstract Art of Racial Profiling"
Crime and Public Policy
James Q. Wilson; Joan Petersilia.
Oxford University Press, 2011
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of racial profiling begins on p. 241
Racial Profiling as a Preemptive Security Measure after September 11: A Suggested Framework for Analysis
Pal, K. Shiek.
Kennedy School Review, Vol. 6, Annual 2005
Racial Profiling and the War on Terror: Changing Trends and Perspectives1
Bah, Abu B.
Ethnic Studies Review, Vol. 29, No. 1, Summer 2006
Racial Profiling in the Newsroom
Pritchard, David; Stonbely, Sarah.
Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol. 84, No. 2, Summer 2007
Encyclopedia of Race and Ethnic Studies
Ellis Cashmore.
Routledge, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "Racial Profiling" begins on p. 345
Search for more books and articles on racial profiling