Racial Profiling: They Stopped Me Because I'm--

Racial Profiling: They Stopped Me Because I'm--

Racial Profiling: They Stopped Me Because I'm--

Racial Profiling: They Stopped Me Because I'm--


Many racial minority communities claim profiling occurs frequently in their neighborhoods. Police authorities, for the most part, deny that they engage in racially biased police tactics. A handful of books have been published on the topic, but they tend to offer only anecdotal reports offering little reliable insight. Few use a qualitative methodological lens to provide the context of how minority citizens experience racial profiling.

Racial Profiling: They Stopped Me Because I'm ------! places minority citizens who believe they have been racially profiled by police authorities at the center of the data. Using primary empirical studies and extensive, in-depth interviews, the book draws on nearly two years of field research into how minorities experience racial profiling by police authorities.

The author interviewed more than 100 racial and ethnic minority citizens. Citing 87 of these cases, the book examines each individual case and employs a rigorous qualitative phenomenological method to develop dominant themes and determine their associated meaning. Through an exploration of these themes, we can learn:

  • What racial profiling is, its historical context, and how formal legal codes and public policy generally define it
  • The best methods of data collection and the advantages of collecting racial profiling data
  • How certain challenges can prevent data collection from properly identifying racial profiling or bias-based policing practices
  • Data analysis and methods of determining the validity of the data
  • The impact of pretextual stops and the effect of Whren v. United States

A compelling account of how minority citizens experience racial profiling and how they ascribe and give meaning to these experiences, the book provides a candid discussion of what the findings of the research mean for the police, racial minority citizens, and future racial profiling research.

Michael L. Birzer was recently interviewed on public radio about his book, Racial Profiling: They Stopped Me Because I'm ------!


Recently, in Atlanta, Georgia, Tyler, a 42-year-old African American male was driving to the airport. As he eased his vehicle toward an intersection, he suddenly made a left turn from a far right lane. That’s illegal under Georgia traffic law. Tyler’s driving caught the attention of two nearby police officers who, within a matter of seconds, stopped him. Tyler rolled his window down and waited for the officers to make contact with him.

This is a summary of Tyler’s encounter with Atlanta law enforcement authorities from what’s been reported in the news, and from his Facebook page (www.facebook.com/thetylerperry) where he wrote at length about his run-in with the police.

After the officers made contact with Tyler, he attempted to explain to them that he made the turn to ensure he wasn’t being followed. One officer asked, “Why do you think someone would be following you?” But before he was able to answer, the second officer started banging on the passenger side window. The window was tinted and at first Tyler did not know who was doing the banging. Tyler was directed to roll his window down. He complied and rolled the passenger side window down and he discovered that it was another police officer who immediately asked, “What is wrong with you?” Both officers began launching questions at Tyler about why he thought he was being followed.

The officer on the driver’s side reached into the car and started pulling on the switch that turns the car on and off. He directed Tyler to (as Tyler writes on his Facebook page), “put your foot on the brake, put your foot on the brake!” Tyler later said he was confused as to what the officer was doing, or what he thought he was doing. “It looked like he was trying to pull the switch out of the dashboard. I finally realized that he thought that switch was the key, so I told him that it wasn’t the key he was grabbing.”

Tyler reached down into the cup holder to get the key, not realizing that the key had a black leather strap on it. As he grabbed the key, he saw that both officers tensed up. Tyler dropped the key and suddenly thought back to the advice his mother had given him when he was a young boy. He wrote, “My mother would always say to me, if you get stopped by the police, especially if they are white policemen, you say, ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir,’ and if they want to take you in, you go with them. Don’t resist, you hear me? Don’t make any quick moves, don’t run, you just go.”

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