Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Racial Misuse of "Criminal Profiling" by Law Enforcement: Intentions and Implications

Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Racial Misuse of "Criminal Profiling" by Law Enforcement: Intentions and Implications

Article excerpt


This article examines critical issues regarding criminal profiling, its misuse by law enforcement, and its utility to solve serious crimes with the technique, hereinafter known and called "Criminal Profiling". The specific issue under investigation is the misuse of criminal profiling in the United States, and its impact on African Americans, and other minorities. In that realm, a discussion and analysis of the importance of criminal profiling, the development of criminal profiling and, the misuse of criminal profiling as a critical issue in the 21^sup st^ century are analyzed.


This paper investigates criminal profiling. Criminal profiling has always been an important law enforcement tool in solving crime. Profiling narrows the field of investigation by indicating the kind of person most likely to have committed a crime by focusing on certain behavioral and personality characteristics. It is a collection of leads, and has been described as an educated attempt to provide specific information about a certain type of suspect (Geberth, 1981), and as a biographic sketch of behavioral patterns, trend, and tendencies (Vorpagel, 1982). Behavioral forensic science has been used for years by law enforcement in crime solving by creating psychological profiles of criminals (Houck & Siegel, 2006). Particular psychological calling cards help and allow law enforcement to manage criminal events that may demand detail investigation. These behavioral analysts gather information from the victims and crime scenes to determine possible characteristics of the perpetrator(s). However, it must be emphasized that criminal profiling does not necessarily provide the exact identity of the offender and as a result, many law enforcement agencies around the world are still skeptical of the work of criminal profilers (Douglas, Ressler, Burgess, and Hartman, 1986).

This paper attempts to present an overview and history of criminal profiling used in the Criminal Justice System here in the United States, and would show that criminal profiling has been a legitimate investigation tool for law enforcement but is often misused in racially insensitive way by some law enforcement professionals. The paper examines progression of criminal profiling usage and should also show how it turned into and has become a dreaded investigative tool for some segment of the U.S society. The need to re-examine criminal profiling stems from (1) racial profiling which has and continues to be a public relations crisis for law enforcement and (2) profiling tends to be used by law enforcement agents more frequently on racial and ethnic minorities which may have unique psychological implications. Thus, it is imperative that attempts be made to re- evaluate the current system that yields the best results necessary to restore the legitimacy of the "original intent of criminal profiling".

The issue is that law enforcement criminal profiling is otiose and often racist, and the society at large fails to credit the tool as a method or as the procedure or means of solving or clearing crime or preventing criminal tendencies sometimes with or without probable cause. The problem here is whether or not to keep it as a mechanism of solving crime problems or to eliminate it as racist and otiose. This paper examines validity/invalidity of criminal profiling, since it does not apply to society as a whole. Law enforcement should guide and monitor police discretions that lead to criminal profiling. Various theories have been advanced for changes in the criminal justice system particularly the police administration but none of these theories has advocated for upholding the use of criminal profiling officially nor quash it as a racist tool against minorities.

A number of theoretical and practical consequences flow from this paper. Looking at its phenomenological significance, one can identify several points regarding law enforcement criminal profiling as discussed supra. …

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