Race, Ethnicity, and Policing: New and Essential Readings

By Stephen K. Rice; Michael D. White Roberts | Go to book overview

6

Racially Biased Policing
A Review of the Judicial and Legislative Literature

Delores Jones-Brown and Brian A. Maule

The dealers and couriers are predominantly black males and black
females.

—Criminal Intelligence Report, Maryland State Police, 1992

Today with this drug problem, the drug problem is cocaine or mari-
juana. It is most likely a minority group that's involved with that.

—Colonel Carl A. Williams, former superintendent,
New Jersey State Police, Newark Star Ledger, 1999


Introduction

One way in which the term racial profiling has been defined is: The practice of stopping
and inspecting people who are passing through public places—such as drivers on public
highways or pedestrians in airports or urban areas—where the reason for the stop is a
statistical profile of the detainee's race or ethnicity.1

Though hotly debated in the attempts to empirically measure the existence (or not) of unwarranted use of race in law enforcement practices, such a definition, in operation, runs directly counter to the highly personal nature of constitutional rights embedded in the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights and Fourteenth Amendment.

In part, an individual's expectation of privacy and his or her right to be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion is secured in the Fourth Amendment, which provides, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or Affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized” (emphasis added). It is the violation of the particularity requirement, as it has been narrowly construed by the federal courts, that causes members of minority groups the most angst when hearing statements like those quoted at the beginning of this chapter—especially when they come from law enforcement officials. Such statements

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