African Americans and Racial Profiling by U.S. Law Enforcement: An Analysis of Police Traffic Stops and Searches of Motorists in Nebraska, 2002 - 2007

By Kamalu, Ngozi Caleb | African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS, May 2016 | Go to article overview

African Americans and Racial Profiling by U.S. Law Enforcement: An Analysis of Police Traffic Stops and Searches of Motorists in Nebraska, 2002 - 2007


Kamalu, Ngozi Caleb, African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS


Introduction

Empirical research to date suggests significant practice of racial profiling in law enforcement. This research presents the picture of Nebraska's traffic data for any indications of disparate treatment of minorities, between 2002 and 2007. The study also provides valuable insight into the way traffic stops are conducted in our nation's cities and states, as well as helps provide answers regarding the extent/ scope, intent and rationale of racial profiling.

This research involves extensive literature review, whose undercurrent assumptions will be tested, using the Nebraska traffic data as a case-study. The main objectives of this study are:

· To establish a nexus between race and bias policing

· To establish the central and emergent theme from numerous empirical researches on the relationship between race and racial profiling as expressed in police stops, searches and arrest.

· To explore the nature, breadth/scope and patterns of exposure of Black motorists and other ethnic minorities to racial profiling.

· To discuss the history of racial profiling

· To analyze the courts' positions on the topic;

· To define racial profiling

· To review related literature on the theme

· To analyze Nebraska's law enforcement data between 2002 and 2007

· To make recommendations regarding policies in order to reduce risks based on bias in law and law enforcement.

This study relies on data from reports submitted to the legislature of the State of Nebraska, from 2002 to 2007. The submissions reflect the information on the aggregate data collected and submitted by the state of Nebraska's law enforcement establishment covering this period. The data formed the basis of the traffic stops in Nebraska, submitted under the auspices of the Nebraska Commission on Law and Criminal Justice of April 1, 2008.

As a matter of impact, the researcher believes that his findings will assist the law enforcement community, government and stake holders in the criminal justice sectors in the following manner:

- To reduce biased law enforcement which swells the prison population and negatively affects productivity, family life and strains national, state and local financial resources.

- Device ways to diffuse the tension between law enforcement and the minority community

- Renew the diminishing legitimacy of the government on the part of its ethnic minorities who perceive its actions as mostly unjust, illegal and unequal, degrading, humiliating and racist.

In conclusion, the study presents the "good practices" in policing as supported by academic research. It also examines the merits and shortcomings of racial profiling on effective law enforcement policing and ends by recommending necessary and effective reforms that would enhance the image and tactics of law enforcement before the public. By so doing, the appropriateness of policing practices would become more acceptable to both the police and the general public; and legitimizing them as effective law enforcement strategies in the promotion of good police-community relations worthy of serving as a model of police practices in the State of Nebraska in particular and the United States at large.

In this study, the terms "black" and "African American" will be used synonymously. Also, "racial profiling" will be used interchangeably with "bias" policing.

Ethnic Profiling: Concept and Definitions

Definition1.: Racial profiling is defined by Barlow, David E. and Barlow, Hickman M (2002) as "any situation in which race is used by a police officer or agency to determine the potential criminality of an individual" Definition 2: In the words of Goodey, Joe (2006), "The police practice of stopping someone for questioning or searching on the basis of their ethnic or racial appearance and not because of their behavior or because they match an individual suspect description." Goodey argued that ethnic profiling practices in America and abroad have been given impetus by the terrorist attacks in 2001. …

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