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The Anatomy of Justice Part 3 of 4 – Profiling: The myth, the science and the behavior

The question arises as to why racial profiling occurs. It is known to be a violation of that person’s rights, and in most cases, also a violation of law enforcement policy. What in the psyche or the immaterial part of a person, the part which is responsible for one’s thoughts and feelings would cause them to make a choice, that is not only illegal but risky, rather than maintain the position of law enforcement which protects citizens?

That is a question still to be totally examined in the race relations area of social science but it certainly is in the realm of discrimination and/or bigotry, covert, overt and/or subconsciously.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that racial profiling violates the constitutional requirement that all persons be accorded equal protection of the law. The “Guidance Regarding the Use of Race By Federal Law Enforcement Agencies” that was issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2003 states:

“Racial profiling” at its core concerns the invidious use of race or ethnicity as a criterion in conducting stops, searches and other law enforcement investigative procedures. It is premised on the erroneous assumption that any particular individual of one race or ethnicity is more likely to engage in misconduct than any particular individual of another race or ethnicity.

Racial profiling in law enforcement is not merely wrong, but also ineffective. Race-based assumptions in law enforcement perpetuate negative racial stereotypes that are harmful to a supposedly rich and diverse democracy, and materially impair our efforts to maintain a fair and just society.

Empirical evidence confirms the existence of racial profiling on America’s roadways. Across both the national and local level, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that “police actions taken prior and during a traffic stop were not uniform across racial and ethnic categories.” National studies from east to west coast and from north to south confirmed the issue of racial profiling. The following statistics in some cases were astonishing.

• Per 10,000 residents, the Black stop rate was 3,400 stops higher than the White stop rate, and the Hispanic stop rate was almost 360 stops higher.
• Relative to stopped Whites, stopped Blacks were 127 percent more likely and stopped Hispanics were 43 percent more likely to be frisked.
• Relative to stopped Whites, stopped Blacks were 76 percent more likely and stopped Hispanics were 16 percent more likely to be searched.
• Relative to stopped Whites, stopped Blacks were 29 percent more likely and stopped Hispanics were 32 percent more likely to be arrested.
• Frisked Blacks were 42.3 percent less likely to be found with a weapon than frisked Whites, and frisked Hispanics were 31.8 percent less likely to have a weapon than frisked Whites.
• Consensual searches of Blacks were 37 percent less likely to uncover weapons, 23.7 percent less likely to uncover drugs, and 25.4 percent less likely to uncover any other type of contraband than consensual searches of Whites.
• Consensual searches of Hispanics were 32.8 percent less likely to uncover weapons, 34.3 percent less likely to uncover drugs, and 12.3 percent less likely to uncover any other type of contraband than consensual searches of Whites.

Just as motorists of color are subject to racial profiling, so too are pedestrians of color as well. This is especially true following the adoption of community-based policing strategies that often provide street-level law enforcement authorities with wide discretion to “clean up” the communities they patrol.

Professor Angela Davis has noted, “[t]he practical effect of this deference [to law enforcement discretion] is the assimilation of police officers’ subjective beliefs, biases, hunches, and prejudices into law.”

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No matter whether it’s “driving while Black,” “walking while Black,” or “bicycling while Black,” the numbers may vary but the issue is the same.

More disturbing is the use of law enforcement tactics to silence any Black community leadership or persons that are outspoken. Whether the tactic is harassment, actual arrest, or economic means including challenging law suits, these tactics of silencing are noted.

My view is mostly, these tactics are encouraged or pushed by police fraternities or unions. In combating this, the difficulty is that many law enforcement jurisdictions don’t maintain records of type of stops and therefore it is near impossible to zero in on any particular officer or policy violation.

Profiling continues and happens every day and most times goes unreported and the law remains unenforced. In my opinion it happens right here at home in Virginia Beach as well as other places across the country, there is no exception here. Until sufficient data recording on stops is in place and utilized, this issue will remain a problem. Truth be told, RACE remains an issue and many times a law enforcement cover-up!

…Conclusion Next Week

Andrew Jackson is a resident of Virginia Beach and active in the Seajack Civic League of that city.

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