Racial Profiling Essay

Racial Profiling Term paper

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Racial Profiling can be defined as the identification of racial factors, such as skin color, hair texture, facial structure, physical attire, gender, spoken language, accent, or religion. As noted above, there are many ways in which someone can be racially profile. Racial profiling has been used for many years. It started with segregation in the early 1900 s and recently with cases such as Major Aaron Campbell vs Florida. Yet, racial profiling has been overlooked and not investigated thoroughly until recently. Some believe that racial profiling is a good offensive tactic by law enforcement. But, others feel that singling out minorities to be involved in criminal activities is a violation of the law, the Fourth amendment, and their civil rights. According to Voice magazine, about 50 uniformed and undercover officers, Caucasians and African American, participated in an unscientific survey which contended that the felon look or Tupac-thug-for-life image and posture account for the majority of the stops and frisk done by officers.(Noel, 2000) During the survey the officers had to assign a high or low percentage to every piece of clothing a person is wearing. Therefore, showing us a glimpse into an officer s mind. The following is a list that may constitute suspicion for a stop and/or frisk according to the survey: 1. A baseball cap, worn at any angle, accounts for about 10%. 2. A bandana, particularly red or blue, hints a gang involvement and accounts for about 20%. 3. An XXL hooded sweattop, or hoodie , accounts for about 20%. 4. Sagging or baggy trousers, accounts for about 30% of stops. 5. Exposed plaid boxer shorts, accounts for about 10% of stops. 6. Expensive high-top sneakers, unlaced, suggesting that the person may have done prison time, accounts for about 10%. These are just mere suggestions of how a suspicious person may dress and could be involved in criminal activities. Living in New Jersey and growing up in Paterson, a below poverty level city, I understand what this officers are thinking when evaluating a person s attire. The clothing sometimes can determine what kind of gang a person can be in and/or their lifestyle. By all means though, I do not consent that clothing should be an indicator to abuse an individual s rights. Police officers also have a misrepresentation and misunderstanding about minorities and their cultures. Culture and religion play a big role in how police officers should treat the citizens of their community. For example, in some countries looking at the floor or looking away while talking to an officer represents respect towards an officer. In America, this action represents disrespect or avoidance of a confrontation with a police officer. Some officers believe the suspect may be involved in some type of criminal activity when in fact he or she is only showing respect towards authority. In some cites it seems like the skin color of a person represents how they should act, their criminal background, and/or their involvement in criminal activities. This problem has been ignored for too long and changes need to happen in order to keep peace in this country. In Florida in 1997, Aaron Campbell was pulled over by Orange County Sheriff Mankewich while driving on the Florida Turnpike. The stop ended with Campbell being wrestled to the ground, shot with pepper spray, and arrested. Mr. Campbell was a Major in the Metro-Dade Police Department and had identified himself as such when he was pulled over for an illegal lane change and having an obscured license tag. Campbell states the majority of people they are searching and humiliating are black people. That s why I was so angry. I went from a ordinary citizens and decorated officer to a criminal in a matter of minutes . On April 3, 1998, an Orlando jury convicted Major Aaron Campbell of only two misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest without violence, but acquitted him of the more serious battery charges. But, the charges involving officer Mankewich were dismissed during the trial when Judge Thomas Mihok ruled that Mankewich s traffic stop was illegal. Because of cases like the one above, minorities are scared or hesitant to interact with police officers. It is also a shame that the media or movies do not help minorities break away from the image of being criminals. Movies still use minorities to play their known criminals or drug dealers. This has given society a false image of minorities. An acronym which we are all familiar with is DWI, Driving While Intoxicated. But, DWB (Driving While Black) has become more common in our society. DWB relates to how racial profiling has provided us with a false image of protection. This acronym was made famous by a civil suit filed by Robert Wilkins, a Harvard law graduate and public defender in Washington, D. C., against the Maryland Police Department. In 1992, Wilkins and his family were driving home when they were stopped by police and subjected to an unwilling search by drug-sniffing dogs. Wilkins sued police, claiming that they had violated his civil rights. The police settle the lawsuit and agree to monitor their traffic stops. However, two years after the settlement, Maryland police statistics showed that although blacks only made up 14% of the drivers, 73% of the cars stopped on Interstate 95 between Baltimore and Delaware were driven by blacks. The fourth amendment states: 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 persons or things to be seized . If officers stop motor vehicles solely on the fact of the individual race or culture, it would be illegal. Racial profiling violates the Fourth Amendment. Yet, there is statistics and cases that proof racial profiling is a problem that this country is hiding and needs to be addressed. In Whren vs U.S., the question before the court was is a search constitutional if it would never have taken place if the police officer were not looking for an excuse to get around the requirement of the Fourth Amendment.? The Supreme Court declared that any traffic offense committed by a driver was a legitimate legal basis for a stop, regardless of the officer s subjective state of mind. This decision has given the police virtually unlimited authority to stop and search any vehicle they want. In my opinion, this decision is completely against what the Fourth Amendment stands for. In conclusion, this country needs to be aware of the action of police officers and their tactics. The United States is the world s melting pot. Therefore, we must learn to live amongst each other without discrimination. Racial profiling is basically a way of thinking rather than acting. We must erase this presumption from our existing minds and make ourselves aware of the changes in cultures that are occurring around us. Racial profiling must be dealt with in every police department in order for it to stop completely. It is time for our national leaders to realize that this is not about a few bad apples. It s about the whole tree, right down to the roots.

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