NEW JERSEY STATE POLICE RACIAL PROFILING SEAN SILVERS PROF. ROMANO 11/6/00 Racial profiling is a law enforcement strategy that encourages police officers to stop and question African Americans simply because of their race. Although not raised as a major issue in the courtroom during the trial of the four police officers who shot Amadou Diallo (who were acquitted in February), racial profiling is often employed by police, officially and unofficially, and was likely a factor in the police shooting of Diallo. Racial profiling took off during the highly publicized explosion of crack cocaine in inner-city neighborhoods in the 1980s, which bolstered the perception of drugs as a black problem -- even though statistics showed most cocaine users were white. Drug enforcement agencies began using racial profiling to "sweep" neighborhoods and in arresting disproportionate numbers of African Americans for drug related offenses. A profile of potential drug users and sellers was developed to assist policemen in picking out and questioning likely offenders. These profiles continue to be used by law enforcement in combating crime. Recent high profile cases and studies of racial profiling in New Jersey and Maryland prompted Congress to introduce the Traffic Stops Statistics Study Act of 1999, directing Attorney General Janet Reno to conduct a nationwide study of the race of drivers who are stopped by law enforcement. Congress is expected to vote on the bill later this year. The current debate on racial profiling has been tied to allegations of police brutality and institutional racism. In response to one shooting of an unarmed black man by a police officer, video cameras were installed in police cruisers in Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland. A four-year investigation of alleged police brutality in Montgomery County by the Department of Justice resulted in demands that officers must ask drivers their age, sex and race, and then compile that data for regular reports as a way of monitoring future police behavior toward minority suspects. The bad side of Racial profiling is that it is inherently biased in its basic assumption that blacks are more likely to commit crimes than other minorities or whites. This assumption has precipitated numerous, documented incidents of police brutality against minorities on New Jersey and Maryland roads, and is certain to have done the same elsewhere. When racial profiling is used as a tactic in law enforcement, law-abiding African Americans justly fear for their safety and freedom. Racial profiling defeats its purpose by fueling mistrust and anger in black communities toward law enforcement because the policy encourages institutionalized racism in police forces nationwide. Some believe that racial profiling makes statistical sense. African Americans commit a disproportionately high percentage of the crimes that draw the attention of the police. While some innocent people may face police stops because of racial profiling, it is a small price to pay for safe streets. Crime rates in the U.S. have decreased significantly over the last decade, in large part because racial profiling has become an important part of a more aggressive law enforcement policy. There are some statistics that need to be examined while discussing racial profiling. Between 1992 and 1996, 58 percent of all car jackers were african american. African Americans only make up 12 percent of the population. African American make up 13 percent of the countryís drug users. 74 percent of all criminals sentenced to prison for drug possession are african american (Carrilli). It is human nature for a police officer to want to search a suspicious character. The statistics prove that blacks tend to be involved in more suspicious activity then many of the other races. In 1998, Governor Christian Whitman fired Col. Carl William's from the position of Superintendent of the State Police for comments he had made on the issue of Racial profiling. In response to a strong outcry from the black community, Whitman hired Carson Dumbar as the new superintendent. In a July article of USA Today, Governor Whitman was found to be a violator of racial profiling. † For months the New Jersey governor has spearheaded an effort to end racial profiling by the state police she once defended against charges that many officers systematically stopped people for no reason other than the color of their skin. But her position changed after the state's attorney general released a report last year that concluded racial profiling had been a common practice among state police. Since then Whitman has pushed for a major reform of the force and become a vocal opponent of racial profiling. Her flip-flop angered many state troopers, but won her few converts among the black activists who had long argued that New Jersey's state police engaged in racial profiling. Even so, as she pressed for reforms, Whitman seemed to have a legitimate claim on the moral high ground. But what once looked like an act of political courage began to take on the appearance of a disingenuous political retreat when a 4-year-old picture of the governor frisking a young black man recently surfaced. The 1996 photo shows Whitman searching the man, who is spread-eagled against a graffiti covered wall in Camden, N.J. The encounter occurred as she was riding with a state police unit that had been sent into the South Jersey city to help reduce crime ó and came after an officer had searched the man and determined that he was unarmed and not in possession of any contraband (Wickman). To try and deal with the racial profiling problem, Governor Whitman and Col. Dumbar have come up with a plan to diversify the pool of candidates of state police. New Jersey and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a class of unhired trooper applicants have settled a four-year-old lawsuit against the State Police by agreeing to a plan to emphasize both stringent educational standards and the need for diversity in the ranks. According to the agreement, signed by the State and both the national NAACP and its New Jersey Chapter, State Police has made a commitment to aggressively recruit a diverse pool of qualified applicants to take the written trooper qualification test. Specifically, New Jersey will now recruit and select State Police applicants who have 60 college credit hours and two years or more of life experience "indicating the maturity of the applicant." †††††††Such life experience,Attorney General Farmer said, need not be limited to police or military service, as was the case previously. It can also include two years of satisfactory employment that brings desirable skills into the corps. The new eligibility standard is in place for recruiting the 119th State Police class (Farmer, Jr.). Although these standards will diversify the pool of candidates, it will also lower the standards for the qualified applicants. Racial profiling is a widely debated issue. Is it wrong for a police officer to stop someone because of their race? The answer is yes. But the fact remains that the statistics show minorities have a high occurrence of crime. If a police officer profiles a person because of their appearance, they are just doing what they are trained for. It is a law enforcement officerís job to recognize suspicious activity. In some cases his or her life may depend on it. We live in a society where the community wants to be Utopian. We want crime to go down, but we donít want to attack the source where it comes from. Police officers perform dangerous tasks. They take precautions that many of us donít understand. Some times it may cause inconvenience for those of us who are effected by their duties. That is the price we have to pay to live in a safe society.