How racial profiling influences law enforcement

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Racial profiling is the unfair practice of targeting individuals for suspicion of committing an offense solely based on the person’s race, ethnicity, or religion. Racial profiling often occurs when law enforcement profiles a suspected criminal using stereotypical assumptions founded on their appearance, skin color, or background. Although outlining a suspect based on their race is patently illegal, law enforcement in the United States still subjects marginalized groups and individuals to unwarranted search and arrest using the categorical presumption of their race or color. This discriminatory practice has resulted in the overrepresentation of specific communities, such as African-Americans and Mexicans, in the justice system because of the biased presupposition of their behavior. However, criminal profiling may also involve descriptions centered on race and ethnicity but only founded on the basis of connections with the crime. Racial profiling is an ineffective law enforcement tool as it limits community policing and alienates certain groups from public services.

Impacts on Community Policing

Racial profiling results in a lack of trust and unreliability of law enforcement in communities they are charged with the responsibility to protect. Effective contemporary policing requires a collaborative effort between society and law enforcement to devise practical measures to reduce and curb crime. Equally, police rely on crucial information from the public to deal with crime and threats to security. Such operational measures can only be efficient if supported by both the law enforcement agencies and the community as a whole. According to Lee (2017), profiling individuals from communities that are ostracized by law enforcement limits the interaction and trust of such groups when working with police.

Consequently, the lack of conviction regarding police practices increases the tensions with law enforcement in certain regions compared to other areas considered friendly to police. Communication breakdown between law enforcement and the community makes it difficult for police to combat crimes because of the lack of reliable sources of information and witnesses (Nadal et al., 2017). Individuals profiled based on their skin color, and ethnicity often live in constant fear of law enforcement even with no history of criminal offenses.

Alienation

Racial profiling alienates communities from law enforcement and other essential public services. Such discriminatory profiling of few individuals with criminal records often results in casting an entire community as suspicious established on baseless assumptions. Discriminatory criminal profiling undermines the fundamental principles of law enforcement, which is to protect every citizen’s rights regardless of race, ethnicity, or background (Nadal et al., 2017). Such rights include the protection against subjective arrest and unlawful interventions, the right to life and liberty, and the provision of security. Lee (2017) points out that the increased tensions between law enforcement and marginalized communities heighten the perceived ineffectiveness and unreliability of policing in such communities. Similarly, sidelining certain groups or regions from law enforcement contributes to social, economic, and political inequities (Warren, & Tomaskovic‐Devey, 2009). The distribution and allocation of resources equally affect the tensions between ostracized communities and law enforcement agencies. The relationship between law enforcement agencies and community leaders affects the supply of resources and funding of law enforcement programs.

Generally, racial profiling is not only an alarming issue within the criminal justice system but also a public safety concern. Criminal profiling based on the stereotypical assumption about race, religion, or ethnicity leads to the uneven provision of security and safeguarding of public amenities. Racial profiling contributes to the unequal resource distribution and alienation of communities from law enforcement programs and collaborative efforts aimed at reducing crime. Criminal profiling by law enforcement should only rely on various characteristics connected to illegal activity.

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  1. Lee, J. (2017). Of course, the cops are racist: Procedural justice, the perception of racial profiling, and citizen satisfaction with law enforcement. Criminology, Crim. Just. L & Soc’y18, 80.
  2. Nadal, K. L., Davidoff, K. C., Allicock, N., Serpe, C. R., & Erazo, T. (2017). Perceptions of police, racial profiling, and psychological outcomes: A mixed methodological study. Journal of Social Issues73(4), 808-830.
  3. Warren, P. Y., & Tomaskovic‐Devey, D. (2009). Racial profiling and searches: Did the politics of racial profiling change police behavior?. Criminology & Public Policy8(2), 343-369.
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