Racial Profiling

11218 words 45 pages


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Racial profiling and searches: Did the politics of racial profiling change police behavior?*

Patricia Y. Warren
Florida State University

Donald Tomaskovic-Devey
University Massachusetts, Amherst
Research Summary
Scholarly research has documented repeatedly that minority citizens are disproportionately stopped, searched, and arrested relative to their baseline populations. In recent years, policymakers have brought increased attention to this issue as law-enforcement agencies across the
United States have faced allegations of racial profiling. In the 1990s, the politics generated by accounts of racially biased policing placed heightened
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Such a board could assist police administrators in identifying problem officers as well as in making recommendations for corrective action. Finally, external social and political pressure must continually be placed on police forces to improve equity in police behavior. These external forces can assist in creating opportunities for police to increase the overall quality and efficacy of policing.
Keywords: racial profiling, police searches, hit rates, racial inequality

Racial profiling is a term used to describe the practice of targeting or stopping an individual based primarily on race or ethnicity, rather than on individualized suspicion or probable cause. It became particularly politicized in the late 1990s as police departments came under media and political scrutiny for disproportionately targeting minority drivers (Farrell,
McDevitt, Cronin, and Pierce, 2003; Harris, 2002; Weitzer and Brunson, in press). Civil rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties
Union (ACLU) and the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP) launched national media campaigns calling for a ban on racially biased policing, with particular emphasis on the use of racial profiles in drug interdiction efforts. Shortly thereafter, the U.S.
Department of Justice entered into consent decrees with several jurisdictions, explicitly prohibiting discriminatory vehicle stop and search practices. The consent decrees


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