Racial Profiling and Police Use of Force

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Racial profiling is a prevalent topic that tugs at the heartstrings of people all across America. Racial profiling affects so many people because government officials such as law enforcement and U.S. courts are believed to use this technique. Government officials and law enforcement have practiced racial profiling, but the government must understand how to treat everyone equally despite commonly using this technique. Documents have shown African Americans are arrested and incarcerated at a higher rate than any other racial group. Studies show that In 2014, African Americans created 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total 6.8 million correctional population. This is the equivalent of 1 out of 3 African Americans have been in jail or probation. (last name). This problem will not solve itself and American citizens must use their right to protest to take a stand against this discrimination and inequality displayed by law enforcement.

Racial profiling has been practiced by law enforcement for a long time and people of color, whether black or Mexican, always tend to fall victim to this. In most cases, white people are committing more crimes than African Americans, but the difference is that African Americans are punished way more severely than white people are. This is also the case because African Americans tend to be pulled over more often than white people do. The fact that African Americans were being incarcerated at such a high rate began to raise questions for many African Americans; one of whom was Kenneth Meeks. Meeks is the author of a book called Driving while Black. One question that she tackled in her book was, Do African Americans actually commit more crimes than other races? or is there racism and injustice amongst law enforcement in the U.S. justice system? She began her answer by discussing the United States v. Martinez-Fuerte case of 2011. This case began with a Hispanic man who was driving near the border of California and Mexico when he was stopped by the American Border Patrol. Simply based on his ethnicity, the police proceeded to ask him several questions and search his car. This man, was not an illegal immigrant so he felt like his Fourth Amendment right was being stripped from him because he was clearly stopped and interrogated because of his Mexican ancestry. The court ruled that the border patrol appropriately stopped him and that the fourth amendment was not violated during this search. They also said that the border patrol was simply doing its job in keeping undocumented immigrants out of the country and border patrol can lawfully search anyone that they suspect is crossing illegally.

There is a vast disparity amongst African Americans and white people that are incarcerated. There are typically tens of thousands more African Americans in jail than white people and this can be backed up by data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), at the end of 2016, federal and state prisons locked up about 486,900 inmates who were black and 439,800 who were white. The difference is almost 47,100, but the same survey shows at the end of 2009, there were 584,800 blacks and 490,000 whites with a difference of almost 94,800. The difference between 2009 and 2016 saw a 17% decrease in the number of black inmates during that span, which was greater than the 10% decrease in the number of white inmates. These statistics show that African Americans are evidently being incarcerated at a much higher rate than white people, but it seems like progress is being made as there was a larger decrease of African Americans in jail vs the decrease of white people in jail from 2009 to 2016

African Americans and police often have very different views regarding racial profiling. These notions that racial profiling occurs is a view that African Americans are all too aware of. After the incidents in Ferguson and Baltimore, where African Americans were unjustifiably killed by law enforcement, the issue of racial bias was evident to America and everyone saw how much of a different race can play in the way law enforcement assesses a situation. According to the New York Times, among US states, California has the highest racial profiling rate when it comes to police officers pulling over African Americans for traffic violations. If the law enforcement knows the driver is African American they become very cautious and proceed very carefully. If they have the slightest amount of suspicion or doubt, they call for backup immediately. Law enforcement tends to take discrimination even further by unrightfully searching the driver and their car because they have reasonable suspicion based on the color of the driver's skin. However, determining whether or not something is racial profiling is extremely difficult to gauge because there is sometimes increased crime rates in African American neighborhoods which makes it hard to determine whether there was racial profiling or the police simply know they're in an area with a high crime rate and are on edge.

Even if an African American is completely innocent, law enforcement still proceeds very cautiously as they don't trust an innocent African American as they would, say a white person.

However, African Americans tend to dictate how police are seen in the media because African Americans are usually being pulled over by them. These complaints are often the cause of police being blamed for racial profiling. Although most of the time, African Americans are pulled over for minor issues with their car and if they do not cooperate with the police, physical force will be typically be used against the individual and it's likely that they can be shot and killed without further question. In August 2017, officers pulled over Mr. Walter Scott for a broken headlight. He was unharmed and after searching his car, the officer could not find anything, but once the officer tried to detain him for having no driving license, Walter began running and the officer opted to shoot Mr. Scott in the back 9 times. In a video from a New York Times reporter, it showed that both officers and the Scott are standing and talking, but once Scott started running the officer didn't even attempt to pursue and chose to simply shoot him despite being no threat. By the time the paramedics arrived, Mr.Scott had died; with his face on the ground and handcuffs on his hands as if he were a criminal or as if he were someone who was justifiably shot. Yet at the end of the day, justice was served and the officer was charged with first-degree murder. However, it was too late because Mr. Scott was already dead. He was a hard-working middle-class citizen but because of the racial bias that police have for African Americans, he suffered a repugnant death at the hands of people who are supposed to protect and serve the community. Police officers have this tendency that African Americans are criminals who have no rights and that they're less worthy than other races and that is essentially what racial profiling boils down to and the fact that African Americans are deemed less worthy to live than other races is completely unacceptable.

African Americans have had to come to terms with this racial profiling and they realize that they will continue to be victims of racial bias for years to come. Drummond and Tammerlin, the lead researcher and director of the Institute on Race and Justice, did research on how to survive in today's society growing up as a colored person, or in general as an African American. They soon found out that this is a very difficult matter that plagues all African American communities. This affects them not only when growing up but also how conscious they have to be while they're driving. For most parents, they're happy to see their child grow up and get their driving license because they see their child has grown up and within a few years their child could be completely independent. However, for African Americans, this is not the case. Amongst African American kids, their parents don't want them to by themselves when it comes to driving or being independent. African American parents are very much aware of police and racial profiling so they are very hesitant when it comes to letting their children go out on their own because they don't want them to fall victim to a racial bias incident with the police.

In many racial profiling incidents, law enforcement act with no regard to the law despite their job being to uphold the law. An example of this was seen on August 15, 2017, when a Michigan state trooper was in pursuit of 15-year-old Damon Grimes. Grimes' heartbreaking death begins with him riding his ATV and an officer in pursuit. When Grimes doesn't pull over, the officer shoots him with a taser from behind which is an utter violation of the law. A second later, Grimes crashes into a parking truck and his ATV flips over. For the first couple of minutes, there was a chance that he might survive but the officers could do nothing but watch him helplessly as his condition drastically became worse and seconds later, Grimes passed away. When the other officers arrived on the scene, they looked at Grimes' body and they immediately turned off their body cam. Most officers just walked away because they were unable to look Grimes' face and in how bad of condition it was. When one officer unaware of everything arrived at the scene, another officer approached him and shut off his camera. This wasn't because his body was in bad condition or it because it was too graphic for other people to watch, it was because the officers knew that they did something wrong and they didn't want the public to see the video because they knew this would warrant a national outcry. Grimes was unarmed and he had no weapon yet he was shot from behind while he was driving his ATV which is a total violation of the law as police are not allowed to shoot or taser someone while their vehicle is on move, but this is just another example of how police officers act above the law.

Police prejudice and racial profiling are the only things responsible for many dishonest arrests and the unjustifiable deaths of African Americans. There is something that has to be done because whether we agree or not, there is racial profiling in America, and many of us refuse to speak against it unless we know somebody close to us who is affected by it. We can't let this happen because it's happening to people all across the US and it's difficult and unfortunate to watch a certain group of people in our country being treated like criminals or drug dealers just because of their skin color. The worst part is our justice system simply supports the police officers through all of this as if the officers are honestly doing their job without any bias.

At this point, almost everyone in the US has heard of racial profiling and has seen police discrimination wreck havoc on African American communities. African Americans have suffered all throughout America's history and one would hope that America would want to make amends for this, yet almost 250 years later they still remain one of America's most oppressed racial groups. This can be accredited to the fact that police officers tend to act above the law and as if the law doesn't apply to them. We can also hold the justice system accountable for turning a blind eye to this unreasonable treatment of one of America's largest racial groups by the law enforcement who use invalid methods of discrimination to convict African Americans of crimes due not to the fact that they are criminals, but because that police simply view them as such.

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Racial Profiling and Police Use of Force. (2019, Aug 02). Retrieved April 13, 2024 , from

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