Racial Profiling in America is it Nonexistent in Law Enforcement

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Racial profiling has existed for a long time now. Racial profiling is the act of law enforcement targeting certain individuals due to an individual's race and color of their skin. Given the fact that lately law enforcement has been under the accusations of racially profiling the people they decide to stop. It has given the community a reason to mistrust them. Once the accusations have started, they have not stopped. Everything that law enforcement does is observed by the public and the public often perceives it as bad policing. Some research and studies argue that other factors surround an officer's decision to stop someone and that nothing can ever really measure or determine if an officer's decision to stop a driver or a pedestrian is because of racial profiling. Also, just because it (what can't be measured? Write it out, and don't put it') cannot be measured it does not mean that it does not exist. Hispanic and African American people are the communities that are often racially profiled by law enforcement. However, the African American community seems to be the most targeted. According to Legewie (2016), Blacks had a rate of 22.2% stops and in those stops, the police used physical force (p. 395). Whites had the lowest rate and the rate for Hispanics was lower than the rate for Black people (Legewie, 2016). Also, research shows that over all, minorities were targets (Legewie, 2016). African Americans accounted for 54% and Hispanics for 32% of stops (Legewie, 2016). (add thesis. Stuff from intro on outline: def of key terms, search strategies, description of the extent and nature, overview of organization.

The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs during the 1980s was the start of law enforcement targeting people of color. To reduce the high rates of the sales of drugs, law enforcement started racial profiling the people they stopped. They had the idea that a drug leader was always a Black person, therefore, the Black community resented the start of this era the most. It wasn't until 1988 when the rate of arrested black people came to a surge (Calnon & Egel, 2004). The two groups that were often caught with drugs on them were black and white people, but black people made up most of the percentage of minorities caught and 52% of black people arrested ended up being convicted with a felony (Calnon & Egel, 2004). Overall, black people had the highest rate of being caught and being convicted. However, white people were also stopped by law enforcement to search for drugs. This shows that law enforcement was not entirely just targeting the black community.

Driving While Black

Driving while black (DWB) is simply the racial profiling of African American drivers (Decker, Rojek, & Rosenfeld, 2012). What this means for this community is that they are stopped because of the color of their skin. A black driver driving a nice car may be stopped by a cop because they are driving a nice car and another reason why they are stopped is because they are probably driving around an area where they do not belong based on their race. (Decker, Rojek & Rosenfeld, 2012). The war on drugs was the cause for the creation of this acronym and the cause of law enforcement racial profiling people of color. This has caused fear in the black community.

Reasons for a search

Some studies argue that the police racial profiles the people they decide to stop. However, others argue that there is more to it than just deciding to stop a driver. A cop decides to pull over a driver and do a search because the driver might have been going over or under the speed limit, they committed a traffic violation, they seemed to be driving under the influence or the officer felt threatened by the driver's behavior (Decker, Rojek & Rosenfeld, 2012). Searches are more likely in stops of Black drivers than in those of White drivers, especially by White officers, controlling for other characteristics of the officer, driver, and stop (Decker, Rojek & Rosenfeld, 2012). There is no indication that an officer pulls over someone and does a search based on just the driver's ethnicity. Police reports, and other administrative records cannot prove that racial profiling was the key factor in stopping a certain individual (Decker, Rojek & Rosenfeld). Pickerill, Mosher, & Pratt (2009), also agree that there is no way that reports of any type can help analyze whether an officer was discriminant towards a driver he or she stopped (p. 19). Higgins, Gabbidon, & Vito (2010), also suggest that it's difficult to measure an officer's decision to stop someone and assume that he or she was motivated by race factors (p.15).

Reasons for a stop

Researchers have analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of respondents about the nature of police traffic stops. It was determined that the characteristics of the driver, such as being male and black, were most likely reasons for an officer to decide to cite the driver, search their car, arrest the individual, and use force (Egel & Calnon, 2004). Other role-playing factors that contribute into an officer's decision to stop a car is how many people were in the car, what time of the day it was when the driver was out on the street and most importantly, did the driver commit any traffic violations? (Higgins, Gabbidon, & Vito, 2010).

Officers who conduct traffic stops, their characteristics and drivers' characteristics

A study done for the St. Louis Police Department, showed that most of their officers who conducted traffic stops were White (57 %), male (85%), and more than 30 years old (75%) (Rojek, Rosenfeld, & Decker, 2012). Most of the drivers that were stopped were black (59 %), male (76 %), more than 30 years old (56 %), and most of them, if not all, did not live in that area of the city (57%) (Rojek, Rosenfeld, & Decker, 2012). Most stops were conducted on city streets (87%) and conducted around 6:00 a.m. to 5:59 p.m. (65%) (Rojek, Rosenfeld, & Decker, 2012). Roughly half of the stops were conducted by district patrol officers and another 22% were conducted by officers assigned to the Traffic Safety division (Rojek, Rosenfeld, & Decker, 2012). The remainder of the stops were by officers assigned to Mobile Reserve, Crime Suppression, Detectives, or other special units (Rojek, Rosenfeld, & Decker, 2012). According to Legewie (2016), there is a disproportional number of stops that targets members of minority groups, 10% of stops involving whites, 54% African-Americans, and 32% Hispanics (p. 395). These racial disparities and the rates of minorities stopped by police officers do seem troubling, but the question remains if these are indications of racial profiling? However, in this study done by Legewie (2016), it showed that the success rate in terms of arrests, weapons, or contraband found tends to be higher among whites compared with minority groups, which might indicate that the police may be using higher standards to stop white people (p. 395). A study done by West (2003) found that drivers did not drive on the roadways that represented their community, black drivers in this study made up less than 3% of the residential population but were 13% of the drivers on the roadways (West, 2003). Greater proportions of black drivers drove nearer the black communities and fewer drove near the white communities (West,2003). Black drivers were stopped at rates higher than their representation in the driving population (West 2003). They were about twice as likely as white drivers to be stopped (West 2003). These percentages varied by place. Rates increased as black drivers moved away from black communities toward white communities (West, 2003). Black drivers were stopped at rates three times higher than their representation in the driving population (West, 2003).

Areas where traffic stops, and searches occur

The racial composition of the area where searches in traffic stops occur have to do a lot with the rates and percentage of the races that are stopped (Natarajan, 2014). If an officer's assigned patrolling area is mainly made up of Hispanics and Blacks, then he or she will be conducting stops for just that race and statistics will reveal that. The results for the area with the lowest percentage of Black residents (and the largest number of stops) generally conform to the application of law according to officer and citizen race (Natarajan, 2014). Stops involving White officers and Black drivers were most likely to result in a search, followed in descending order by stops of White drivers by White officers, stops of Black drivers by Black officers, and stops of White drivers by Black officers (Natarajan, 2014).

Psychological effects on driver's that are stopped

Critical Race Theory (CRT is a paradigm that has its roots in the legal profession and has gained traction in other disciplines) provides a foundation for understanding that violence against Black people stems from a larger narrative, explicating that any evaluation of contemporary racism and/or racial oppression must take into account the influences that White supremacy has had on the American psyche (Aymer, 2016). A case study done Aymer (2016), revealed that black men are impacted after being stopped or being stopped and frisked. In the case of a 16-year-old adolescent, Jamal, he was stopped and frisked by a police officer Jamal was on his way for a therapy session (Aymer, 2016). He had been going to therapy for a while and it was the first time he had been stopped and frisked (Aymer, 2016). This affected his visits to his therapy sessions (Aymer, 2016). He did not go anymore after because he feared that he would be stopped again (Aymer, 2016). It is even more reasonable for an adolescent to fear these types of things and especially when being black. Jamal was walking to his therapy session and he was stopped by an officer. The officer did not give him a reason as to why he was stopping him (Aymer, 2016). Jamal had done nothing at all. Jamal was then detained along with other adolescents that were also stopped and frisked (Aymer, 2016). When Jamal arrived at his therapy session, he was anxious and only wanted to get through the session and go home (Aymer, 2016). He even made a comment to his doctor that he was thinking about moving from New York (Aymer, 2016). Everything that Jamal was feeling were clear indications that he was feeling the impact of being racial profiled because of being black (Aymer, 2016). He also had trouble comprehending why he was stopped by the police when he was an A student who did not sag his pants and he did not perceive himself as a thug or thief (Aymer, 2016). Grief and sadness overcame on him. He continued to go to therapy session and was encouraged to express his feelings towards the police encounters he has had (Aymer, 2016).


(cite during summary)Racial profiling has existed for long time in the Unites States. It targets blacks and Hispanics the most. The war on drugs caused law enforcement to stop black drivers and black pedestrians the most to help decrease the use of illegal substances or the selling of them. Since then, the black community has long accused law enforcement of racial profiling them. Although, police departments justify their actions based on realistic factors such as where was the driver when he was stopped, how fast or how slow was he or she is driving, did driver commit a driving infraction, and most importantly, in what area was the driver or pedestrian at the time of the stop. There's no doubt that racial profiling exists, but researchers admit that there's no way to exactly measure it or confirm that police racial profile the people they stop. Some of the statistics presented showed that blacks had a higher rate of being stopped than for white people. A surprising finding from one of the studies was that white officers used more rigorous standards when stopping a white driver. Some studies and research also showed that black people were happy with the policing done in their area. However, this was the turn out for the Seattle study because the area that was studies had a low rate of crime. In other areas that were predominately made up of black people and that had higher rates for them to be stopped or searched were not happy with the policing in the area. It all depends of the geographical context of an area.


(also cite here)Not all of the research revealed that racial profiling occurs when an officer stops a driver. The rates for black people being stopped are significantly higher than for whites and Hispanics. However, it does not always mean that whites and Hispanics aren't stopped. As some research revealed, some white officers were more likely to stop white drivers than black drivers. However, nothing really can indicate if racial profiling was the cause for a stop. The way the media started portraying black people took a toll on the black community. The War on Drugs made them targets of the police and then DWB came afterwards. It seems like it all points to them but there's not real justification to it. Minorities will mostly always be over represented in the rates of people stopped by the police. (Add implications from outline as well)

Suggestions for future research

My suggestion for future research is for researchers to really dig deep into police reports and if possible to dig deep to find videos related to the traffic stops they are researching. Also, another suggestion is for researchers to question the sample of people they take and ask them if they know about their rights when being stopped and do they also know their rights when asked to be searched by a police officer. Do they know that the officer needs to have probable cause to stop them in the first place? If this were to be asked, it may even educate the public and next time that they are stopped, they may even be able to ask the officer what the probable cause was for the stop. In no way am I encouraging drivers to challenge an officer's authority, but a driver must know why they are being stopped and an officer should be able to provide that information for the driver. Another suggestion is for law enforcement to be open about answering all questions. Their honesty is important to conclude if they are racial profiling the drivers they stop or not. If they were to be sincere, holding back no truths, then research and more studies will start to make more sense. Going off from police reports and administrative records are simply not enough resources. It will be tough to get officers to say what really happens when they stop a driver. My last suggestion is for law enforcement to work on community policing. They need to build a bond with the community they patrol in. This can possible decrease the assumptions that they are racial profiling the drivers they stop. If they start to build these good relationships with their community, and the community is open about being approached by law enforcement, then not only would the police be content but also the community will no longer have fear towards the police. My last suggestion wold be for more future research on the psychological effects that drivers have after being stopped or stopped and frisked. Not many sources exist that talk about the effects that weigh on drivers. It should be out there since this happens to a lot of drivers and especially to minority groups.

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Racial Profiling in America Is it Nonexistent in Law Enforcement. (2019, Dec 09). Retrieved December 4, 2023 , from

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