Racial Profiling: Know your Rights

Over the past years, racial profiling by police officers has become a great issue in this country. It has been the reason of many issues that have resulted in many traffic stops and created tensions between the communities that ended very badly. But even more specific, racial profiling on the highways is an extensive and ongoing problem that was going on in Arizona. According to the research study, there is traffic records that prove that Arizona’s Department of Public Safety officers were searching black and Latino drivers at much higher and double the rates than white drivers. (Pierson et al., 2017). Regardless of the searching inconsistency, state troopers did find contraband at almost equal rates without taking into consideration the drivers ethnicity. The data was collected by the Stanford Research study that examined the traffic stops that occurred in twenty states in which they found and analyzed similar search trends that were happening extensively in the United States.

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According to the study, the sheriff’s office in Maricopa County, it has called the attention of the public by their high racial profiling abuses that were going on for quite some time. The Department of Public Safety troopers, have searched Latino drivers in that county at a much higher rate than white drivers. To their surprise it was the second- highest search in the state. While traffic stops happened in that county, Latinos were searched through 10 percent of the routinely traffic stops, African-American drivers were searched for 8 percent of the time, while white drivers were only searched during less than 4 percent of the routinely traffic stops. (Pierson et al., 2017). It was found that Latino drivers in Maricopa County were the ones that were least likely to have contraband such as drugs or weapons in their possession and vehicles, but it was not surprising at all to find, that Latino drivers were still the ones that were being stopped and searched more frequently.

When it comes to these traffic stops, there is the hit rate and search rate which according to Daniel Wallace, an associate professor at Arizona State University school of Criminology and Criminal justice, there is a difference between the two that are essential when it comes to analyzing if there is bias while they are conducting these traffic stops and searches. At the end of the day when the DPS officers that are making these traffic stops are done doing the searches and don’t end up finding anything illegal in the vehicle searches, that is when it a concern of racial profiling starts to unfold. According to Wallace, that is when they have to look at why DPS officers are searching drivers and what exactly are the suspicions or motives that they have, but also looking closely to see if the suspicions they are getting are involved with some kind of racial stereotype and how they are using these assumptions to predict whether drivers are illegal or have something illegal in their vehicles.

When the Department of public Safety in Arizona was asked to give comments based on the Stanford data that was collected, they just gave a brief statement they wrote in an email. According to Bert Graves, the spokesperson of the Department they do not know the specific methods that are being used by the officers so they can’t really say anything about that only that the departments mission statement is not devoted to doing biased policing but rather doing actions that will have all the people that come in contact with the officers, to be treated with courtesy and respect (Pierson et al., 2017). Which is nothing compared to all the complains and findings of racial profiling gathered by the Stanford data research. In a situation like this it is ignorant not to acknowledge what the findings are suggesting when it comes to using racial profiling as a tactic stop drivers based on how they look to determine their legality in the united states and automatically stereotyping them by thinking they have something illegal in their vehicles.

The researchers at Stanford collected the data in a strong attempt to document all the officer’s interactions with the drivers, taking a closer look at what was really happening in those 10 to 15-minute conversations. The differences in search rates between white and nonwhite drivers were very noticeable in some of the counties located in Arizona. According to Sharad Guel, one of the authors of the study, black drivers in the counties of Apache, Navajo, and Greenlee, they were stopped and searched at greater rates, including Latino drivers that were on the highway of Pinal and Yavapai counties. The results showed that white drivers throughout the state were only searched 3 percent of the time while conducting the traffic stops. Whereas, black, and Latino drivers at the time of traffic stops were searched up to 7.5 percent of the time.

According to Alessandra Soler, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Arizona, there is still much more to do with these police departments in the state of Arizona. She also mentions that there is very little effort from the police department’s side to address the issues of systematic racism and finding a way to train their officers into a racial bias training. Action was taken when the American Civil Liberties Union decided to put a stop to the issue and filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Public Safety in Arizona back in 2001. This was in an effort to take action against the racial profiling cases that were only getting greater with Latino and Black drivers in the state of Arizona. This resulted in an agreement that required DPS officers to keep records of all the stops they made and, also recording them using the patrol car video systems that will help keep track of very traffic stop.

The results of the study show that nothing much has really changed based on the Stanford Data that was collected last year. It even seems that things got worse after the lawsuit since the searching rates in Black and Latino drivers went up to 10 percent when it used to be at 7.5. In Maricopa county from 2011 to 2015 black drivers were stopped and searched at a higher rate of 8 percent more than past years. Latino drivers that were in traffic stops from 2011 to 2015 was the highest, reaching up to 10 percent.

Racial profiling is clearly a sensitive subject that should be properly addressed and to take the right measures to stop this racial bias from going on in the state of Arizona and in every other state. It is not only dehumanizing but it is humiliating and disrespectful for the people facing this denigration. There is no way an officer can have the right to use assumptions and predictions to know someone’s legality in the United States. Also, to stop assumptions of whether someone is illegal or dangerous by the color of their skin or the way they look. They should enforce the use of racial bias training for police departments to eliminate these patterns of thinking and discriminatory behavior.

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Racial Profiling: Know Your Rights. (2019, Nov 18). Retrieved December 8, 2022 , from
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