The practice of racial profiling has been a constant debate to the law enforcement authorities as human rights advocates’ state that the Act is an unjust and unethical practice. The law enforcers declare that it is a necessary and justified practice. The practice dates back to the 1980s during the war on drugs whereby the police started to target specific ethnic groups on the mere assumption that they were suspects. The practices still exist today and while it is deemed discriminatory most of the states actually allow it to happen on the basis that past crimes have been associated with the particular groups and profiling only acts as a proactive initiative to curb crime. The media has further aggravated the profiling making sure that the mention of a particular ethnic group, religion, race or nationality forms an image of their crime prevalence. Crimes are many in number, but police have been said to discriminate against certain groups and act disproportionately in the exercise of justice. It is important that we understand the concept of racial profiling and also from a theoretical background of how unacceptable or unacceptable it should be in defining criminal activities.
Racial profiling: Ethical Thought in Criminal Justice Professionals
A moral and ethical approach to various contemporary duties is not only a vital ingredient to fundamental personal values but is also a professional practice. The question of whether racial profiling is ethical or if it is a necessary evil continues to bring out heated debates. According to Aguirre, (2004), ethical behavior is about treating other people with the respect they deserve and also showing fairness, honesty, and goodness. Profiling occurs in a variety of settings each which carries its purpose. The primary application of profiling is evidenced in the law enforcement and criminal investigation so as to understand the nature and patterns of crimes so as to try and predict their next move for purposes of public affairs. However, the private sector also employs profiling in marketing and information dissemination initiatives and aims at creating a better understanding of the market so as to build viable marketing strategies. According to Byars (2009), racial profiling is the practice of considering or targeting a particular group based on ethnicity, gender, nationality or religion to be associated with crime. Media has played a significant role in swaying people's minds to believing that certain groups are related to certain offenses. This proposition is sometimes based on mere generalized assumptions and is very prevalent in law enforcement in the US where it is considered normal and right. According to Ward (2002), it is paramount to understand the ethical and moral considerations that the racial profilers need to make to maintain ethical standards to avoid making it a discriminatory practice. Racial profiling techniques have advanced through a range of algorithm techniques and a diversity of knowledge and should, therefore, be used for the legitimate purpose and not as a tool for showing supremacy or discrimination. Many debaters argue that racial profiling is a violation of civil rights, but others think that it is a necessary evil since the profiling is based on past trends. This research paper aims at analyzing and understanding the concept of racial profiling in the US and how prevalent it is today and also looks at how ethical theories relate to the practice.
Prevalence of racial profiling
The prevalence of racial profiling is mostly in associated with law enforcement and the maintenance of order by the enforcement authorities. According to Byars (2009), contenders assert that the history of some of the crimes with most of the national profiles calls for constant scrutiny as a law enforcement technique and a proactive measure to curb crime. Racial profiling dates back to the 1970 and 1980s when there was an operation for the termination of drug and substance abuse. The law enforcement agencies trained police so as to equip them with skills of how criminal minds work and how to identify a suspicious pedestrian or driver. The lessons reached a point where they were distorted and ineffective and now the police instead based suspicion on race and ethnicity. According to Aguirre, (2004), the police officers were known to pull over motorists based on race and then they would engage the driver in a heated conversation and search their vehicle. Any anxiety or fear was used as a basis for suspicion and arrest which was not fair since the harassment created tension for the motorists which made them panic. During the period of the world war two, a large number of Japanese immigrants were rounded up and placed in camps even when they were legal citizens.
Racial profiling in America
Empirical studies have shown that there is a high prevalence of racial discrimination in the United States. Highway surveys have been conducted to establish the percentage of vehicles that are stopped by police and the drivers who are issued. A study by Smith and Petrocelli (2001),cited by Coates (2004), which aimed at establishing the frequency of racial profiling by traffic police in Virginia, city of Richmond. The study showed that the traffic police targeted more stopped more black people than any other and charged most of them with petty crimes while most of the white people vehicles passed along. A study by Zing Raff et.al (2000) showed that most of the traffic stops were not specifically race biased, but the searches and arrests were more common to the black people. According to a study by Lamberth (1997) cited by Aguirre, (2004), on the Mary Land highways, it was found that white drivers violated as many rules as black people, but the chances of arrest for the black population went up to 70% while some of the white violators walked.
According to Byars (2009), the professional purpose of profiling is to distinguish unique characteristics of a particular category of persons so as to establish criminal or market trends. It is very helpful when presumptions made are based on real statistical data to narrow down a group of suspicious individuals and not biased judgment (Ward, 2002). The practice has fallen short of ethics and morals in judgment and has now in the recent past become a basis for discrimination and prejudice. According to Coates (2004), the racial profiling habit developed from the official criminal forensic investigations of crimes such as drug offense, murder and theft and then the law enforcement system based their suspicion of profiles of gender, ethnicity, nationality and religion. Creating genetic profiles of certain people based on their characteristics leads to inefficient systems of law enforcement since the authorities generalize suspicions and may, therefore, make biased judgments not based on appropriate suspicious behavior. According to Ward (2002), the law enforcement officials are known to randomly stop shady criminals and subject them to a series of questions not based on how they were behaving but based on their natural characteristics. In the United States police, white police officers are known to pull over black people from traffic and subject them to unlawful arrest and questioning without a firm foundation of violation (Byars, 2009). The practice has commonly come to be known as “driving while black” meaning that so long as you’re black and driving, chances of an arrest are very high.
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