Unfortunately, racial profiling happens throughout communities. We see instances of it in law enforcement, education, employment, and between individuals in public spaces. Some states, including New Jersey, have begun taking affirmative steps towards addressing this problem, but there is still a lot of change that needs to happen.
What is Racial Profiling?
Racial profiling is a term commonly used to define a discriminatory practice in law enforcement. The American Civil Liberties Union aptly defines racial profiling as “the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.” In other words, racial profiling occurs when police officers single out individuals in the investigation of a crime due to the person’s race, rather than targeting an individual based on his or her actions or probable cause.
What is the Intent of Racial Profiling in Law Enforcement?
Racial profiling occurs because police are trying to target a group of individuals that they believe are more likely than not to perpetrate crimes. Consequently, the argument that most officers set forth in defending racial profiling is that they are trying to prevent criminal activity before it occurs or identify someone in the midst of a criminal act before they can get away. However, this practice is completely arbitrary and is purely based on discriminatory assumptions about a race of individuals. For this reason, many states are beginning to ban these practices.
How can Racial Profiling Damage the Police Reputation in the Community?
Racial profiling is damaging to a community because it is not legitimate police work. It does not entail proper investigation and is contrary to several constitutional principles of equal protection under the law, due process under the law, and rights to privacy. When a police unit carries out the majority of their operation using racial profiling, it diminishes the trust that the community has in their police force to actually investigate a crime a determine who perpetrated it. Instead, the public begins to see the police force as ineffective and discriminatory, rather than a helpful institution designed to ensure public safety.
What are Some Other Ways Racial Profiling Occurs?
As noted above, racial profiling most commonly refers to situations in which law enforcement targets individuals in the investigation of a crime, solely on the basis of race. However, racial profiling can occur outside of law enforcement as well. It can occur, for example, when an individual is targeted for employee disciplinary action on the basis of race or investigates an event at the workplace by targeting individuals of a particular race. It can happen in schools where the administration targets an individual of a particular race in the investigation of events that happen on campus. Finally, racial profiling can occur when an individual calls 9-1-1 to report an individual solely on the basis of his or her race.
Why is Racial Profiling Wrong?
Racial profiling is wrong because it arbitrarily, and often incorrectly, presumes that an individual of a particular race has committed a crime. It cuts against many of the principles that our country was founded on, including equal protection under the law and protection from the tyranny of law enforcement. It is dehumanizing to the victims, and it perpetuates a false belief that individuals of a particular race are more dangerous, more likely to commit crimes, or more likely to raise tensions between law enforcement and members of races who are typical targets of racial profiling.
How Can We Stop Racial Profiling?
Stopping racial profiling starts with understanding how your own implicit biases affect how you think about other individuals or how you respond to certain situations. When you identify your own implicit biases, you can begin to change your own perspective, then begin sharing that perspective with others. Contact your local government officials and call for change in your police department practices. Research and understand the effects of racial profiling in your community. When you see racial profiling happening and can calmly and safely intervene, consider doing so. Although these may seem like insignificant changes, they have a massive impact on the future.
How Zeff Law Firm can Help if You’ve Been the Victim of Racial Profiling
Unfortunately, racial profiling is all too common. It can emerge in the hiring practices and employment opportunities of various employers. It frequently manifests itself in law enforcement practices. Fortunately, states like New Jersey are beginning to respond to these discriminatory practices. At Zeff Law Firm, we have years of experience working with victims of racial discrimination – including victims of racial profiling. We can help you file your claims and work through it to resolution. Contact us today to discuss your racial profiling claim.