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Bête Noire: How Race-Based Policing Threatens National Security

66 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2010  

Lenese C. Herbert

Albany Law School; Howard University School of Law

Date Written: 2003


Since Terry v. Ohio, the Supreme Court has failed to value victims of race-based policing of African Americans and their right to be let alone, free from unreasonable governmental searches and seizures. This failure, coupled with the Court’s reluctance to regulate race-based policing under the Fourth Amendment, virtually obliterates expectations of governmental fair-dealing, undermines the state’s legitimacy, and spawns alienated, balkanized sub-communities, the creation of which plays directly into the hands of those who seek to do the U.S. harm, as the Court’s failure constitutes both an abandonment of certain Americans, as well as its role of protecting individuals and constraining government. Specifically, the lack of protection was most painfully felt by African Americans shortly after the bittersweet sense of belonging, finally, to the American family in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001. Because of the ethnic and national origin of the suspected terrorists, for the first time in a long time, African Americans were not Public Enemy #1; those who appeared to be Middle Eastern were. The freedom was short-lived. Five months later, a federal court of appeals overturned three New York Police Department officers’ convictions for attempting to conceal evidence regarding fellow officers’ torture of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant, rectally and orally violated with the handle of a toilet plunger. Five months after that, two separate police department beatings of African Americans further rebuked African Americans’ post-September 11, 2001 sense of belonging and freedom. This Article warns that post-September 11, 2001 race-based policing of African Americans, coupled with the post-September 11, 2001, policing of those who appear to be of Arab or Saudi origin, makes America less safe because it illegitimately marginalizes already alienated populations and may actualize a catalyst of cooperative opportunity for those foreign enemies who seek to injure, from within, the United States, its institutions, and its people.

Keywords: Race-Based Policing Under the Fourth Amendment

Suggested Citation

Herbert, Lenese C., Bête Noire: How Race-Based Policing Threatens National Security (2003). Michigan Journal of Race & Law, Vol. 9, p. 149, 2003. Available at SSRN:

Lenese C. Herbert (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

Howard University School of Law ( email )

2900 Van Ness Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
United States

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