Defining Racial Profiling in a Post-September 11 World

Posted: 7 May 2013

See all articles by Deborah A. Ramirez

Deborah A. Ramirez

Northeastern University - School of Law

Jennifer Hoopes

Independent

Tara Lai Quinlan

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); Partnering for Prevention and Community Safety Initiative, Northeastern University School of Law

Date Written: 2003

Abstract

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, there was an apparent shift in the debate about racial profiling. After years of condemning the practice of racial profiling as one that violated civil rights, commentators began to accept and even advocate the practice as a necessary tactic to fight terrorism. Public opinion polls reflected a sudden approval of racial profiling as a sacrifice of civil liberties in order to achieve greater security. Arab- Americans, and those with Arab appearances, increasingly were singled out for questioning and security checks based on their skin color, clothing, name, or religious beliefs.

Despite this change in support for racial profiling, the practice is no more appropriate after September 11 than it was during the War on Drugs. Using race to signal criminality, either as the sole factor or based on a general or circumstantial perception that there is a correlation between the race of an individual and her propensity to commit a particular crime, violates civil liberties and hinders potential short- and long-term law enforcement effectiveness.

The purpose of this Article is to argue that racial or religious profiling is neither necessary nor effective in the War on Terrorism, and to demonstrate that such profiling has serious potentially damaging consequences to long-term investigatory activities. Furthermore, racial or religious profiling is ineffective because it keeps law enforcement from digging deeper into criminal investigation. When law enforcement relies on a broad, superficial category such as race or religion, this shortcut interferes with more effective techniques such as behavioral cues and suspect- or crime-specific descriptions or evidence.

Keywords: Policing, Counterterrorism, Racial Profiling

Suggested Citation

Ramirez, Deborah A. and Hoopes, Jennifer and Quinlan, Tara Lai, Defining Racial Profiling in a Post-September 11 World (2003). American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 40, p. 1195, 2003, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2257284

Deborah A. Ramirez

Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Jennifer Hoopes

Independent ( email )

Tara Lai Quinlan (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Partnering for Prevention and Community Safety Initiative, Northeastern University School of Law ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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