Beginning to End Racial Profiling: Definitive Solutions to an Elusive Problem
Wake Forest University Law School
Many Americans have had interactions with police officers and other law enforcement agents, and the majority of these police-citizen encounters occur in the context of traffic stops. Although mildly inconvenient, traffic stops are necessary not only for enforcing traffic rules and deterring traffic violations, but they are generally beneficial for broader public safety concerns. For many people, traffic stops are simply part of life. For many racial minorities, however, especially African-American and Latino men, even a routine traffic stop takes on an entirely different meaning. Historically, the relationship between racial minorities and police has been strained, and many members of racial minority groups believe that law enforcement officers unfairly target them because of their race or ethnicity. It is widely known that many Americans, especially minorities, believe that police officers use race as a "proxy" for criminal involvement. There is strong evidence that racial minorities believe law enforcement officers engage in racial profiling. African-Americans have long argued that police officers scrutinize their behavior more closely, and many report that they are fearful of arrest even if they have done nothing illegal. The majority of African-Americans believe that racial profiling is wrong, yet is pervasive within their communities.
Unfortunately, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that the perception that police unjustly target minorities is not merely an unsubstantiated feeling, but an uncomfortable reality. While all forms of police misconduct or corruption are disturbing, racial profiling occupies a unique place among such harmful practices because it presents several unique issues that make it difficult to address through standard police accountability measures. Society entrusts law enforcement officers with a wide-breadth of discretion in order to perform their everyday duties. While the fast-paced nature of law enforcement necessitates discretion, if left unchecked, broad grants of discretion can lead police officers to abuse their position and engage in misconduct ranging from falsifying evidence, participating in violent excessive uses of force, and engaging in racial profiling.
Remedying an elusive practice such as racial profiling remains a challenging issue for the judiciary and reformers must rely on other avenues for a solution. This Article argues that while courts may be reluctant to provide judicial remedies, police departments themselves should not ignore the perceptions and should take measures to reduce any possible profiling and increase partnerships with communities.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 31
Keywords: Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Police practices, Police accountability, Racial Profiling
Date posted: September 6, 2014