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The Case Against Racial Profiling

The subject of racial profiling never leaves the news. That's because racial profiling may factor into how authorities target those suspected of various crimes, including terrorism, illegal immigration or drug running. But should any member of a racial group be profiled by law enforcement just because statistics indicate that the group is more likely to commit certain crimes? Opponents of racial profiling say no, arguing not only that racial profiling is unfair but also ineffective in tackling crime. Although racial profiling garnered much support after 9-11, the case against racial profiling outlines how the practice routinely hasn't worked, proving to be a hindrance in legal investigations. Defining Racial Profiling Before delving into the argument against racial profiling, it's necessary to first identify just what the practice is. In a 2002 speech at Santa Clara University Law School, then California Chief Deputy Attorney General Peter Siggins defined racial profiling as a practice that "refers to government activity directed at a suspect or group of suspects because of their race, whether intentional or because of the disproportionate numbers of contacts based upon other pre-textual reasons." In other words, sometimes authorities decide to question or intercept a person based solely on race because they believe a particular group is more likely to commit any number of crimes. Other times, racial profiling may occur indirectly. Say certain goods are being smuggled into the United States. Each smuggler law enforcement finds has ties to a certain country. Thus, being an immigrant from that country is likely to be included in the profile authorities craft of what to look for when trying to spot the smugglers. But is just being from that country enough to give authorities reason to suspect someone of smuggling? Racial profiling opponents argue that such a reason is discriminatory and too broad in scope. The Origins of Racial Profiling Criminologists credit Howard Teten, former FBI chief of research, with popularizing "profiling," according to Time magazine. In the 1950s, Teten profiled by attempting to pinpoint a criminal's personality traits through evidence left at crime scenes, including how the perpetrator committed the crime. By the early 1980s, Teten's techniques had trickled down to local police departments. However, many of these law enforcement agencies lacked sufficient training in psychology to profile successfully. Moreover, while Teten profiled mostly in homicide investigations, local police departments were using profiling in mundane crimes such as robberies, Time reports. Enter the crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. Then, the Illinois state police began targeting drug runners in the Chicago area. Most of the first couriers the state police apprehended were young, Latino males who failed to give satisfactory answers when asked where they were headed, Time reports. So, the state police developed a profile of the young, Hispanic, confused male as drug runner. Before long, the Drug Enforcement Agency developed a strategy similar to the Illinois state police's, leading to the seizure of 989,643 kilograms of illegal narcotics by 1999. While this feat was undeniably impressive, it doesn't reveal how many innocent Latino men were stopped, searched and apprehended by police during the "war on drugs." Room for Improvement Amnesty International argues that the use of racial profiling to stop drug couriers on highways proved ineffective. The human rights organization cites a 1999 survey by the Department of Justice to make its point. The survey found that, while officers disproportionately focused on drivers of color, they found drugs on 17% of whites searched but on just 8% of blacks. A similar survey in New Jersey found that while, once again, drivers of color were searched more, state troopers found drugs on 25% of whites searched compared to on 13% of blacks and on 5% of Latinos searched. Amnesty International also references a study of the U.S. Customs Service's practices by Lamberth Consulting to make the case against racial profiling. The study found that, when Customs agents stopped using racial profiling to identify drug smugglers and focused on suspects' behavior, they raised their rate of productive searches by more than 300%, Amnesty reports. Racial Profiling Interferes With Criminal Investigations Racial profiling has undermined some high-profile criminal investigations. Take the Oklahoma City bombings of 1995. In that case, officers initially investigated the bombings with Arab males in mind as suspects. As it turned out, white American men committed the crime. "Similarly, during the Washington D.C. area sniper investigation, the African-American man and boy ultimately accused of the crime reportedly were able to pass through multiple road blocks with the alleged murder weapon in

their possession, in part, because police profilers theorized the crime had been committed by a white male acting alone," Amnesty points out. Other cases in which racial profiling proved futile were the arrests of John Walker Lindh, who is white; Richard Reid, a British citizen of West Indian and European ancestry; Jose Padilla, a Latino; and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian; on terrorism-related charges. None of these men fit the profile of "Arab terrorist" and indicate that the authorities should focus on one's behavior rather than on one's race or national origin in targeting terrorism suspects. "Senior international security experts have suggested, for example, that such an approach would have increased the chances that suspected shoe-bomber Richard Reid would have been stopped before he successfully boarded an airplane he intended to attack," Amnesty International asserts. Alternatives to Racial Profiling During his address to Santa Clara University Law School, Siggins described methods other than racial profiling law enforcement could use to pinpoint terrorists and other criminals. Authorities, he argued, should combine what they know about other terrorists in the U.S. with information obtained through investigations of these individuals to avoid casting too wide of a net. For example, authorities could ask: "Have the subjects passed bad checks? Do they (have) multiple forms of identification with different names? Do they live in groups with no visible means of support? Does a subject use credit cards with different names on them?" Siggins suggests. "Ethnicity alone is not enough. If ethnic profiling of Middle Eastern men is enough to warrant disparate treatment, we accept that all or most Middle Eastern men have a proclivity for terrorism, just as during World War II, all resident Japanese had a proclivity for espionage." In fact, in the case of World War II, 10 people were convicted of spying for Japan during the course of the conflict, according to Amnesty International. None of these individuals were of Japanese, or Asian, descent. Yet, the U.S. forced more than 110,000 Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans to evacuate from their homes and be relocated in internment camps. In this situation, the fallout from racial profiling proved tragic. What to Do if Police Stop You Law enforcement may have good cause to stop you. Perhaps your tags are expired, your taillight is out or you committed a traffic violation. If you suspect something else, such as racial profiling, is to blame for being stopped, visit the American Civil Liberties Union's Web site. The ACLU advises individuals stopped by police not to get combative with the authorities or threaten them. However, you don't have to "consent to any search of yourself, your car or your house" without a search warrant from police, with some exceptions. If police claim to have a search warrant, make sure to read it, the ACLU cautions. Write down everything you remember about your interaction with police as soon as possible. These notes will help if you report a violation of your rights to the police department's internal affairs division or civilian board.

Racial profiling is a practice that presents a great danger to the fundamental principles of our Constitution. Racial profiling disproportionately targets people of color for investigation and enforcement, alienating communities from law enforcement, hindering community policing efforts, and causing law enforcement to lose credibility and trust among the people they are sworn to protect and serve. We rely on the police to protect us from harm and to promote fairness and justice in our communities. The despicable practice of racial profiling, however, has led countless people to live in fear and created a system of law enforcement that casts entire communities as suspect. Racial profiling continues to be a prevalent and egregious form of discrimination in the United States. This unjustifiable practice remains a stain on American democracy and an affront to the promise of racial equality. Since September 11, 2001, new forms of racial profiling have affected a growing number of people of color in the U.S., including members of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities. The Obama administration has inherited a shameful legacy of racial profiling codified in official FBI guidelines and a notorious registration program that treats Arabs and Muslims as suspects and denies them the presumption of innocence and equal protection under the law. Equally troubling has been the federal governments encouragement of unprecedented raids of immigrant (particularly Latino) communities and workplaces by local law enforcement in cooperation with federal agencies. These policies have unjustly expanded the purview of and undermined basic trust in local law enforcement, alienated immigrant communities, and created an atmosphere of fear anti-immigrant rhetoric has led to a dramatic increase in hate crimes against and racial profiling of Latinos. These policies and practices have wrought destruction on individuals, families and communities, tearing them apart through unjust detentions, deportations, raids and more. The ACLUs work on racial profiling encompasses major initiatives in public education and advocacy, including lobbying for passage of data collection and anti-profiling legislation, and litigation on behalf of individuals who have been victims of the practice by airlines, police and government agencies. Additional Resources What Happens in Arizona Stops in Arizona (2010 resource): On April 23, 2010, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed into law a discriminatory and un-American law that will require police officers in Arizona to ask people for their papers based only on some undefined "reasonable suspicion" that they are in the country unlawfully. We believe this law, which invites racial profiling in the worst way, is unconstitutional, and we are challenging the law with a coalition of other civil rights groups. The Persistence of Racial and Ethnic Profiling In the United States: A Follow-Up Report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2009 PDF) The historic fight against discrimination and racial bias in the United States continues and has perhaps become more challenging in the 21st century. Racial disparities continue to plague the United States and curtail the enjoyment of fundamental human rights by millions of people who belong to racial and ethnic minorities. Racial Profiling: Definition (2005 resource): "Racial Profiling" refers to 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. Stories About Racial Profiling (2003 resource): Racial profiling occurs when the police choose to question, investigate or arrest an individual because of racially motivated preconceptions. People are therefore considered guilty without trial and are unjustly interrogated by the police simply because of the color of their skin or their national origin. Department of Justice Statistics Show Clear Pattern of Racial Profiling (2007 press release): The American Civil Liberties Union said today that a newly released Department of Justice report on racial profiling shows an alarming racial disparity in the rate at which motorists are searched by local law enforcement. About the Campaign Against Racial Profiling (2008 resource): The Racial Justice Program's Campaign Against Racial Profiling fights law enforcement and private security practices that disproportionately target people of color and Muslims for investigation and enforcement. Most Popular ACLU of New Jersey Files Turnpike Racial Profiling Lawsuit (2007 press release) The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey today filed a lawsuit on behalf of Willie Nevius, an African American driver who was improperly stopped by police and searched on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Government Settles ACLU's Racial Profiling Lawsuit Against TSA, Agrees to Alter Agency Procedures Nationwide (2003 press release) The American Civil Liberties Union today announced an unprecedented settlement in a racial profiling lawsuit against the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that will-for the first time ever-require an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to substantially alter its policies and training procedures. Sheriff Arpaio Sued Over Racial Profiling Of Latinos In Maricopa County (2008 press release) Today, five individuals and Somos America, a Latino community-based coalition, sued Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County Sheriffs Office (MCSO) and Maricopa County, charging that they or their members were unlawfully stopped and mistreated by law enforcement because they are Latino. The class action lawsuit - which builds upon a complaint filed last December - is before the U.S. District Court in Arizona. LAPD Provides Disappointing Response to Racial Profiling Report (2009 press release) The Los Angeles Police Department has provided a disappointing and inadequate response to a report that found racially biased policing in its ranks, a coalition of community groups told the Los Angeles Police Commission today. Sanctioned Bias: Racial Profiling Since 9/11 (2004 PDF) This report is the latest in a series issued by the ACLU on government actions since 9/11 that threaten fundamental rights and freedoms and fail to make us safer. The ACLU opposes all racial, religious and ethnic profiling, whether in the context of routine law enforcement, or domestic counterterrorism. No Security in "Secure Communities" (2010 blog) Yesterday, a New York Times op-ed blasted President Obama's ramp-up of the "Secure Communities" program, an information-sharing program between federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement agencies. Under Secure Communities, local jails run all arrestees fingerprints through not only criminal databases, but also immigration databases, in an effort to deport convicted drug traffickers, gang members, and other violent criminals. This screening happens even if the local prosecutor decides theres no basis for a criminal charge. The problem is: Secure Communities has led to racial profiling.

The hardest thing about advocating reform of racial profiling practices, at a policy level, is convincing political leaders that it isn't just a "politically incorrect" or "racially insensitive" practice, but rather a destructive, ill-conceived, and ultimately ineffective law enforcement technique. This means looking hard at what racial profiling does, what it doesn't do, and what it says about our system of law enforcement. We need to be able to explain what, specifically, is wrong with racial profiling.

1. Racial profiling doesn't work.


One of the great myths about racial profiling is that it would work if only law enforcement agencies could use it--that by not using racial profiling, they're tying one hand behind their backs in the name of civil rights. This simply isn't true:

An ACLU lawsuit uncovered police data indicating that while 73 percent of suspects pulled over on I-95 between 1995 and 1997 were black, black suspects were no more likely to actually have drugs or illegal weapons in their cars than white suspects. According to the Public Health Service, approximately 70% of drug users are white, 15% are black, and 8% are Latino. But the Department of Justice reports that among those imprisoned on drug charges, 26% are white, 45% are black, and 21% are Latino.

2. Racial profiling distracts law enforcement agencies from more useful approaches.
When suspects are detained based on suspicious behavior rather than race, police catch more suspects. A 2005 report by the Missouri attorney general is testimony to the ineffectiveness of racial profiling. White drivers, pulled over and searched on the basis of suspicious behavior, were found to have drugs or other illegal material 24% of the time. Black drivers, pulled over or searched in a manner that reflected a pattern of racial profiling, were found to have drugs or other illegal material 19% of the time. The effectiveness of searches, in Missouri and everywhere else, is reduced--not enhanced--by racial profiling. When racial profiling is used, officers end up wasting their limited time on innocent suspects.

3. Racial profiling prevents police from serving the entire community.


Law enforcement agencies are responsible, or generally seen as responsible, for protecting law-abiding citizens from criminals. When a law enforcement agency practices racial profiling, it sends the message that whites are assumed to be law-abiding citizens while blacks and Latinos are assumed to be criminals. Racial profiling policies set up law enforcement agencies as enemies of entire communities-communities that tend to be disproportionately affected by crime--when law enforcement agencies should be in the business of protecting crime victims and helping them find justice.

4. Racial profiling prevents communities from working with law enforcement.

Unlike racial profiling, community policing has consistently been shown to work. The better the relationship between residents and police, the more likely residents are to report crimes, come forward as witnesses, and otherwise cooperate in police investigations. But racial profiling tends to alienate black and Latino communities, reducing the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate crime in these communities. If police have already established themselves as enemies of a low-income black neighborhood, if there is no trust or rapport between police and residents, then community policing can't work. Racial profiling sabotages community policing efforts, and offers nothing useful in return.

5. Racial profiling is a blatant violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.


The Fourteenth Amendment states, very clearly, that no state may "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Racial profiling is, by definition, based on a standard of unequal protection. Blacks and Latinos are more likely to be searched by police and less likely to be treated as law-abiding citizens; whites are less likely to be searched by police and more likely to be treated as law-abiding citizens. This is incompatible with the concept of equal protection.

6. Racial profiling can easily escalate into racially-motivated violence.


Racial profiling encourages police to use a lower standard of evidence for blacks and Latinos than they would for whites--and this lower standard of evidence can easily lead police, private security, and armed citizens to respond violently to blacks and Latinos out of a perceived "self-defense" concern. The case of Amidou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant who was killed in a hail of 41 bullets by the NYPD for attempting to show officers his driver's license, is only one case among many. Reports of suspicious deaths involving unarmed Latino and black suspects trickle out of our nation's major cities on a regular basis.

7. Racial profiling is morally wrong.


Racial profiling is Jim Crow applied as a law enforcement policy. It promotes the internal segregation of suspects within the minds of police officers, and it creates a second-class citizenship for black and Latino Americans. If one has reason to know or believe that a specific suspect is of a certain racial or ethnic background, then it makes sense to include that information in the profile. But that isn't what people generally mean when they talk about racial profiling. They mean discrimination prior to the introduction of data--the very definition of racial prejudice. When we allow or encourage law enforcement agencies to practice racial profiling, we are ourselves practicing vicarious racial discrimination. That is unacceptable.

Top 7 Arguments Against Racial Profiling


Racial Profiling Doesn't Work

black suspects were no more likely to actually have drugs or illegal weapons in their cars than white suspects. According to the Public Health Service, approximately 70% of drug users are white, 15% are black, and 8% are Latino. But the Department of Justice reports that among those imprisoned on drug charges, 26% are white, 45% are black, and 21% are Latino.

Racial Profiling Distracts Law Enforcement Agencies From More Useful Approaches

Focus on suspicious behavior leads to more arrests than focus on race. The increase in arrests on suspicious behavior alone is 24%.

Racial Profiling Prevents Police From Serving The Entire Community

The message is sent to the community that whites can be more trusted and Blacks and Latinos are seen as criminals. Having a poor raporte' with the community makes preventing crime almost impossible.

Racial profiling prevents communities from working with law enforcement.

This connects with the prior argument. The community won't come to you and report crime if they know you already have a biased and narrow-minded focus on certain people. Racial profiling sabotages community policing efforts, and offers nothing useful in return.

Racial Profiling is against the 14th Amendment

It is clearly stated in our Constitution that no state may "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." By searching Latinos ad Blacks more often, Whites less often, there are unequal protection of the community.

Racial Profiling will likely escalate into riots and racially-motivated violence

Refer to Rodney King case. By having a lower standard of evidence to take police action against Latinos and Blacks, police brutality and over-exertion of power is greatly heightened. Reports of suspicious deaths involving unarmed Latino and black suspects trickle out of our nation's major cities on a regular basis.

Racial Profiling is Morally Wrong

Racial profiling is Jim Crow applied as a law enforcement policy. It creates a world where Blacks and Latinos are remain in as segregated and second-class citizens.

Racial profiling: A matter of survival By Michelle Malkin When our national security is on the line, "racial profiling" or more precisely, threat profiling based on race, religion or nationality is justified. Targeted intelligence-gathering at mosques and in local Muslim communities, for example, makes perfect sense when we are at war with Islamic extremists. Yet, last week, the FBI came under fire for questioning Muslims in Seattle about possible terrorist ties. Members of a local mosque complained to Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., who called for a congressional investigation of the FBI's innocuous tactics. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington accused the agency of "ethnic profiling." But where else are federal agents supposed to turn for help in uncovering terrorist plots by Islamic fanatics: Buddhist temples? Knights of Columbus meetings? Amish neighborhoods? Some might argue that profiling is so offensive to fundamental American values that it ought to be prohibited, even if the prohibition jeopardizes our safety. Yet many of the ethnic activists and civil-liberties groups who object most strenuously to the use of racial, ethnic, religious and nationality classifications during war support the use of similar classifications to ensure "diversity" or "parity" in peacetime. The civil-rights hypocrites have never met a "compelling government interest" for using racial, ethnicity or nationality classifications they didn't like, except when that compelling interest happens to be the nation's very survival. Missed opportunities Consider what happened in summer 2001, when Phoenix FBI agent Kenneth Williams urged his superiors to investigate militant Muslim men whom he suspected of training in U.S. flight schools as part of al-Qaeda missions. Williams' recommendation was rejected, FBI Director Robert Mueller later said, partly because of concerns that the plan could be viewed as discriminatory racial profiling. Mueller acknowledged that if Williams' Phoenix profiling memo had been shared with the agency's Minneapolis office, which had unsuccessfully sought a special intelligence warrant to search suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui's laptop computer, the warrant might have been granted. If the FBI had taken Williams' advice, the feeling of some Arabs and Muslims might have been hurt. But the Twin Towers might still be standing and 3,000 innocent people might be alive today. Absolutists who oppose national-security profiling often invoke the World War II experience of Japanese-Americans. When asked whether the 12 Muslim chaplains serving in the armed forces should be vetted more carefully than military rabbis or priests, Sarah Eltantawi of the Muslim Public Affairs Council raised the specter of Japanese internment.

The analogy is ridiculous. The more extensive screening of 12 military officers is a far cry from the evacuation of 112,000 individuals on the West Coast. The targeted profiling of Muslims serving in sensitive positions is not a constitutional crisis. Some argue that the dismissal of charges against Army Capt. James Yee, a former Muslim chaplain who ministered to enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and was initially suspected of espionage, undermines the case for profiling of any kind. Not at all. As the Defense Department has acknowledged, the military's 12 Muslim chaplains were trained by a radical Wahhabi school and were certified by a Muslim group founded by Abdurahman Alamoudi, who was charged in September 2003 with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from Libya, a U.S.-designated sponsor of terrorism. These associations cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, the Pentagon caved in to Eltantawi and her fellow travelers. Rather than focus exclusively on the 12 Muslim chaplains, it pressed forward with a review of all 2,800 military chaplains. The refusal to be discriminating was, as Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., acknowledged, the "height of politically correct stupidity." Smoke-and-mirrors arguments In the wake of 9/11, opponents of profiling have shifted away from arguing against it because it is "racist" and now claim that it endangers security because it is a drain on resources and damages relations with ethnic and religious minorities, thereby hampering intelligencegathering. These assertions are cleverly fine-tuned to appeal to post-9/11 sensibilities, but they are unfounded and disingenuous. The fact that al-Qaeda is using some non-Arab recruits does not render profiling moot. As long as we have open borders, Osama bin Laden will continue to send Middle East terrorists here by land, sea and air. Profiling is just one discretionary investigative tool among many. Post-9/11, the belief that racial, religious and nationality profiling is never justified has become a dangerous bugaboo. It is unfortunate that loyal Muslims or Arabs might be burdened because of terrorists who share their race, nationality or religion. But any inconvenience is preferable to suffering a second mass terrorist attack on American soil.

Racial profiling in L.A.: the numbers don't lie


October 23, 2008|Ian Ayres | Ian Ayres is a professor at Yale Law School and the author of "Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-By-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart."

On monday, the ACLU of Southern California released a report analyzing more than 700,000 cases in which Los Angeles Police Department officers stopped pedestrians and/or drivers of motor vehicles between July 2003 and June 2004. The study, which I wrote with my research assistant, Jonathan Borowsky, asked not simply whether African Americans and Latinos are stopped and searched by the LAPD more often than whites -- it's clear that they are -- but the more complex question of whether these racial disparities are justified by legitimate policing practices, such as deciding to police more aggressively in high-crime neighborhoods.

We found persistent and statistically significant racial disparities in policing that raise grave concerns that African Americans and Latinos in Los Angeles are, as we put it in the report, "over-stopped, over-frisked, over-searched and over-arrested." After controlling for violent crime rates and property crime rates in specific neighborhoods, as well as a host of other variables, we found the following: For every 10,000 residents, about 3,400 more black people are stopped than whites, and 360 more Latinos are stopped than whites. Stopped blacks are 127% more likely to be frisked -and stopped Latinos are 43% more likely to be frisked -- than stopped whites. Stopped blacks are 76% more likely to be searched, and stopped Latinos are 16% more likely to be searched than stopped whites. Stopped blacks are 29% more likely to be arrested, and stopped Latinos are 32% more likely to be arrested than stopped whites. Now consider this: Although stopped blacks were 127% more likely to be frisked than stopped whites, they were 42.3% less likely to be found with a weapon after they were frisked, 25% less likely to be found with drugs and 33% less likely to be found with other contraband. We found similar patterns for Latinos. Not only did we find that African Americans and Latinos were subjected to more stops, frisks, searches and arrests than whites, we also found that these additional police actions aren't because of the fact that people of color live in higher-crime areas or because they more often carry drugs or weapons, or any other legitimate reason that we can discern from the rich set of data we examined. Police Chief William J. Bratton quickly rejected these findings, primarily because the study used data that was more than 4 years old. This is a fair point. But we had no other choice: The department has not released the more recent stop data that it has been collecting, nor has it

analyzed the more recent data to test for racial disparities. If Bratton is truly confident that unjustified racial disparities are a thing of the past, he should be able to show the change in the current data. I would be happy to organize a group of respected academics to help analyze it. Bratton also asserted that the report was flawed because we failed to control for the race of both officers involved in the stop. On this point, Bratton is simply wrong about how to conduct a statistical analysis. When testing for unjustified racial disparities in who is stopped by the police in cars and on the street, it's inappropriate to control for the race of either of the officers. The likelihood of being stopped, frisked or arrested shouldn't turn on whether a black, Latino or white officer was involved.

As an ancillary test -- after we'd calculated the general disparities -- we did look at the officers involved, and we found that the racial disparities in the likelihood of arrest were substantially lower when at least one of the stopping officers was the same race as the suspect. For example, we found that the black arrest disparity was 9 percentage points lower when at least one of the stopping officers was black. Bratton should be troubled that there is less disparity when the officer is the same race as the person stopped, as that result adds credibility to the idea that the disparities in different-race interactions may be because of racial bias. The president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, Tim Sands, even more harshly rejected the results of our report. Sands said I appeared to start with my conclusions and then "worked data to fit." This is a vague charge, but one way to respond to the concern is with transparency. I've posted the data I used in the report and the associated statistical files to the Internet so that other academics can easily double-check the report's analysis. Sands has argued that the results are not valid because officers often don't know the race of the suspect when they decide to pull over a car. That may or may not be true. But our study looked not just at motor vehicle stops but at pedestrian stops as well, which also showed racial disparities. We also found that, once people were stopped, officers were more likely to frisk, search or arrest African Americans and Latinos than whites. At the point of making these decisions, officers can certainly see the apparent race of the suspects It is particularly telling that neither Bratton nor Sands responded to the evidence that the frisks and searches of minorities systematically produced less evidence of crime than the frisks and searches of whites. It is implausible that higher frisk and search rates are justified by higher minority criminality, when these frisks and searches are substantially less likely to uncover weapons, drugs or other types of contraband. Independent of racial disparity, it is a sign of ineffective policing to have officers engage in such a large number of fruitless searches. Sands charges that I cannot use data to "prove what 9,700 individual officers are thinking when they make traffic stops." But if he thinks that is what I tried to do, he seriously misreads the report. I never suggested that the data show what an officer might be thinking, and I was careful not to attribute the disparities to conscious discrimination on the part of individual officers.

What the report finds is that there are statistically significant racial disparities in a variety of police behaviors that are not explained by legitimate police concerns such as the local crime rate -- or, in the cases of frisks and searches, the likelihood of actually uncovering contraband. My inability to probe the minds of officers does not make my results less important. The report shows that people of color in Los Angeles experience harsher treatment by police that doesn't appear to be justified by any legitimate law enforcement concerns. The LAPD can't just deny that racism is involved and let the matter rest; it should take steps to address that inequality. So what does this all mean? The LAPD should be more open to evidence-based policing. Bratton, with good reason, extols data-driven policing when it comes to detecting emerging patterns of crime. The department already has an early warning system to identify officers with troubling patterns of uses of force or civilian complaints, but that system doesn't address racial disparities, even though the data to do so are available. The department must be as open to the same kinds of statistical analysis when it comes to tests of racial disparity.

Arguments Supporting Racial Profiling


Statistically, or sometimes historically, there have been particular areas, or particular crimes, that have been specifcally more common in a particular race. The incarciration rates for some races for certain crimes are much higher than other races. Racial profiling can be used as a tool, rather than a conclusion. According to certain patterns, racial profiling can be used to narrow down criminal suspects. If doctors can profile races, such as suggest African Americans get screened for prostate cancer since they are statistically more prone, than why are law enforcement officals not allowed to racially profile during investigations?