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SJSU Engineering Product Life Cycle of Cable Television Discussion

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explaining and eliminating racial profiling by donald tomaskovic-devey and patricia warren Photo by Keith Marshall via Creative Commons 34 contexts.org The emancipation of slaves is a century-and-a-half in America’s past. Many would consider it ancient history. Even the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which challenged the de facto racial apartheid of the post-Civil War period, are now well over 40 years old. But even in the face of such well-established laws, racial inequalities in education, housing, employment, and law enforcement remain widespread in the United States. Many Americans think these racial patterns stem primarily from individual prejudices or even racist attitudes. However, sociological research shows discrimination is more often the result of organizational practices that have unintentional racial effects or are based on cognitive biases linked to social stereotypes. Racial profiling—stopping or searching cars and drivers based primarily on race, rather than any suspicion or observed violation of the law—is particularly problematic because it’s a form of discrimination enacted and organized by federal and local governments. In our research we’ve found that sometimes formal, institutionalized rules within law enforcement agencies encourage racial profiling. Routine patrol patterns and responses to calls for service, too, can produce racially biased policing. And, unconscious biases among individual police officers can encourage them to perceive some drivers as more threatening than others (of course, overt racism, although not widespread, among some police officers also contributes to racial profiling). Racially biased policing is particularly troubling for policecommunity relations, as it unintentionally contributes to the mistrust of police in minority neighborhoods. But, the same politics and organizational practices that produce racial profiling can be the tools communities use to confront and eliminate it. Part of that training included considering the suspects’ race. Jurisdictions developed a variety of profiles in response to Operation Pipeline. For example, in Eagle County, Colo., the sheriff’s office profiled drug couriers as those who had fastfood wrappers strewn in their cars, out-of-state license plates, and dark skin, according to the book Good Cop, Bad Cop by Milton Heuman and Lance Cassak. As well, those authors wrote, Delaware’s drug courier profile commonly targeted young minority men carrying pagers or wearing gold jewelry. And according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Florida Highway Patrol’s profile included rental cars, scrupu- The same politics and practices that produce racial profiling can be the tools communities use to confront and eliminate it. profiling and its problems The modern story of racially biased policing begins with the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) Operation Pipeline, which starting in 1984 trained 25,000 state and local police officers in 48 states to recognize, stop, and search potential drug couriers. lous obedience to traffic laws, drivers wearing lots of gold or who don’t “fit” the vehicle, and ethnic groups associated with the drug trade (meaning African Americans and Latinos). In the 1990s, civil rights organizations challenged the use of racial profiles during routine traffic stops, calling them a form of discrimination. In response, the U.S. Department of Justice argued that using race as an explicit profile produced more efficient crime control than random stops. Over the past decade, however, basic social science research has called this claim into question. The key indicator of efficiency in police searches is the percent that result in the discovery of something illegal. Recent research has shown repeatedly that increasing the number of stops and searches among minorities doesn’t lead to more drug seizures than are found in routine traffic stops and searches Contexts, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 34–39. ISSN 1536-5042, electronic ISSN 1537-6052. © 2009 American Sociological Association. All rights reserved. For permission to photocopy or reproduce see http://www.ucpressjournals.com/reprintinfo.asp. DOI: 10.1525/ctx.2009.8.2.34. spring 2009 contexts 35 AP Photo/Steve Yeater Lonnell McGhee holds a sign proclaiming “driving while black is not a crime” at a rally against racial profiling in 2000. among white drivers. In fact, the rates of contraband found in profiling-based drug searches of minorities are typically lower, suggesting racial profiling decreases police efficiency. In addition to it being an inefficient police practice, Operation Pipeline violated the assumption of equal protection under the law guaranteed through civil rights laws as well as the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It meant, in other words, that just as police forces across the country were learning to curb Following notorious cases of violence against minorities perpetrated by police officers, such as the video-taped beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991 and the shooting of Amadou Diallo in New York in 1999, racially biased policing rose quickly on the national civil rights agenda
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