The Racial profiling reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Racial profiling

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Racial profiling is the use of race as a consideration in suspect profiling or other law enforcement practices.

Advocates are divided on whether race should be:

While often associated with police procedures, the issue came into the international spotlight because race was included among the factors used by aviation authorities in several countries to attempt to identify potential terrorists and prevent them from boarding airplanes.

Virtually all advocates agree that race ought not to be the only factor in suspect profiling (definition 1). Most would agree that the police should not, for example, pull over only speeders of a particular ethnic group while letting others go.

Some groups say that if a disproportional number of members of a race are, e.g., stopped, searched, or arrested -- compared to the general population or to other races -- it must necessarily be due to discrimination. These groups regard the disproportion as evidence of "racial profiling" and oppose it. They want authorities to reduce the disproportion. Some members of this group point out that, even where disproportion is thought to exist in the number of minorities who commit certain crimes, by their very status as "minorities" they usually represent only a fraction of the total number of criminals, and therefore that the concentration of enforcement on minorities represents something other than a desire for police efficiency.

Other groups, in contrast to this view, claim that the disproportion is primarily a result of disproportional behavior by members of certain races. These groups deny that the disproportion is due to "racial profiling" and do not call on police to reduce it.

Including race as one of several factors in suspect profiling (definition 2) is generally supported by the law enforcement community, though there are many notable exceptions. It is claimed that profiling based on any characteristic is a time-tested and universal police tool, and that excluding race as a factor makes no sense. Minorities commit a disproportionate amount of crime, it is claimed, so they get more attention from law enforcement. Proponents claim that suspect profiling that deliberately omits race results in less effective, inefficient law-enforcement.

United States debate on racial profiling

In the United States, the term "racial profiling" has often been paired with accusations of racial discrimination against blacks and Hispanics, particularly by police.

The DEA taught state troopers some common identifying signs of drug couriers:

  1. nervousness;
  2. conflicting information about origin and destination cities among vehicle occupants;
  3. no luggage for a long trip;
  4. lots of cash;
  5. lack of a driver's license or insurance; the spare tire in the back seat;
  6. rental license plates or plates from key source states like Arizona and New Mexico;
  7. loose screws or scratches near a vehicle's hollow spaces, which can be converted to hiding places for drugs and guns.
The agency also shared intelligence about the types of cars that couriers favored on certain routes, as well as about the ethnic makeup of drug-trafficking organizations.

According to some advocates, only the non-racial factors are justified in suspect profiling; police should ignore any ethnic or racial information they have on people involved in the illegal drug trade. These advocates regard the inclusion of racial characteristics, even as one of several factors as "racial profiling" (definition 2) and oppose it.

Organizations such as NAACP and the ACLU are staunchly opposed to "racial profiling". Most crime is committed by whites, they say, and profiling based exclusively on race (definition 1) singles out minorities such as African-Americans and those of Hispanic descent. They also dispute the claim that more crime is committed by minorities. Some also take issue with the police having the prerogative to use race as a factor (definition 2), as this leaves minorities little recourse if unfairly harassed by police.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack the issue of "racial profiling" has become topical, as the urgency of preventing terrorists from boarding aircraft has again risen. Opponents of the practice of considering the race of terrorist suspects (definition 2) say that the gains made from targeting an ethnic group are not outweighed by the feeling of insecurity that innocent members of that group are subjected to. Some point out that Al-Qaida is a religious, not ethnic terrorist organization and therefore racial profiling not only can cause false charging of innocent people, but it can also allow non-Arab muslims who belong to Al-Qaida or other terrorist groups to get away with terrorism. Some say that once Osama bin Laden realizes that we use racial profiling he'll make his top terrorists non-Arabs.

Supporters of racial profiling believe it to be a necessary tool for law enforcement because members of certain minority groups are, on pure statistics, more likely to commit certain types of crimes. For example, in recent times many terrorists (e.g., September 11, Madrid bombings, etc.) have been young Arab males, while female Europeans have only participated in terrorist actions on extremely rare occasions. Thus, they would argue, it is both logical and useful to have security officers at airports take special note of young Arab male fliers, and not to examine all fliers equally. The rationalisation for this viewpoint is that the most widespread form of terrorism currently is Islamic Fundamentalist terrorism. As a result, a fundamentalist Muslim is more likely to be a terrorist than a white female Christian This howeever, is not a racial factor, as the connection is between the attribute of the person (fundamentalist Muslim) and the group (terrorist). However, since Islam is associated with certain countries (Arab states, Pakistan, North Africa, etc.), and since fundamentalist Muslims are all Muslims, people from these countries (who are more likely to be Muslim than someone who appears to be White and Swedish), are statistically more likely to be terrorists. In other words, just as the majority of Americans are not terrorists, so too most Arabs are peacable. However, as it is prohibitively difficult, disruptive and expensive to stop all travellers, there is a bigger chance of catching a terrorist by stopping all Arabs if it has been found that (for examaple) 0.1% of Arabs are terrorists whereas only 0.01% of Caucasians are terrorists. This does leave the country vulnerable to people who do not fit the stereotype.

The debate on racial profiling is also fuelled greatly by incidents that could hypothetically have been prevented had it been practiced to the extreme. For example, some argue that an extreme form of racial profiling towards Arabs could in theory have made authorities aware of those involved in September 11th before it happened, thereby preventing it. Those not wholly opposed to racial profiling would assert that merely a more thorough check of those who would be historically more likely to be involved with airline terrorism and/or hijacking of airplanes would have found some, if not all of the boxcutters that the September 11th hijackers carried, and thereby preventing the hijacking of the planes.

In addition, some experts have also pointed to the fact that drug use and abuse, for example, is much more common among white suburbanites than urban blacks and Hispanics, yet police have most often targeted poor minorities for drug law enforcement; and there has been no public call to profile white suburbanites, despite this evidence (as this would likely be extremely unpopular among the white political majority). However, others argue that this is analogous to trying to kill a tree by cutting off its leaves, and ignores the fact that blacks and hispanics are more likely to be towards the "trunk" or "branches", and that a more efficient and effective means of curbing drug abuse is to target the transporters, rather than the end users, just as one targets weapon smugglers, rather than every single person who uses an illegal firearm.

In the UK in the early 1990s evidence showed that black people were as much as five times more likely to be stopped by the police. This is an example of racial profiling. Following this discovery, some police officers claimed that they were to frightened of being accused of racism to stop black suspects, and that the reaction against racial profiling had gone too far and was hindering their ability to do their job.

A number of incidents involving racial profiling have been reported and denounced as grave human rights violations, such as Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was deported to Syria while changing planes in New York. This scenario caused a major rift in Canada-US relations.