Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


Are the Police Racial Profiling?

By Rob Tenery, MD on July 27, 2016

Protests recently broke out across the nation with the police killings of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. These two recent tragedies have brought attention to the generalized distrust that many in the black community hold for their local police.  The question is do (white or black) police judge black individuals more harshly than their white counterparts? The answer is probably yes, because of the ‘guilt by association’ principle.

Despite all the police training about being colorblind, it is virtually impossible to not factor in preconceived ideas based on physical appearance and actions of others who look the same. Many black people feel the police single them out just because of the color of their skin. They are not alone. A Muslim woman wearing a Burqa on an airplane here in the United States probably raises concerns too. Not that Muslim women are often involved in acts of terrorism, but it is again guilt by association. The Caucasian population is not without stereotyping either, such as with the mindset of ‘white-privilege’.

Spokesmen for the black community accuse the police of racial profiling because surveys reveal that blacks are stopped and questioned twice as often as whites for potential traffic violations: The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that for the year 2005, police actions taken during a traffic stop were not uniform across racial and ethnic categories. Black drivers (4.5%) were twice as likely as White drivers (2.1%) to be arrested during a traffic stop. When it came to searching minority motorists after a traffic stop, Black (9.5%) motorists stopped by police were searched at higher rates than Whites (3.6%).*

Relate those numbers to the statistics put out by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ). They report that African Americans are victims in 26 percent of police shootings, even though they comprise only 13% of the population. Paired with the 2011 statics from the FBI showing that 49.7% of the murder and non-negligent manslaughter cases in this country are by blacks, the increased incidence of confrontations with police is easily explained.

Add to this the disruption by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that began in July 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the Florida shooting of the African-American teen, Trayvon Martin. The movement then gained further prominence by the death of Freddy Gray, whose death sparked the 2015 Baltimore riots.

With the recent deaths of five policemen in Dallas, riots at political events often instigated by the BLM agitators and scattered assaults on law enforcement throughout the country, the police have increasingly become the target of this violence--- putting their lives on the line every time they put on their uniform.

At the least, racial profiling is based on consistencies among specific populations. This doesn’t imply that all members of that population are affected, just more frequently than the population as a whole. There is no question that there are scattered incidences of racial misconduct toward innocent blacks by law enforcement officials and these offending officers should be rooted out and punished accordingly. Unfortunately, there seems to be a rush to judgment by many in the black community, as seen in the final court decisions siding with the police in the Michael Brown death in Ferguson, Missouri and so far in the Freddy Gray trials in Baltimore.

The disturbing facts are that by a wide margin, blacks lead in all categories of violent crimes--- murder, rape, robbery and assault.** This is why law enforcement looks at them more closely. If for no other reason than to protect the innocent--- the police included!

*Contacts Between Police and the Public, 2005, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/ ascii/cpp05.txt.

**Crime Statics By Race, crime.webcrawler.com





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