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Racial Profiling

It is undeniable that there is disparate treatment of ethnic and racial minorities by police in this country. But that is not to say that police as a general rule are racist. However, more criminal charges are filed against minorities, more criminal proceedings are brought against minorities, minorities tend to be victimized by police brutality more often, and minorities are more frequently involved in police shootings and stop and frisk pat-downs. It's not fair and it's not right. This disparate treatment often is the result of police officers engaging in racial profiling.

Police officers have a lot of leeway when it comes to deciding when to investigate suspicious activity and when to let it go. Police officers are entrusted to exercise their judgment objectively, and to not let bias creep into their decisions on when to conduct an investigation. Because law enforcement is given such discretion, police often inadvertently (and sometimes blatantly) allow their personal prejudices or racial biases to permeate into their judgement.

Racial profiling involves a police officer who identifies a potential suspect of a crime on the basis of skin color or accent. While these characteristics, along with how a person dresses or how they speak or hold themselves, have no real bearing on whether a person has committed a crime or not, police let these characteristics impact their decision making. When police let their personal biases, hunches and subjective beliefs to impermissibly cloud their judgement, their actions can sometimes rise to the level of race-motivated police misconduct.

Racial profiling can be improperly used by law enforcement in order to:

  • Make a pretextual traffic stop;
  • Stop and frisk an individual;
  • Interrogate an individual;
  • Detain an individual;
  • Arrest an individual for suspected illegal activities;
  • Stereotyping a person as a criminal suspect;
  • Improperly justify or rationalize the use of excessive or unreasonable force by law enforcement; and/or
  • Improperly justify or rationalize the use of a weapon against a particular suspect.

Racial profiling is police misconduct, and the subsequent police actions that result from racial profiling tend to foster a sense of distrust among minorities when it comes to the police. Mistrust can grown into anti-law enforcement sentiments, or even a fear of the police. Law enforcement is meant to serve and protect; but how can anyone feel safe if they think (or know) that they are being unfairly targeted on the basis of their race, skin color, ethnicity, accent, or how they look?

Racial profiling and race-motivated police misconduct are unacceptable and should not be tolerated. When police engage in racial profiling and race-motivated misconduct, they violate the civil rights of their victims. Otherwise innocent people can find themselves being detained, abused, threatened or charged by law enforcement acting on their own racial biases. The lawyers at Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC can help you seek justice when you have been victimized by law enforcement. Contact us today to speak with one of our attorneys.