Racial Profiling Before and After September 11, 2001
Feature Story by civilrights.org staff - 2/26/2003
A new national commitment must be devoted to combating and banning both traditional racial profiling and post September 11 profiling, according to a new report issued today by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF).
The release of "Wrong Then, Wrong Now: Racial Profiling Before and After September 11, 2001," coincides with the second anniversary of a promise by President Bush to end profiling made during a speech to a joint session of Congress.
Racial profiling occurs when law enforcement agents impermissibly use race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin in deciding who to investigate. The report cites anecdotal and statistical evidence demonstrating that minorities are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement.
Since the President's promise, "traditional" street-level profiling has persisted, and a new form of "anti-terror" profiling has emerged, targeting Arabs, Muslims, South Asians, and Sikhs.
The report argues that both forms of profiling are not only contrary to core American values, they are also ineffective as law enforcement tactics.
LCCREF's report also addresses the myths surrounding the use of racial profiling:
- Traditional profiling is fueled by the assumption that minorities commit more of the types of crimes profiling is used to detect, e.g., drug crimes. In fact, data from many jurisdictions show the opposite is true: "hit rates" (the rates at which drugs or other contraband is discovered in traffic stops) are lower for minorities than they are for Whites.
- Terrorism profiling, like traditional profiling, is based on stereotypes about the propensity of certain racial, religious, or ethnic groups to engage in particular criminal activity. Both are scattershot devices that are so crude as to be virtually useless. The report notes that it is no coincidence that the questioning of 8000 young Arab men in late 2001-early 2002 yielded virtually no leads about terrorism -- there was no evidence to suggest that any of these men knew anything about terrorism in the first place.
Cautioning that the consequences of racial profiling are "severe", the report calls for a legally enforceable ban on racial profiling; funding to establish systems to end racial profiling; U.S. Department of Justice oversight, investigation and remediation of racial profiling; and public education that explains the myths behind racial profiling, the effects of profiling on minority communities, and the flaws of profiling as a law enforcement tool.