Racial Profiling: At What Price?

Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice (Impact Factor: 0.37). 03/2003; 3(2):79-88. DOI: 10.1300/J158v03n02_05


This commentary briefly reviews the research findings and legal issues surrounding racial profiling. Whether in airports or on highways, racial profiling has harmful effects to those targeted. The research, although limited, has shown that it is an ineffective method of crime prevention, and has deleterious effects on the already fragile bond between law enforcement and its citizenry. It is argued here that the negative impact of racial profiling outweigh its benefits.

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    ABSTRACT: Despite numerous studies explaining racial disparity in traffic stops, the effects of spatial characteristics in patrolling areas have not been widely examined. In this article, the authors analyzed traffic stop data at both micro- and macrolevels. The microlevel analysis of individual stops confirmed racial disparity in the frequency of traffic stops as well as in subsequent police treatments. Blacks were overrepresented and other racial and ethnic groups were underrepresented in traffic stops, with a greater disparity in investigatory stops. The macrolevel analysis found that the likelihood of being stopped and being subjected to unfavorable police treatment (e.g. arrest, search, and felony charge) was greater in beats where more Blacks or Hispanics resided and/or more police force was deployed, consistent with the racial threat or minority threat hypothesis. These findings imply that racial disparity at the level of individual stops may be substantially explained by differential policing strategies adopted for different areas based on who resides in those areas. Policy implications for problem-oriented policing and hot spot policing are discussed.
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