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Racial Profiling

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Over the past several years, the use of race by law enforcement agencies in their policing activities has received considerable attention across the country. The controversy regarding "racial profiling" has centered on police departments' practices related to traffic stops--examining whether police have targeted drivers based on their race or ethnicity. Significant anecdotal evidence has suggested that some departments may be treating drivers of some races or ethnicities differently than white drivers. Parties using multiple definitions have complicated the debate over racial profiling. Variation among these definitions means that interested parties are often discussing different types of police practices, behavior, and policies to implement into the law enforcement agencies. As such, proposals or senate bills to prohibit racial profiling would prevent a range of police activities depending on which definition was used. The fourth (unreasonable searches and seizures) and 14th (equal protection of the laws) amendments of the U.S. Constitution provide a framework for the protection of drivers from indiscriminately being targeted by the police in traffic stops. In moving to define and outlaw racial profiling practices, state legislatures have needed to consider whether they intend to (1) specifically ban police behavior, which is already unconstitutional under federal law, or (2) provide additional protections, which go beyond existing federal law.

The focus of this policy analysis project revolves around Georgia's Senate Bill 95 and other senate or house bills of that magnitude. Senate Bill 95 is a bill to be entitled an Act to amend Chapter 1 of Title 40 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to general provisions relative to motor vehicles and traffic, so as to require policies that prohibit law enforcement officers from impermissibly using race or ethnicity in determining whether to stop a motorist; to require annual training of law enforcement officers on impermissible uses of race and ethnicity in stopping vehicles; to require law enforcement officers to document the race, ethnicity, and gender of a motorist and passengers; to provide for other matters relative thereto; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes. In the past years, racial profiling has always been a topic that has been discussed by the lawmakers for possible policy implementation purposes. The racial profiling bill has made its way through the corridors of the Georgia senate in different forms. GGA HB 1190, GGA SB 41, GGA SB 372, GGA HB 818, and it had finally been introduced once more as GGA SB 95. The GGA SB 95 was first read on February 4, 2003 but it was quickly read and referred by the senate. This seems to be a common fad in the State of Georgia (Senate) because specifically in the past years, the bill has been introduced and referred by the Senate.

In this policy analysis project, both researchers will engage in research that will cover the history of racial profiling and the populations it affects, laws enacted to combat racial profiling, and research of prior Georgia bills (passed or failed), and perspectives of local support groups.


When did racial profiling begin? Where do its roots lie? How far back does it date? These questions as well as others are crucial to determine in assessing whether racial profiling exists and if so what population does it adversely affect. First, it is important to define exactly what racial profiling is. Racial profiling is the discriminatory stopping and inspecting of blacks and other minorities who are passing through public places based on some type of statistical data, inferential statistics, or the motorist's race or ethnicity (reason online p2). Some critics disagree with the very notion racial profiling exists, and that profiling by law enforcement officers is not only justifiable, but also efficient! Still, other researchers believe that racial profiling not only exists, but is a practice instituted by law enforcement agencies that is both an infringement on an individual's constitutional rights and lucrative.

The fact remains that racial profiling began long ago before the excessive interaction seen on highways and city streets alike where minorities are principally stopped. This country has a history of profiling minorities, from the inhuman enslavement of millions of Africans during the institutionalization of slavery, to the unlawful imprisonment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II; minorities around the country have consistently been the targets of racial profiling. The problem is far deeper than just black and white; its roots lie at the economic, social, and political disparities that Anglo-Americans enjoy over minorities in this country. These disparities are a result of a system based on class status and monetary gain, two attributes enjoyed far more widely by the mainstream population than minorities (statistics about economic disparities b/ blacks and whites).

Unfortunately, the same law enforcement officers that are paid with the money taken out of the checks of hardworking blue-collar workers are racially profiling the same people they are paid to protect. Virtually, at any point in time people can be stopped, harassed, or inconvenienced simply because they fit the profile of a certain class of racially stigmatized people. Some law enforcement agencies have even gone as far to justify racial profiling. Commentators like "John Derbyshire in National Review, have defended racial profiling as nothing more than sensible police technique, where police employ the laws of probability to make the best use of their scarce resources in attacking crime." In defense of Racial Profiling, the police engage in the practice for reasons of simple efficiency: "A policeman who concentrates a disproportionate amount of his limited time and resources on young black men is going to uncover far more crimes (reason online p4)." The problem with this kind of presumptuous ideology is that it arbitrarily places black motorists and other minorities in a box labeled "potential crime offenders." Another potential cause of racial profiling is asset forfeiture. During the 80's state legislatures and Congress were vexed with their inability to arrest and convict "drug kingpins" (reason online p8). Laws were passed to ensure that police would seize the confiscated evidence of suspected pushers. "The federal Comprehensive Crime Act of 1984 (War on Drugs) was the most important of these measures, as it allowed local police agencies that cooperated in a drug



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