Racial profiling

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Racial profiling refers to the use of an individual’s race or ethnicity by law enforcement personnel as a key factor in deciding whether to engage in enforcement (e.g. make a traffic stop or arrest). The practice is controversial and widely considered inappropriate and illegal.



The concept of racial profiling has been defined in many ways, including:

  • "Any police-initiated action that relies on the race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than the behavior of an individual or information that leads the police to a particular individual who has been identified as being, or having been, engaged in criminal activity." -Deborah Ramirez, Jack McDevitt, Amy Farrell for US DoJ[1]
  • "Racially-biased policing occurs when law enforcement inappropriately considers race or ethnicity in deciding with whom and how to intervene in an enforcement capacity."-Lorie Fridell, Robert Lunney, Drew Diamond and Bruce Kubu[2]
  • "Using race as a key factor in deciding whether to make a traffic stop." -General Accounting Office[3]
  • "In the literature to date, there appear to be at least two clearly distinguishable definitions of the term 'racial profiling': a narrow definition and a broad definition... Under the narrow definition, racial profiling occurs when a police officer stops, questions, arrests, and/or searches someone solely on the basis of the person's race or ethnicity... Under the broader definition, racial profiling occurs whenever police routinely use race as a factor that, along with an accumulation of other factors, causes an officer to react with suspicion and take action."-Jim Cleary[4]
  • "Use by law enforcement personnel of an individual’s race or ethnicity as a factor in articulating reasonable suspicion to stop, question or arrest an individual, unless race or ethnicity is part of an identifying description of a specific suspect for a specific crime." -Office of the Arizona Attorney General[5]

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