This paper seeks to analyze and understand why teenage and racial profiling exists including its causes and effects to prescribe the possible solutions to the problem. This paper takes the position that there is an effective solution to reduce or eliminate the prevalence of teenage and racial profiling in a certain place in the US by using the experience of other countries or states.
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What is teenage and racial profiling?
Profiling essentially means creating stereotypes for certain groups of people. Hence teenage and racial profiling may be defined as that practice of making certain groups of individuals who belong to the teenage and under certain a given race exhibit certain characteristics for purposes of easy and possible identification or association with certain activities. This is therefore normally practiced by the police for “making traffic stops based on the race of the driver, in the belief that most crimes are committed by people of color.” Similarly, the phrase has fast become a way to explain the direct link made by police between race and crime.
What are the causes and effects of teenage and racial profiling?
The root cause of teenage and racial profiling is racism still. Racism may be defined as a way of prejudicing or discriminating persons using as the basis of a belief that race is the controlling factor to know and establish the traits and abilities of these people. This definition takes the assumption that the term racism includes the conviction that inherited differences produce traces of inherent characteristics of being superior or otherwise as compared to other races. Thus people, by invoking the name of protecting their race from being adulterated by some people who may be called racists do give a good reason for the power and subsequent annihilation of races they consider being either better or poorer.
As to the effects of profiling, the same could be taken from the individual experience of victims which is generally described as the feeling of being discriminated against. Lombardi cited the case of Martinez who had an unsettling experience, based on the fact Martinez believing that he was the victim of that old police practice of racial profiling. This has therefore caused Martinez to decide to file a complaint with the Everett police and has appealed his ticket in court saying: “I have a right to drive without fearing being stopped just because I’m Hispanic.”
There is the case of young people feeling of being treated unfairly due to profiling. The case of Stanley Pollack is another case to prove this practice. Pollack who directs Teen Empowerment has expressed the following statements: “The rule is young people are often treated unfairly” and “but they know they’re being treated this way because of their skin color.”
Still, another case is that Joshua Richardson, a Dorchester resident, who for one, has come to think of himself as a walking target for cops. Being a young black male and 15-year-old, Richardson could not just let go of the experience he and his 17-year-old brother had when they strolled home along Bowdoin Avenue where two officers in a cruiser tailed behind them and saying, “You have any contraband?”. Although Richardson responded by answering “No” the officers, who were reported to be both white, stopped the brothers anyway, and then placing Richardson against a wall, his legs apart, and his arms outstretched. So Richardson recalled saying: “My brother was flipping because they were searching me for no reason.” He also explained that the police were taking things out of his pockets, as his cell phone, and even opening his penknife. This has of course cause Richardson to file later a complaint after he was released.
The case of Ovi Cruz of having the feeling of degradation
Ovi Cruz, a Dorchester resident, and a Hispanic teenager narrated that he and his friends are stressed by police so often that he can rehearse the regular process. It starts with cops stop the person, then asking where such person lives, and whether that person has tattoos, and why that person likes the color blue. He was therefore able to explain that the regularity of the process of profiling may be confirmed by experience. One particular instance, he mentioned was when Cruz took his Chihuahua out for a walk one summer when the police suddenly came to Cruz and other boys in search of drugs without any basis except the fact that he is a Hispanic. Given the experience, Cruz has put it, “When I get treated like this, it makes me feel degraded.”
This paper does not however focus on fact that only young people become the victim of degradation. Lombardi cited that in April 1999, there were about a hundred and fifty (150) people which comprised of black and Hispanic motorists who dared to expose their humiliations in profiling. From the group are professors and preachers, who converged at the State House to recount their stories of embarrassing encounters with the police. This action of these people in testifying at a three-hour legislative hearing resulted in a bill to address the issue of profiling as sponsored by Senator Dianne Wilkerson. The bill is expected to force local police departments to accumulate statistics based on the race, gender, and age of drivers who are stopped. This has the aim of exposing the extent of profiling so remedial actions may be done to reduce it not eliminate the wrong practice of profiling.
Even a policeman in the minority was being attacked
The death of Providence police officer Cornel Young Jr., while off-duty may use as an instance of profiling. There were concerns by minority leaders that “racial profiling” may have prompted two fellow officers to assume that Young, who was black, was a suspect. The gunning down by two fellow officers when Young drew a weapon in an attempt to break up a fight could only be branded by observers as profiling. Another case which may be taken by analogy with that of Young, Jr., is the case 1995 beating of Boston police sergeant in the name of Michael Cox, who was a black officer, by colleagues who wrongly taking him for a suspect. Although it was shown that the brutal attack and its subsequent cover-up involved several other black officers, there was a strong belief that the Cox case, like Young’s, was a case of racial minorities being branded by police as potential criminals.
Although this Benito Martinez, a Puerto Rican, is no longer a teenager for profiling, his case is worth mentioning to appreciate the extent of racial profiling. Martinez was a 53-year-old radio producer who had often traveled from Boston to Chelsea using the quiet, less traveled Broadway Street Bridge in Charlestown. Just one evening forever cha changed his chosen path. The case was that, while traveling, he noticed white officers in an Everett Police Department cruiser falling into traffic behind his car as he came closer to the Boston city limits. Although, he thought nothing of it even at first. Having suspected that the white policemen are out to take him based on mere feeling, his suspicions appeared to have a basis. Hence, upon his crossing into Everett, the officers turned on their blue lights and this prompted Martinez to ask why he’d been stopped, the white officers just to him by beaming a flashlight inside his car, under the threat of arrest. He was later found to have just been issued a ticket for speeding in a 20-miles-per-hour zone. What seems to very troublesome here is that policemen may just find the victim of profiling many kinds of minor violations which are irritating to people in addition to having that feeling of being selectively thought to be a criminal of somebody out there not to make something good.
How to address the issues of profiling?
Like any kind of problem, teen and racial profiling have solutions. One proposed solution is the requirement for the production and publication of statistics on cases of people being taken by police as a way of pointing the existence of profiling.
In justifying the need for statistics, Lombardi16 cited the anecdotes but stated that these, however, can go only so far. In explaining the said anecdotes may point to a problem, but they don’t illuminate its extent. Nor can they tell us whether the accounts reflect actual law-enforcement practices or, rather, the perception on the part of minorities that officers discriminate based on race, she argues the requirement of statistics. Lombardi expressed that in the absence of statistics, then, it’s hard to say how severe a problem profiling has become. In response therefore for the need of statistics, Lombardi cited Wilkerson’s legislation, “which would require Massachusetts police officers to collect data for all traffic stops — even those not resulting in citations.’ The premise of the legislation is that there is a strong belief by supporters that “data collection is a crucial step in verifying the problem, and will also force police departments to examine their motivations and thus become more accountable for their actions.”
As to the effectiveness of the proposed solution, Lombardi explained that it is a step that more and more states are willing to take. The move to have a law compelling the production of statistics appears to have the basis on the experience of other countries.
What is worth citing is the case of North Carolina, which had the experience of a host of discrimination lawsuits, and thus became the first state to pass a law requiring that racial data be gathered at traffic stops. The effectiveness of the solution using statistics was also adopted by Maryland which soon followed suit after a study has revealed that more than seventy percent (70%) of drivers pulled over along Interstate 95 were black, which is too big in magnitude given the fact that blacks made up only not more than twenty percent (20%) of all drivers. The same strategy for data collection was also later applied by other states like New Jersey, California, Florida, and Ohio.”
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There are however some problems with the Wilkerson bill, having turned into a political nightmare. Lombardi explained the fact after conducting a hearing; there is evidence that the legislator to have held the processing of the bill by placing it “in a study”21. The status will cause to remain the same unless legislators had decided to debate it on a matter following some of its sessions. What sounds ironic is legislators’ action that resulted to have the proposed expansion of the state’s seat-belt law. The expansion intended to make seat-belt violations equal to other violations so that it is feared that such a move will further exacerbate racial profiling in the meantime. It is thus rather not surprising to find legislative stonewalling because some officers found that profiling, even if they see it as wrong, appears not a pervasive problem so that some opined that state law mandating data collection is not necessary.
As an indication of the fact that not many support the collection of data as a solution, Lombardi cited the case of James Fox, dean of the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern, who has questioned the idea of data collection which may just present anything other than unreliable information. Fox was therefore argued that the mere fact that more minorities than whites are stopped does not point to profiling. Fox of course defended his argument by saying that Black and Hispanic motorists could be just be driving one particular route more often, where these people could easily be found to have a propensity for speeding24. This appears to be justifying something by an assumption that such a thing could happen. But based on other countries’ experience, there is no reason why it would not work in Boston.
Making a law that would require the data about profiling appears to be the solution to address racial profiling including those of teenagers. The bill requiring the public data on several arrests would make policemen aware of the violations which are signs still of racism. Teen and racial profiling are just symptoms of the problems of racism so that any seriousness to address the same must be seen in the context of the seriousness of eliminating racism. It may thus be asserted that that racial profiling is bound to continue as long as racism continues. There is therefore to be a need for the members of the community of Boston to have a dialogue since it would seem not all are in agreement that profiling is not bad. A dialogue will set the tone for a more serious way of resolving the problem. Unless the community will abhor profiling, the same practice of racial profiling may never come to an end but over time as the community moves by passing a law to expose the bias and the inconvenience and injustice to the victims, it is believed that a minimization of the problem may at least be attained.
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