Guided by Race: An Ethical and Policy Analysis of Racial Profiling in Law Enforcement Decisionmaking
AbstractThis paper places racial profiling in its present political context, arguing that despite the persistent popular assertion that racial profiling is obviously wrong, it has important basic similarities to more widely-accepted policies such as affirmative action and demands an even-handed scrutiny. It asserts that police policies which rely on general, founded beliefs rather than hard, situational facts lie at the heart of proactive policing, and that racial profiles can be derived from such founded beliefs. The empirical bases for these beliefs are discussed using a Chi-Square test for it. Racial profiling is then examined from three principal angles. Its legal history is discussed to demonstrate that it has sufficient legal standing to continue. Several red herrings are exposed to discard common popular and academic. Finally, the ethical and practical implications of racial profiling are discussed with an eye toward evaluating its appropriateness as a politically-generated public policy. The paper concludes by constructing a language to describe the continuum of race as used in profiling. This is used to argue that properly-executed and well-informed use of race in certain forms of profiling is ethical, though it is usually not the best or most appropriate policy, and is imposed at a risk to society. However, at certain times, not using racial profiling might be to neglect certain moral duties. It should remain in the police officer's arsenal of weapons against crime, but be recognized as ungainly, and to be brandished only for compelling reasons.
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