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Effect of Police Officer Profiling on Arrest Misconduct

Info: 3376 words (14 pages) Law Essay
Published: 7th Aug 2019

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Jurisdiction(s): US Law


Thesis: Profiling by officers leads to an increased chance of misconduct during an arrest.


The first thought one may think of when they think of the police is “to protect and serve” (Los Angeles Police Department, 1963), and then when thinking of the criminal justice system, “innocent until proven guilty” (Coffin v. U.S., 1894). These ‘mottos’ shape the way society views the legal system and procedures. Unfortunately, the correct steps to go about an arrest can be commonly ignored by officers due to personal biases called “profiling”. Profiling by officers can lead to an increased chance of misconduct by police during an arrest and result in an innocent person being prosecuted wrongfully.

For an arrest to be made and to thoroughly understand when an unlawful arrest is made, one must understand the procedures that must occur. Criminal procedure is the process in which a person accused of a crime must go through in order to guarantee their constitutional right of due process. Citizens’ rights are guaranteed by the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. Such as protecting them from unreasonable search and seizure, double jeopardy, right to remain silent, and excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment, from the fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The criminal procedure process is supposed to balance the scales of justice and to provide impartiality to each and every case to allow each and every accused suspect a chance to prove they are free of guilt.

The process begins when a crime is committed and is either reported or seen by an officer, an investigation begins if probable cause is not immediately present at the scene. They may arrest based on probable cause or a valid arrest warrant provided by a magistrate (Weigend et al., 2017). The actions of police during this phase are both vital and important because one mistake, such as a violation of rights, could end up in the case being dismissed. After being detained and arrested, the accused has the option to ask for a lawyer and then they will see a judge within 24 hours to set bail and proceed with a plea hearing. Probation is usually given to the defendant if bail is given, allowing them to go back into their community under supervision while also having to follow certain rules. In actuality, “more than 90% defendants plead guilty or accept a plea bargain for a lesser charge”, deeming a trial unnecessary (United States Courts, n.d.). If pleading innocent, the judge will set a trial date, then proceed to sentencing if the defendant is found guilty. Appeals are possible while serving prison time and parole, too. Parole is given for ‘good time’ or as a mandatory part of their sentence after the defendant serves their jail time, similar requirements to probation. The court’s process is laid out for those accused because it is their right to know the charges they are being accused of and what the outcome can be, as laid out in the Sixth Amendment (1791).

The work of an investigation or an arrest should be looked at without bias, as most would expect each criminal proceeding to do. Profiling, the analysis of a set of characteristics, is commonly used by police. They create criminal profiles by documenting and knowing common characteristics of types of offenders and offenses to predict potential crimes and victims and to hopefully prevent them. Regrettably, that is not always the case, as there can be influences that can affect an officer’s judgment when looking for crime. Illegal forms of profiling can occur, such as racial, gender, and status profiling; stemming from personal prejudices and stereotypes.

Racial profiling “refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin” (ACLU, n.d.). A few public examples are “#DrivingWhileBlack” or “#DrivingWhileBrown”, when police use skin color for the basis of the stop, and more widely known, the profiling of people of the South Asian, Muslim, and Arab descent after the World Trade Center Attacks (ACLU, n.d.). Furthermore, people of Muslim and Arab descent are more prone to ‘random checks’ at the airport since the tragic events of 9/11. Research has shown In Police Misconduct, A Global Perspective (2017), that “relatively more black drivers (13%) than white (10%) and Hispanic (10%) drivers were pulled over at a traf­fic stop during their most recent contact with police,” supporting the fact of racial profiling due to ethnic stereotyping. In recent news, there have been many shootings against black men who are innocent such as the one that took place this Thanksgiving in Alabama. This creates a rift between police officers and the people that they are meant to serve and protect. The community will become uneasy with them and lose their trust and faith in law enforcement.

Gender profiling occurs when an officer exerts control over the stopped citizen to abuse their power over that person. Women with a male officer usually endure this type of profiling (Roberson, 2017, p.88). Examples of police abusing their power a female being forced to perform a sexual act or go to jail, or the Suffolk County Case, when the police officer made a female driver, that he pulled over, walk home in her underwear in order for her to not receive a traffic citation (Roberson, 2017, p.88). There are even worse cases in which a female can become sexually assaulted by police officers who are supposed to act as keepers of the peace.  As a result, victims are afraid to come forward due to harassment of other officers and fear of being labeled a liar (Katovich and Park, 2018), allowing the misconduct to continue for profiling out women and abusing them. With this presidency, many Latinos are being painted as violent gang members or illegal undocumented people who want to take America’s jobs, this mindset affects some police officers and sometimes innocent people of Latino origins are treated unfairly and without just cause, all because of the way they look. The use of illegal profiling instills fear into the community as they want to avoid being arrested and harassed more. This also brings an underlying anger from the community growing tired of the abuse, as they become more contempt and suspicious of law enforcement’s actions (Chaney and Robertson, 2013). This is not how profiling is supposed to be utilized because it is not done with the intent of achieving justice or protecting the civilians.

Profiling from the police puts a strain on the community, as it causes mistrust and uneasiness. Biased profiling challenges citizens’ rights to live freely in their community, increasing the possibility of an unlawful arrest or unlawful searches. An officer may use “Stop and Frisk” to check for weapons but “over the last decade (in New York), less than 0.1% of those stopped had a gun, and less than 5% of these were arrested,” leading to the fact that most of these pullovers were unconstitutional searches, that stem from illegal profiling, end up with no incriminating evidence as a result so the accused is released (Roberson, 2017, p.87). Much of illegal profiling differs in characteristics to the one doing the profiling, using socioeconomic status as a variable for determining a profile, along with race and religion. Studies presented by the U.S. Department of Justice, found that “Black people (1.4%) were twice as likely as white people (0.7%) to experience force during contacts involving a personal search.” (Roberson, 2017, p.89). The fear of having an unlawful arrest and being wrongfully charged fills minorities with contempt for the law and feel that police officers are “purveyors of unchecked violence” (Chaney and Robertson, 2013).  Profiling places restraints on minorities, women, and those socioeconomically disadvantaged.

As a result of illegal profiling, police misconduct goes up. With gender profiling, we see an increase in sexual harassment, in which victims reported that they were coerced into a sexual act that it is not the fear of arrest, it is based on fear of the armed police officer, making suggestive gestures to their weapons while discussing the sexual ‘favor’ (Roberson, 2017, p. 94). Crimes performed by the assaulting officer can include “forcible sodomy, statutory rape, aggravated and simple assault, and sexual assault with an object”, as found by a study by Kraska and Kappeler (Stinson, Liederback, Brewer, & Mathna, 2014, p.24). The idea of reporting sexual misconduct leaves victims wearied so there are still dark figures of crime in this form of misconduct, allowing it to continue as a way for officers to assert control and dominance over those that they are supposed to be protecting. This type of misconduct is vile because women who have gone to the police station to report their sexual abuse in order to be protected, are assaulted by the ones that they are supposed to trust.

Amendment violations that push the boundaries of the role police have in investigating are “vastly under reported” and does not always conclude in the accused being exonerated (Roberson, 2017, p. 88). Amendment violations can occur with unreasonable search and seizure, a coerced confession, excessive use of force, and much more. This occurs when the police officer chooses to ignore the Constitution and the Code of Ethics while performing an investigation. Corruption, profiling, and abusive interrogation are common reasons as to how violations occur, discovering bias and prejudice can be used to determine if there was a violation. Abusive interrogations are considered cruel and unusual punishment, highlighted in the eighth amendment, so the new age of media has begun to expose just how frequently it occurs. An incident of abusive interrogation was Dahlia v. Rodriguez (2013), this was a case in which an unreported abusive interrogation got exposed because of the officer’s act of retaliation against another officer who saw the abuse and tried to report it. This case was reversed by the 9th circuit court, supporting that Dahlia was protected by the 1st amendment and confirmed that retaliation was used against him. Emphasizing the constitutional rights employees still have while in a position that requires to report to a chain of command. Another form of abuse interrogation is the act of Officers will file ‘false police reports’ to cover up their injustices, such as the case of Groark v. Timek, and create false testimony so the case will swing in favor of their recount of the situation (Roberson, 2017, p.99). It is unjust because the accused does not get a fair trial and it further corrupts the justice system. Both cases call attention to police brutality, taking notice of the use of force in each report.

Since the case of Rodney King, police media has been more recognized, while sparking movements such as “#BlackLivesMatter”, the 21st century spread of information and access to news instantly has stressed the need for police reform in handling situations in non-violent ways and harsher consequence for the officers who are accused for misconduct. When broadcasted, police brutality is brought to the public’s eye and we see that need for a change is needed, in response to the police misconduct. Implementation of new programs and policies to prevent the abuse, accessible complain system, open to citizens, and more documentation of these incidences (Roberson, 2017). Body cameras and new non-lethal weapons have been brought into use, in hopes to prevent wrongful deaths and police misconduct. Police departments also have police psychologists in order to keep up with the mental welfare of their officers and to flag for potentially problematic characteristics (Cochtance, Tett, and Vandercreek, 2003). While this may sound nice, it doesn’t seem to work at prevention because we only hear about officers going to psychiatrists after they committed a wrong doing. We have to push for reform in order to prevent cases of excessive police brutality. Cases such as Eric Garner, in which he was choked out for an unnecessary amount of time and then died on the scene, have sparked flames of anger across the nation. This is the opposite of what the police are supposed to do. Instead of working with the community in order to combat crime, the citizens are weary of police officers now.

Police officers are usually not punished, or their punishments are light, because of the fact that they are police officers which makes them more credible in the eyes of the law, since they are a part of the law. In all fairness, police officers have an extremely high hazard occupation, and, in many circumstances, they feel that their life is on the line. It is easier said than done, but police officers need to find ways, when possible, to detain criminals in a fair way and not inflict any unnecessary acts of violence on certain criminals just because of their individual stereotypes and racism. Citizens have come together in order to protest for strict regulation and force and demand the need for officers to receive fair and just punishment for their acts of brutality and misconduct. The protests create rifts not only within the community and the police officers, but it has to create some tension between the officers who seek true justice and don’t practice unlawful profiling and stereotype with the ones who misuse their power.

Race and sex do play a part in catching criminals but if it is used wrong, it can end up doing more harm. Police officers utilize everything in a crime scene in order to figure out what happened, they also use their past experience and things they learned at the academy to find out who the criminal is. One of the tools at their disposal is racial profiling, it is hard to avoid it which is why police and others in law enforcement need to be cautions and weary when utilizing profiling methods and tactics. Police officers can’t use racial profiling and stereotypes based on their own preconceived notions. In order to keep the peace, police officers and other law enforcement officials must work together with the citizens of the community in order to maintain a safe environment. This can only be achieved if both sides do what is necessary to make sure a cohesiveness between the two groups is attained. Trust, credibility, and togetherness are some of the key elements that a community needs with police officers in order to uphold safety for every law-abiding citizen.

In conclusion, we need stricter laws that prevent profiling and police brutality from happening by creating stricter policies and guidelines for all police officers to follow. The future of America is affected by this since the kids of those who were abused by police will always have that memory and in turn hatred of law enforcement. Profiling affects people’s behaviors and actions which can come off as aggressive and physical, thus making police officers fearful and them having a reason to use actual violence. The cycle needs to be stopped in order for America to progress in the right direction. The people of the community need to learn how to trust the police again and that can only be done if the police do the right thing and judge based on facts and be objective. As citizens we should do our part as well and make sure that we vote for legislations and programs that will help guide the police into making just and sound decisions with minimum to no stereotypes, make sure we utilize social media to portray the police officers who do good instead of putting the ones who do wrong on blast. The power of social media is astounding and we have to make sure that we use that for good too and make sure we know all the facts before we accuse, in this society we are quick to do.  Without each other, society would not function efficiently and crime would increase. We need each other in order for us to maintain order and prevent discord. Ultimately, it is up the individual, as it is with most things, to do the right thing and to not make any misguided decisions. Racial profiling is more detrimental than it is beneficial, so it is imperative that officers use their training and observe their surroundings to the best of their ability in order to apprehend and catch criminals. Police officers need to treat each and every criminal the same way, no matter the color of their skin or what they look like. Not all police officers are corrupt but it is difficult to trust the system as a whole because of the few bad ones who make national news, making it seems as the police are out to get civilians or abuse their power. There are still those who would sacrifice their life in an instant if it meant protecting those they are bound by duty to protect.

Selected Bibliography

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  • Antonovics, K., & Knight, B. G. (2009). A new look at racial profiling: Evidence from the Boston Police Department. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 91(1), 163-177.
  • Chaney, C., & Robertson, R. V. (2013). Racism and police brutality in America. Journal of African American Studies, 17(4), 480-505.
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  • Katovich, S., & Park, S. (n.d.). NYPD Police Officers Union Wants to Keep Sexual Misconduct Under Wraps. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/blog/womens-rights/women-and-criminal-justice/nypd-police-officers-union-wants-keep-sexual
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  • Racial Profiling: Definition. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/other/racial-profiling-definition
  • Roberson, C. (2017). Police Misconduct : A Global Perspective. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. Retrieved from https://manowar.tamucc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1470712&site=ehost-live&scope=site
  • Stinson Sr, P. M., Liederbach, J., Brewer Jr, S. L., & Mathna, B. E. (2015). Police sexual misconduct: A national scale study of arrested officers. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 26(7), 665-690.
  •  U.S. Const.  amend.  I-XI.
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  • Yeazell, S. C., & Weigend, T. (2017, January 20). Procedural law. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/procedural-law/Criminal-procedure#ref28449

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