Although many believe the United States has entered a “post-racial era,” this is far from the truth. Racial profiling occurs everyday in cities across the country, but it violates the very core of our country’s beliefs that everyone should be treated equally and fairly.

What is Racial Profiling?

Law enforcement officers often suspect someone of  a crime simply because of his race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. This is racial profiling, and it unfairly assumes that certain races or ethnicities are more likely to commit crimes than others.

Police officers often use racial profiling to decide who to pull over for minor traffic violations, known as “driving while brown or black,” or who to perform searches or body frisks on during pedestrian or traffic stops. In some cases, law enforcement officers may make an arrest or use excessive force based on racial profiling.

Any race can be racially profiled by law enforcement. In California, many racial profiling victims are African American or Hispanic, however Middle Easterners are often targeted by law enforcement as well.

Examples of Racial Profiling

There are a number of ways a law enforcement officer can engage in racial profiling. Some examples include:

  • An African American who is pulled over by police officers while driving through a neighborhood known to be predominantly white because they suspect he is committing a crime.
  • A Hispanic man is driving an expensive car when he is pulled over and searched for no apparent reason because the police officers suspect the car is stolen.
  • An African American man who is walking down the street in his neighborhood is questioned and frisked by police for no reason besides the color his skin.

Is Racial Profiling Illegal?

Racial profiling violates the U.S. Constitution, which provides equal protection to every American and also prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Law enforcement officers must have probable cause to make an arrest or conduct a search, and must have reasonable suspicion to make a stop or conduct a body frisk. Police officers cannot act based solely on someone’s race or a hunch that someone is committing a crime.

Racial profiling is also against California law, which states those who are targeted by police officers because of the color of their skin, national origin, or religion are victims of discriminatory practices. Laws have been put in place in an attempt to reduce the number of racial profiling cases in California. These laws require police officers to submit annual reports with information on the people they have stopped, including perceived race or ethnicity, the reason for the stop, and the outcome. It is hoped that these reports will deter police officers from engaging in racial profiling in California.

There is one exception that allows police officers to pull over or frisk someone partly because of his race. If a crime has been committed and police officers have been instructed to look for a suspect who has been described by his race, they may stop people who they believe match the description.

Consequences of Racial Profiling

Racial profiling is not only illegal, but it can harm innocent people who are victimized by police officers because of the color of their skin. Being pulled over and searched can be frightening and humiliating for those who have done nothing to deserve this kind of treatment. If the situation escalates, law enforcement officers may even use force against the victim, which can lead to serious injuries or even death.

This discriminatory behavior can also create an atmosphere of fear in the community.  Law enforcement officers have a duty to protect all citizens, but when they practice racial profiling, they can alienate groups who feel police officers are working against them. Citizens will no longer trust or respect law enforcement officers who engage in racial profiling, and as a result, police departments may begin to lose credibility in the community.

When You Are A Victim of Racial Profiling…

If you believe you are a victim of racial profiling, it’s important to know you have rights that protect you from this discriminatory practice. Contact Shegerian & Associates today for the legal assistance you need to defend your rights and seek justice against those who have illegally profiled you.