Last updated on: 10/5/2007 | Author:

Should Racial Profiling Be Accepted as a Law Enforcement Practice?

PRO (yes)


The US Department of Justice’s (USDOJ) Civil Rights Division, in June 2003, issued “Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies” stating that:

“Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the President has emphasized that federal law enforcement personnel must use every legitimate tool to prevent future attacks, protect our Nation’s borders, and deter those who would cause devastating harm to our Nation and its people… Given the incalculably high stakes involved in such investigations, however, Federal law enforcement officers who are protecting national security or preventing catastrophic events (as well as airport security screeners) may consider race, ethnicity, and other relevant factors to the extent permitted by our laws and the Constitution. Similarly, because enforcement of the laws protecting the Nation’s borders may necessarily involve a consideration of a person’s alienage in certain circumstances, the use of race or ethnicity in such circumstances is properly governed by existing statutory and constitutional standards.”

June 2003


Heather Mac Donald, JD, Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wrote in her Spring 2001 article titled “The Myth of Racial Profiling” for the City Journal:

“The anti-profiling crusade thrives on an ignorance of policing and a willful blindness to the demographics of crime… In suits against police departments across the country, the ACLU and the Justice Department have waved studies aplenty allegedly demonstrating selective enforcement. None of them holds up to scrutiny…

[C]onversations with officers in strong interdiction states such as New Jersey suggest that some troopers probably did practice soft racial profiling—pulling someone over because driver and car and direction and number and type of occupants fit the components of a courier profile. Over time, officers’ experience had corroborated the DEA intelligence reports: minorities were carrying most of the drugs… If the police are now to be accused of racism every time that they go where the crime is, that’s the end of public safety…

The fact that hit rates for contraband tend to be equal across racial groups, even though blacks and Hispanics are searched at higher rates, suggests that the police are successfully targeting dealers, not minorities. Race may play a role in that targeting, or it may not… When an officer has many independent indices of suspicion, adding his knowledge of the race of major trafficking groups to the mix is both legitimate and not overly burdensome on law-abiding minorities.”

Spring 2001


Scott W. Johnson, JD, Fellow at The Claremont Institute, wrote in his Jan. 3, 2003 article titled “Better Unsafe Than (Occasionally) Sorry?” posted on The Claremont Institute web site:

“The thesis at the heart of the anti-profiling complaint — that racial disparities in crime rates and arrests reflect racially biased policing — is torn to shreds by basic criminological data…

Contrary to the view of the world propounded by David Harris [law professor at the University of Toledo] and the ACLU, racial disparities in law enforcement generally reflect racial disparities in crime rates. It is true that racial disparities exist at many stages of our criminal justice system. These disparities have been studied for evidence of systematic discrimination, and it is now widely accepted among serious scholars… that higher levels of arrests and incarceration in the U.S. by ethnicity result substantially from higher levels of crime, not racial bias… It appears the police are focusing on legitimately suspicious behavior, and not simply picking on people by ethnicity.”

Jan. 3, 2003


Jack Dunphy, columnist and police officer in the Los Angeles Police Department, wrote in a Jan. 9, 2003 column titled “No Surprises in LAPD Traffic-Stop Data” for the National Review Online that:

“If one accepts homicide statistics as a benchmark for violent crime, i.e. the crime police officers should most concern themselves with, there is an unpleasant truth staring… anti-profiling acolytes straight in the snoot: of the more than 600 murders committed in Los Angeles in 2002, about 90 percent were committed by blacks and Latinos, with each group responsible for about 45 percent, give or take a dead body or two here and there…

In other words, in deciding whether to order an occupant from a vehicle or conduct a search, police officers rely on information that may be coincidental to skin color, but not dependent on it. To argue otherwise is to ignore the truth, something the ACLU and their ideological kin seem determined to do in their quest for cosmic justice. If the ACLU prevails in this debate, the results will be a less-effective police department and a rising number of murder victims, the majority of whom will be the minorities the ACLU purports to defend.”

Jan. 9, 2003


Debbie Schlussel, JD, columnist and attorney, wrote in her May 18, 2001 paper titled “Why We Need Racial Profiling” for the World Net Daily website:

“Let’s face it. Profiling is necessary, if evil… When terrorists on our own shores tried to blow up the World Trade Center and planned to detonate many other U.S. cites containing large numbers of people, their names were not Sven and Thor or Juan and Jesus. They had names like Mohammed Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, Ahmad Mahommed Ajaj, Mahmoud Abouhalima, Abdul Rahman Yasin, Ramzi Yousef, Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali, Ibrahim El Gabrowny and Eyad Ismoil. Prosecutors showed at trial that Yousef also planned to blow up a dozen U.S. airliners over the Far East in January 1995, as part of a terrorist plot he called ‘Project Bojinka,’ meaning ‘chaos in the sky.’ Without the use of profiling and FBI informants, they would have succeeded.”

May 18, 2001

CON (no)


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote in its Feb. 2004 report titled “Sanctioned Bias: Racial Profiling Since 9/11”:

“As we have argued repeatedly… racial profiling is in every instance inconsistent with this country’s core constitutional principles of equality and fairness. We have also argued that law enforcement based on general characteristics such as race, religion and national origin, rather than on the observation of an individual’s behavior, is an inefficient and ineffective strategy for ensuring public safety… Indeed, the findings of numerous studies throughout the country have been so consistent that police officials are starting to recognize that racial profiling, while still practiced broadly, is ineffective and should be rejected…

As was the case with racial profiling during the ‘war on drugs,’ ethnic profiling alienates the communities whose cooperation is essential to the gathering of good intelligence…

Numerous law enforcement officials believe that racial, ethnic, religious or national origin profiling actually poses a national security risk. If you are an airport screener and you believe that every terrorist is going to be Middle Eastern, you are not going to look as hard at people of other ethnicities. In addition, bias based profiling – because of its lack of specificity – wastes resources and ineffectively allocates personnel.”

Feb. 2004


David Harris, JD, Professor of Law and Values at the University of Toledo College of Law, wrote in his 2002 article titled “Flying While Arab: Lessons from the Racial Profiling Controversy” for the Civil Rights Journal:

“If proponents of profiling were right–that police should concentrate on minorities because criminals were disproportionately minorities–focusing on ‘those people’ should yield better returns on the investment of law enforcement resources in crime fighting than traditional policing does… But in fact… when police agencies used race or ethnic appearance as a factor–not as the only factor but one factor among many–they did not get the higher returns on their enforcement efforts that they were expecting. Instead, they did not do as well; their use of traditional police methods against whites did a better job than racial profiling, and did not sweep a high number of innocent people into law enforcement’s net.

The reason that this happened is subtle but important: race and ethnic appearance are very poor predictors of behavior… Racial and ethnic profiling caused police to spread their enforcement activities far too widely and indiscriminately. The results of this misguided effort have been disastrous for law enforcement. This treatment has alienated African Americans, Latinos, and other minorities from the police–a critical strategic loss in the fight against crime, since police can only win this fight if they have the full cooperation and support of those they serve.”



The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote in its report titled “Wrong Then, Wrong Now, Racial Profiling Before & After September 11, 2001,” posted on its Civil Rights website (accessed Aug. 11, 2005):

“[A]rguments against traditional profiling apply to terrorism profiling. First, terrorism profiling, like traditional profiling, is based on broad and inaccurate stereotypes about the propensity of certain racial, religious or ethnic groups to engage in particular criminal activity… Second, profiling in the terrorism context is no more useful as a law enforcement tactic than profiling in the street-crime context. Anti-terror profiling, like traditional profiling, is a crude and inadequate substitute for behavior-based enforcement… Third, like traditional profiling, anti-terror profiling alienates communities that otherwise are natural allies to law enforcement.

The similarities between traditional profiling and terrorism profiling make clear that all manifestations of racial profiling are wrong and should be banned.”

Aug. 11, 2005


Jack Glaser, PhD, Assistant Professor, wrote in his Dec. 5, 2001 oppinion titled “The Fallacy of Racial Profiling,” for the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Because racial profiling involves going after people based on race or ethnicity, when in fact other factors may serve as better bases for reasonable suspicion, it is inefficient… Worse still, criminals from these other groups may act with impunity, knowing that their chances of being caught are lower…

The vast majority of the thousands of Arabs and Muslims who will be detained will be found to be innocent of any involvement in terrorism and released, eventually. Yet, in violation of our constitutional principles, they will have endured detention without probable cause or court appearance, and some of these innocents may be convicted and imprisoned or even executed without a proper trial, simply because of what they look like or how they pray.”

Dec. 05, 2001


Peter Siggins, JD, former Chief Deputy Attorney General of California, in his Mar. 12, 2002 talk at Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, stated that:

“The mission of responsible law enforcement officials in combating domestic terrorism is to take what they know to be true about the ethnic identity of the September 11th assailants, and combine it with other factors developed through investigation and analysis to focus investigative efforts and avoid casting a net too wide… Ethnicity alone is not enough. If ethnic profiling of middle eastern men is enough to warrant disparate treatment, we accept that all or most middle eastern men have a proclivity for terrorism, just as during World War II all resident Japanese had a proclivity for espionage.”

Mar. 12, 2002