Were you stopped or pulled over because of the color of your skin? Were you charged with weapons possession, drug possession or narcotics trafficking?
Racial profiling is the act of targeting a person of a certain race on the basis of observed or assumed characteristics or behavior of a racial or ethnic group, rather than on individual suspicion. Racial profiling, however, isn't limited only to an individual's race, but can also be based on the individual's ethnicity, religion, or national origin.
In the United States, racial profiling is used by law enforcement at the local, state, and federal levels, and is leading to discrimination against people in the African American, Native American, Asian, Latino, Arab, and Muslim communities of the United States.
In the year 2000, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a law directing the executive office of public safety to develop a uniform protocol for state police and municipal police officers to record the race and sex of each individual cited by an officer for a motor vehicle violation whether or not a search occurred.
A data base of these citations, annotating race, is now available for driving population estimates (DPE) that reflect those who drive in any given city or town. The DPE is calculated using research from the field of transportation planning to identify factors that “push” drivers out of surrounding municipalities (e.g., the percentage of people who drive more than 10 miles to work) and that “draw” drivers into target cities from surrounding communities (e.g., percent of state employment and percent of state retail trade).
Three types of analyses are available to identify levels of racial and/or ethnic disparity in the traffic stops made by a law enforcement officer. First, motorists who were issued citations are compared to the driving population estimate (DPE) of a given city or town. Second, motorists who received citations from a law enforcement officer are compared to those who received citations from every other law enforcement officer in that individual’s department. Lastly, the data is examined to determine whether motorists of all races had similar post-stop outcomes after they were cited by a law enforcement officer.
Anne-Marie G. Hakstian, JD, PhD
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