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California criminal law concepts 20th edition

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  1. Racial Profiling: Definition | American Civil Liberties Union.
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Previous editions. Jump to navigation Skip navigation. Criminal profiling, generally, as practiced by police, is the reliance on a group of characteristics they believe to be associated with crime.

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Examples of racial profiling are the use of race to determine which drivers to stop for minor traffic violations commonly referred to as "driving while black or brown" , or the use of race to determine which pedestrians to search for illegal contraband. Another example of racial profiling is the targeting, ongoing since the September 11th attacks, of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians for detention on minor immigrant violations in the absence of any connection to the attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.

Law enforcement agent includes a person acting in a policing capacity for public or private purposes. This includes security guards at department stores, airport security agents, police officers, or, more recently, airline pilots who have ordered passengers to disembark from flights, because the passengers' ethnicity aroused the pilots' suspicions.

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Members of each of these occupations have been accused of racial profiling. Racial profiling does not refer to the act of a law enforcement agent pursuing a suspect in which the specific description of the suspect includes race or ethnicity in combination with other identifying factors. This definition found in some state racial profiling laws is unacceptable, because it fails to include when police act on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion in combination with an alleged violation of all law. This would eliminate the vast majority of racial profiling now occurring.

Any definition of racial profiling must include, in addition to racially or ethnically discriminatory acts, discriminatory omissions on the part of law enforcement as well. For example, during the eras of lynching in the South in the 19th and early 20th centuries and the civil rights movement in the 's and 's, southern sheriffs sat idly by while racists like the Ku Klux Klan terrorized African Americans. At times, the sheriffs would even release black suspects to the lynch mobs.

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A recent example would be the complaint by an African American man in Maryland, who after moving into a white community, was attacked and subjected to property damage. Local police failed to respond to his repeated complaints until they arrested him for shooting his gun into the air, trying to disperse a hostile mob outside his home. Many racial profiling victims walk away with traffic tickets, but too often for others the outcome of racial profiling is death. Pennsylvania Brentwood - On October 12, , Jonny Gammage, a 31 year-old African American male, was killed after being pulled over while driving the Jaguar of his cousin, Pittsburgh Steelers football player Ray Seals, in a predominately white community.

Although police claimed that Gammage initiated the struggle, a tow truck driver said he saw one officer start the fight and the others join in kicking, hitting and clubbing Gammage while he lay on the pavement.

Three officers were tried for involuntary manslaughter: John Vojtas was acquitted; Lt. Milton Mulholland and Michael Albert had their charges dismissed after two mistrials. All four were members of the New York City Police Department's Street Crimes Unit, which, under the slogan, "We Own the Night," used aggressive "stop and frisk" tactics against African Americans at a rate double that group's population percentage.

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A report on the unit by the state attorney general found that blacks were stopped at a rate 10 times that of whites, and that 35 percent of those stops lacked reasonable suspicion to detain or had reports insufficiently filled out to make a determination. Thousands attended Diallo's funeral. Demonstrations were held almost daily, along with the arrests of over 1, people in planned civil disobedience.


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  • In a trial that was moved out of the community where Diallo lived and to Albany in upstate New York, the four officers who killed Diallo were acquitted of all charges. Thomas had 14 outstanding misdemeanor warrants, mostly traffic violations, including failure to wear a seat belt. According to a city councilman, he was running away, holding up his baggy pants, and scaled a fence, landing in a driveway where Roach was approaching and shot Thomas. He became the fifth black male in the city to die at the hands of police in a five-month period and the fifteenth since Two nights of protests left broken windows at City Hall and fires around the city.

    Witnesses reported that following Thomas' funeral, six city SWAT team officers shot pellet-filled bags into a peaceful crowd. Two people hit by the pellets filed lawsuits. Under community and city council pressure, both the public safety director and city manager resigned. Officer Roach was indicted on charges of negligent homicide, and obstructing official business, resulting from differences in his version of events. A community coalition, the Cincinnati Black United Front and the ACLU of Ohio filed suit against the city and the Fraternal Order of Police, citing a pattern and practice of discrimination by police, including issuing the type of traffic citations Thomas received to African Americans at twice their population percentage.

    In April the case was settled, under terms including the establishment of a civilian complaint review board and the activation of the reporting of collected traffic stop data that had been enacted by city ordinance in The Department of Justice also intervened and settled with the city, including revision and review of use of force policy. It is significant to note that research confirms the existence of bias in decisions to shoot. The stories above and hundreds of others present a compelling argument that not only does racial profiling exists, but it is widespread, and has had a destructive effect on the lives of communities of color, and attitudes toward police.

    Asians, who, according to the U. Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwanese American was targeted and suspected of espionage on the basis of his race. Memos by high-ranking FBI and Department of Energy officials acknowledged that Lee was singled out because he was Chinese, and eight similarly situated non-Chinese were not prosecuted. In Seattle, Washington in July a group of 14 Asian American youth were stopped by police for jaywalking, claiming that they were kept against the wall for about an hour.

    The Seattle Times reported that one officer told them he had visited their country while in the army, and asked them repeatedly whether they spoke English. The paper also reported that U. In , the Asian Freedom Project of Wisconsin issued a report that found the racial profiling of Hmong communities there, and included the testimony of adults, as well as boys and girls.

    Indians complain about stops and searches by local police and sheriffs on roads leading to and from reservations. In South Dakota , widespread reports of racial profiling led to hearings before the state legislature, where Indians testified about their being stopped and searched not only based on race but also on religious articles hanging from rearview mirrors, and regional license plates that identified them as living on reservations.

    In June scores of Indians in the state's Bennett County complained to Department of Justice attorneys, alleging racial profiling at the hands of sheriffs there, including vehicular stops in the absence of reasonable suspicion, the administration of breathalyzer tests without reasonable suspicion, warrantless searches of homes and vehicles, and demanding to see drivers licenses and vehicle registrations while inside bars. Black and Latino pedestrians are regularly stopped and frisked without reasonable cause.

    In New York City , the December report of the New York City Police Departments pedestrian "stop and frisk" practices by the state attorney general provided glaring evidence of racial profiling in the nation's largest city. Blacks comprise Hispanics comprise By contrast, whites are In precincts in which blacks and Hispanics each represented less than 10 percent of the total population, individuals identified as belonging to these racial groups nevertheless accounted for more than half of the total "stops" during the covered period.

    Blacks accounted for 30 percent of all persons "stopped" in these precincts; Hispanics accounted for In seven other precincts, blacks and Hispanics constituted the majority of the population. The remaining two precincts were business districts in Manhattan and Brooklyn in which the daytime racial breakdown of persons within the precinct is unknown.

    In roughly half of the police precincts in New York City, the majority of the population living in the precinct is white.