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Racial Profiling and Police Use of Excessive Force


Racial Profiling is the discriminating act of law enforcement officers targeted on persons for accusations of criminality and wrongdoing based on ethnicity, tribe, or national origin. Racial profiling, in its most blatant expression, entails the monitoring of specific populations or people within a society on the premise that the population as a whole is prone to crime (Edwards et al, 2019). On the other hand, in its more sophisticated form, racial profiling is interpreting evidence through the lens of prejudices. As such, a series of high-profile enforcement issues in recent years have sparked widespread outrage over racial profiling in policing and apparent police use of excessive force. Various recent viral videos and photographs of cops hitting and killing people in suspicious circumstances have sparked a wide range of debates about police brutality.

Possibly the most notable aspect of these debates is the impact that race may have in determining the frequency and intensity with which police use force and profile Individuals based on their race. Indeed, one of the the key consequences of these incidents is the creation of the internet-driven Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign. Although BLM began as a protest term and a social networking sites hashtag, it has grown into a nationally known activist campaign with a clear aim to raise consciousness and stimulate conversations about obvious racial prejudice in police use of force over the past few years. (Ajilore & Shirey, 2017). This paper addresses the issue of racial profiling and police use of force, its consequences, disparity issues in use of force and recommendations for efficient approaches that can help curb this menace.


Racial profiling is the result of racialized populations’ stereotyping, and it fosters more stereotyping. In this sense, the term “racialized populations” implies that viewing individuals or groups who share (or are thought to share) a shared heritage as distinct and uneven in ways that affect economic, political, and social life is a social construct that is not grounded in reality. As a result of racial profiling, communities are overpoliced, scrutinized aggressively, and misrepresented in the justice system. As such, legislators argue that Racial profiling and violence are both ineffectual as a criminal justice approach and infringe on citizens’ basic civil rights. In addition to compromising fundamental American values, racial profiling’s negative effects surpass its ostensible advantages in all areas where law enforcement or intelligence interacts with society, particularly crime and homeland security situations (Antonovics, & Knight, 2009). In any case, the assumption that crime is pervasive in society or that public safety is under threat does not excuse police officers and intelligence services’ inadequate and unreasonable measures that violate human rights. Ideally, such use of unnecessary force by police is inextricably related to an analysis based on a preconception that the person they are encountering is inherently violent as a result of their racialized status. In light of this, racial profiling infringes a set of fundamental principles and rights under international humanitarian law, including non-discrimination, equality before the law, and equal protection under the law, by allowing law enforcement agencies to intentionally subject persons to differential and inequitable treatment without adequate evidence.

This type of racial profiling can have other adverse consequences in that it has the potential to escalate to the use of unjustified fatal force by police upon individuals from racial minorities. It is ineffective in combating crime and/or extremism as innocent people are wrongfully targeted, arrested, and questioned, while those who are culpable may slip through the cracks due to a lack of thoroughness in investigations and inspections. Victims of racial profiling have their rights to liberty taken away (Antonovics, & Knight, 2009). As a result of being misperceived as a severe threat, they are questioned, examined, imprisoned, subjected to excessive force, kept in custody, and, in the most extreme circumstances, shot, tormented, or murdered. Therefore, racial profiling can lead to not just skewed proportions of law enforcement and detention, but also to incarceration, as it does for civilians. It has the potential to be fatal, leading to the deaths of detainees who were chosen not on the basis of solid police procedure, but on the grounds of racial bias and private bigotry.

Racial bias in police use of force can also have far-reaching adverse consequences that affect persons who aren’t immediately impacted. Racial profiling fosters skepticism of criminal justice and the legal system amongst individuals of racialized communities who have been victimized due to racial profiling, lowering the likelihood of civilian collaboration with legal investigations. (Trahan and Russell, n.d). Usually, people who believe the law is implemented objectively and equitably have greater personal faith in the law’s legitimacy and are more willing to help with police departments. As a result, it’s no surprise that blacks and whites tend to have very different opinions on the criminal justice system; they’ve had very unique experiences with it, and as a result, they don’t share similar opinions about it. For instance, traffic stops are one of the most common experiences that ordinary residents have with police, yet it’s not unusual that pretextual traffic stops would cause blacks to have a different point of view on the system compared to whites (Legewie, 2016).

On the other hand, persons who believe the law is enforced unjustly may become cynical and less likely to feel a personal commitment to collaborate with law enforcement in community policing. Until recently, law enforcement officers focused their efforts on responding to crisis calls. The plan was for police to respond to crime complaints conveyed to them by a remote dispatcher. In essence, such procedures were reactive; the goal was to collect and attend to allegations of offenses perpetrated. However, in recent years, contemporary policing has shifted away from the response model, which was deemed to be overly slow and prone to isolating officers from their work environments and the communities they served and has transformed to community policing. The goal of community policing is for the officers to support and become a part of society rather than to rule or control it. However, because people’s confidence is a necessary for better policing, bad impressions of cops can reduce the willingness of support and collaboration, as well as jeopardize the institution’s general legitimacy.

As challenging as it will be to establish, given the long history of police mistreatment of black people, the society must trust the police to treat them as law-abiding individuals if community policing is to thrive. Using racially disproportionate traffic stops is inherently counterproductive to this objective. Why then should inhabitants of these areas trust the cops if they are treated like criminals each time they go for a drive, even if this is done in the name of catching wrongdoers? Community policing will therefore be rendered much more challenging, if not impossible, if the “driving while black” issue is not resolved (Legewie, 2016). Therefore, apart from the harm that profiling does African-Americans, there is another compelling incentive to modify police practices: it is in the best interests of police agencies to do so- as it fosters community policing.

Disparity Issues

For many years, police violence has been perpetrated against people of various colors, ethnicities, ages, socioeconomic classes, and genders in the United States. Poor and working-class whites in northern cities, for example, voiced displeasure with biased policing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Later on, following the September 11th attacks on the United States in 2001, Muslim Americans complained bitterly about police violence, particularly intimidation and racial profiling. Many local police enforcement officers began dubious-legal clandestine operations to monitor and infiltrate mosques and other Muslim American organizations in the hopes of uncovering suspected terrorists, a tactic that lasted unregulated for nearly a decade.

However, despite the multitude of groups in the United States who are susceptible to police violence and use of excessive force, research shows that African Americans have historically constituted a large portion of victims. Fast forward to the early twenty-first century, and racial bias in law enforcement continues to reverberate across the nation, drawing considerable interest. For instance, the controversial “stop, question, and frisk” (SQF) program in New York City was welcomed by some as necessary for lowering crime rates, while others criticized it as racially prejudiced and putting a significant burden on impacted individuals and communities. A study by Ajilore and Shirey (2017) investigated whether African Americans are more likely to be subjected to police brutality. Race was shown to play a factor in both the complaints regarding excessive use of force and the adjudication of complaints against police, according to the researchers. Furthermore, the study showed that African American men on Chicago’s south side were less likely to have their claims upheld. This analysis suggests that the African Americans are disproportionately targeted when it comes to police use of force on the assumption that they are more prone to committing crimes. As such, pervasive Antiblack racism amongst members of primarily white police agencies, is a crucial reason explaining the prevalence of police excessive use of force and profiling among members of minority community.

Intended Purpose

This analysis has shown that racial profiling and the use of force is a prevalent norm in several agencies, whether it stems from specific officers’ behaviors and perceptions or from the racist culture or policy of police departments and institutions. Furthermore, worries about extremism and crime continue to put pressure on law enforcement officers, leading them to use the ineffective racial profiling approach in the name of public safety and security. Despite its purported benefits in promoting public safety, it has been proven that law enforcement organizations’ use of racial profiling and violence violates worldwide legal principles, such as the principle of non-discrimination and the rights to equality before the law and equal protection under the law. Furthermore, evidence suggests that racial profiling and the use of excessive force are ineffective law enforcement tools that should be substituted with more efficient strategies and consequently, racial profiling may have a detrimental influence on the perceptions and well-being of those who are immediately affected and, on the community, at large (Edwards et al, 2019).


The negative consequences associated with racial profiling and use of excessive force necessitates immediate reforms in law enforcement (Peeples, 2020). First, legislators need to recognize that the main underlying issue with American policing is that there is literally too much of it. Since the mid-1970s, there has been a significant growth in investments related to extending the criminal justice system, encompassing personnel and the jobs that police are required to perform. At the same time, we’re seeing a significant reduction in resources allocated to social assistance programs. This argument exemplifies a basic argument advanced by many activists and professionals asking for significant police reform: shifting funds away from the police to better supportive community services such as health care, shelter, and schooling, as well as increased economic and job possibilities. Indeed, increased public support for such policies will lessen the need for policing, resulting in fewer violent confrontations, especially in overpoliced, economically poor, and minority neighborhoods.

In addition, there needs to be a transformation of law enforcement from the ground up. Legislators must reconsider how law enforcement officers are hired. This does not imply that you should hire people who are “less competent.” Rather, it necessitates a shift in perspective about what constitutes a competent police officer. Progress towards a more just and efficient enforcement system can be made by making an effort to attract and hire employees who will better serve the public. Likewise, law enforcement organizations must change the systems that surround them in order to incentivize fair policing and enhance responsibility for all forms of excessive violence, whether racist or not. In certain situations, citizen review panels have been established for the same, however they were rendered worthless when police officers were not present. Mandatory participation at something like a public review panel — made up of regular people — may help local police forces gain much-needed external accountability.

Additionally, law enforcement agencies ought to devise strategies for attracting and retaining a diverse workforce that reflects the populations they serve. Nondiscriminatory law enforcement may be aided by the recruitment and retention of officers from a variety of backgrounds, who are more reflective of the communities they serve. This enhanced representation has the ability to affect agency culture and employee attitudes, resulting in less biased decision-making.

Furthermore, if law enforcements behavior and judgement call are to be successful, law enforcers must be constantly reminded of the backdrop of the communities in which they operate, and they must completely comprehend the laws and rules meant to control their personal conduct. Such efforts should be made at the institutional level and as part of wider reforms that tackle legislation and accountability systems. Personnel in charge of creating internal policies, as well as those in charge of internal accountability and education, should lead the awareness-raising effort. Law enforcement agencies should also be encouraged to implement specific training programs that enhance understanding among officers of the many societal biases that may influence their actions. Such materials should include both international human rights standards and concepts, as well as national laws and rules that regulate officers’ conduct (Peeples, 2020). Such training materials are very important given that it is critical for officers understand the repercussions of their actions, for agencies and justice system follow up on any alleged event, and for them to employ all relevant accountability tools to resolve the underling issue.

Finally, it would be beneficial to establish a federal website that tracks incidents involving excessive force by law enforcers in a straightforward, uniform, and public fashion, including exposure data on demographic characteristics of all victims and officers involved, such as age, gender, ethnic background, and impairment status, among other things; information regarding the events leading up to use of force; place the incident occurred and outcomes of all commensurate disciplinary actions. Alternatively, agents may also be forced to utilize stop-forms each time they do an identification check. These forms should include individual’s demographic details (including racial identity), the purpose and overcome for the check (i.e., whether it resulted in the discovery of a crime). In addition, a duplicate of the form should be given to the person being examined, along with information on how to report police misconduct. This safeguards the rights of the person being checked and enables researchers to assess how disproportionately law enforcement actions affect certain groups, as well as the effectiveness of criminal background checks. This tool could help reduce racial profiling while also increasing police effectiveness: the more agents who are directed by objective standards, the less profiling there will be and the more crimes will be uncovered.


Ajilore, O., & Shirey, S. (2017, May 2). Do #alllivesmatter? an evaluation of race and excessive use of force by police – Atlantic Economic Journal. SpringerLink.

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

Edwards, F., Lee, H., & Esposito, M. (2019). Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race–ethnicity, and sex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences116(34), 16793-16798.

Legewie, J. (2016). Racial profiling and use of force in police stops: How local events trigger periods of increased discrimination. American journal of sociology122(2), 379-424.

Peeples, L. (2020, June 19). What the data say about police brutality and racial bias – and which reforms might work. Nature News.

Trahan, A., & Russell, J. (n.d.). Race and police use of force: A Regression Analysis of Varying Situational Approval From 1972 TO 2012


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