Monday, October 10, 2005

UAAD’s Stance on Selective Law Enforcement

Selective Law enforcement is not new. When the police forces of eastern metropoli were predominately German in ethnicity, Irish immigrants were disproportionately the targets of a patrolman’s nightstick. When the Irish copper became the “keeper of the peace”, the later arriving Italian experienced a rousting the Irish expertly administered, being well taught by those who had harassed them earlier. An organized civil response to such activities is not new either. Any number of protests often organized under the auspices of the church or fraternal organizations, decried the excesses of police activity in their respective communities.
Then and now, official police policy prohibited the targeting of persons based upon their ethnicity alone. This was and is so; first and foremost, because effective police and criminal investigative work cannot be predicated upon stereotyping and subjective, non-fact based assumptions. Nevertheless, it was certainly not uncommon for police personnel to speculate that criminal behavior was more likely found among people whose native language, culture and geographic point of origin ware different from their own. So why is it so difficult for people now to believe that such occurs with regularity today?
Selective law enforcement occurs in two steps. First an officer engages in what is known as “profiling”. The officer has a predetermined set of characteristics in mind, more likely than not to be consistent with a criminal persona. Now officers search for particular suspects, possessing particular physical features, pursuant to allegations of a specific crime routinely. This, after all, is bread and butter police work. Profiling, however, does not occur in response to a specific crime. In his or her mind, the officer carries a picture or profile of what a person, likely to be a criminal, looks like. The second phase occurred in the application of the profile on the streets in communities and on highways.
Two additional problems conspire to close the loop on this bellicose policy and, at the same time, doom an incalculable number of otherwise innocents to confront the terror of what can, for the most part, only be deemed unlawful searches and seizures. First the profiles developed by police officers and their departments, are essentially based upon anecdotal information, wrapped in the clothe of pseudo science and dubious statistical analysis. The second is that because none of us view ourselves as members, via the immutable characteristics of birth, of a class of persons whose profile is that of a criminal, those of us who then develop the profiles are significantly more likely to include those most unlike ourselves in such profiles. Thus, when the profilers are overwhelmingly white, those profiled become overwhelmingly non-white.
Notwithstanding disclaimers to the contrary, selective law enforcement remains an active part of the police arsenal. Those of us who continue to be profiled, demand that it be brought to an end.