By Ari Melber, The Cycle
In his unusual address about race relations after the George Zimmerman trial, President Obama recounted personal experiences when people thought he was dangerous, or a criminal, because of his skin color. He was describing a social form of racial profiling, of reactions to him based solely–instantaneously–on his race. The official practice, while widely condemned, actually remains legal under federal law and in about 25 states. And in the wake of the president’s remarks, there’s a new push in Washington to ban racial profiling.
Under Supreme Court precedent, race can be used as a factor in policing, providing that the authorities demonstrate it is relevant to specific law enforcement goals. And many states and cities maintain the option of profiling as a police tactic–though few openly admit it.
New York City runs a sweeping program that inspects predominantly young minority males. Last year, under that “stop and frisk” policy, the NYPD conducted 532,000 searches of city residents. A striking 85% of the targets were racial minorities–almost double their share of the population. Those hundreds of thousands of black and Latino New Yorkers were presumed suspicious, and forced to stop, in public, and submit to searching and questioning.
The presumption was wrong.
NYPD data indicates that the vast majority of the search targets–89%–were innocent.