Racial Profiling

The issue of racial profiling has been a major point of contention between the police and communities of color.  While there are numerous definitions of racial profiling, there are common elements in each, mainly police-initiated action that relies, in whole or in part, on the race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than information regarding or the behavior of a person.  Whether real or perceived, racial profiling has the potential to umdermine community trust of the police.  Attention to racial profiling has only increased since the attacks of September 11, 2001 and continues to stimulate intense debate with regard to race and ethnicity and the criminal justice system.  In response to racial profiling and in some instances by court order, many law enforcement agencies in the United States have implemented some form of traffic-stop data collection.  According to the Racial Profiling Data Collection Resource Center at Northeastern University, approximately 20 states have passed legislation that either prohibits racial profiling or requires law enforcement agencies adopt racial profiling policies, provide training, or collect data on traffic-stops and searches.


Alpert Group, “Miami-Dade Police Department Racial Profiling Study,” November 2004.

David Cole, No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System, New York: The New Press, 1999.

Amy Farrell, Jana Rumminger, Jack McDevitt, “New Challenges in Confronting Racial Profiling in the 21st Century:  Learning from Research & Practice,” December 2005.

Karl Lamberth, Jerry Clayton, John Lamberth, Amy Farrell, and Jack McDevitt, “ Practitioners Guide for Addressing Racial Profiling,” Spring 2005.

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Justice on Trial: Racial Disparities in the American Criminal Justice System, Washington, DC: LCCR, 2000.

Kenneth Meeks, “Driving While Black: What To Do If You Are A Victim of Racial Profiling,”Broadway Books, 2000.

New Jersey State Police, Consent Decree, United States of America v. State of New Jersey and Division of State Police and New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, December 30,1999.

Oakland Police Department, “Promoting Cooperative Strategies to Reduce Racial Profiling:  A Technical Guide, July 2004.

Police Assessment Resource Center, "Profiling the Police", Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, May 2008.

Police Assessment Resource Center, “Racial Profiling” Issue Paper, March 2002.

Police Executive Research Forum and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice, “By the Numbers:  A Guide for Analyzing Race Data from Vehicle Stops,” 2004.

Police Executive Research Forum and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice, “Racially Biased Policing:  A Principled Response,” 2001.

Police Foundation, “Racial Profiling, the State of the Law,” updated March 2005.

U.S. Department of Justice, “A Resource Guide on Racial Profiling Data Collection Systems - Promising Practices and Lessons Learned,” November 2000.

U.S. Department of Justice, “Policy Guidance to Ban Racial Profiling,” June 2003.

Samuel Walker, “Police Interactions with Racial and Ethnic Minorities: Resolving the Contradictions Between Allegations and Evidence,” Police Executive Research Forum, 2000.

Samuel Walker, “Internal Benchmarking for Traffic Stop Data: an Early Intervention System Approach, A Discussion Paper,” April 2005.

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Relevant Links/Resources

American Civil Liberties Union racial profiling page

David Harris, Profiles In Injustice

Northeastern University, Racial Profiling Data Collection Resource Center

See Monitoring for more information regarding reforms addressing allegations of racial profiling by police as required by “pattern or practice” agreements.

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