NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Prevalent Is Racial Profiling?

June 2, 2000

Some observers say that racial profiling by police officers is far less prevalent than media reports and activists would have us believe. Others contend the practice is far too frequent and is insulting to racial minorities. Whatever the truth, legislatures across the nation are debating the practice of police stopping non-white motorists solely because of their skin color.

  • Some studies have established that minority motorists are more likely to be stopped by police.
  • But San Jose, Calif., Police Captain Rob Davis argues that the numbers can be deceptive because, in his area, police are assigned in higher numbers to Hispanic communities which have the city's highest crime rates -- making it more likely Hispanics will be stopped for traffic violations.
  • While more studies are underway to determine if profiling exists and is a problem which should be addressed, Los Angeles police officials shun such studies -- calling them meaningless sets of statistics -- and follows a policy of disciplining officers they suspect of profiling.

Groups such as the Access Coalition are lobbying for federal laws to prohibit profiling. California lawmakers are debating a bill requiring police officers to hand out business cards that include their names and badge numbers to any motorist they pull over and do not ticket -- on the theory that officers would be less likely to harass motorists if they had to identify themselves in print.

Source: Scott Bowles, "Bans on Racial Profiling Gain Steam," USA Today, June 2, 2000.


Browse more articles on Government Issues