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Police profiling: The lost lesson in this teachable moment

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posted on Jul, 27 2009 @ 09:09 PM

Police profiling: The lost lesson in this teachable moment

Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

As I spent my rainy Sunday in New York watching all the well balanced, politically correct and diversified panels discuss the arrest of Professor Gates, I was struck by the glaring reality that no one on the panels that I observed was a member of or associated with the police profession.

Yes, there were political pundits, sociologists, media commentators, radio talk show hosts, the occasional academician and the inevitable author or two. Many sounded like they were reciting their favorite scenes from Law and Order as they to
(visit the link for the full news article)

posted on Jul, 27 2009 @ 09:09 PM
This is something I think we need to look at.

Profiling goes in all directions. It's simply a reflexive assumption. It happens across genders, across races, more specifically ethnic groups.

As a matter of fact, it can change hugely based on your most recent experiences. I recall one day the morning after I done something I was very ashamed of, everyone I saw I could have sworn knew exactly what I had done. I avoided everyone that day.

Another time, after I was dumped, I recall thinking how every woman I looked at after that for a moth or two seemed like they were total wenches... they weren't though, it was based on what I was projecting onto the situation.

We all do this, and in this case, I have to admit, I think that the President also did this.

But we need to learn that we all do this, and allow ourselves to explore what these projections might be without condemning one another.
(visit the link for the full news article)

posted on Jul, 27 2009 @ 10:26 PM
Well, profiling can go both ways.

I worked in a predominately black, economically poor, high crime, congested suburb of a metropolitan area. Lots of gangs. Lots of drugs. Lots of crime. Your typical 'hood'.

While patrolling at 2 am on a Friday night, if I spotted a car with three young white males, in polo shirts, in a Jaguar - I knew they weren't lost, trying to find their way home from church. They were looking for one of two things (or both): drugs and/or prostitutes. They eventually made a mistake, e.g. failure to signal a turn, and got pulled over. 9 times out of 10 they had something in the car that shouldn't have been there - or they were already high/drunk.

They were profiled because they were white. Or, more specifically, because they didn't belong there. And guess what? Most of the time, the 'profiling' was accurate.

The opposite is an area, say a 'bedroom community', where everyone is predominately white and upper-class. If you see a primered '78 Buick, with three young black males, driving slowly down the street, in a neighborhood where everyone makes $500,000 plus, then something is out of place. Granted, it may be that they are the cousins of a new NFL star, looking for his party, but the odds are that they are just looking to gank something - or someone. Again, 9 out of 10 times, it's right. You have to play the odds.

The truth is that people fit into certain circumstances under certain conditions. Cops know that their life might depend on identifying those conditions and taking appropriate safeguards.

[edit on 27-7-2009 by passenger]

posted on Jul, 28 2009 @ 09:38 AM
reply to post by passenger

So what about police profiling. When people profile police?

We have already seen that the guy in Oklahoma who pinned the EMT against the van was out of line. This article is talking about how we profile police.

But you are arguing for the validity of profiling, so I guess that goes both ways too?

To be honest, I see lots of police brutality (and stupidity) in the news every day. Granted, I don't believe this is one of them. But I think it's rational for someone who sees this to profile police as pigs.

I used to feel that way to until I got a scanner and started listening to them do their jobs. I even had one show up at our house because our phone line was acting up and dialed 911 mistakenly. He was very professional and his highest goal was that everyone was OK.

I'd be very careful when it comes to arguing FOR profiling. I mean, I see your point, but also be mindful that the Police themselves are being profiled from the outside. Not to mention your argument validates a black mans fear when approached by the police, regardless of whether they did something or not.

posted on Jul, 28 2009 @ 06:10 PM
reply to post by HunkaHunka

Well, there is a difference between official profiling and the personal profiling that police officers use in their regular duties.

For those that don't know, official profiling is where a report/memo/directive is issued that says, for example: that "officers should stop and question young Muslim men, evidenced by middle eastern appearance, beards, cloaks, turbans, etc., etc. should be closely monitored for suspicious actions, possible terrorist activities, blah , blah, blah.

That is an official declaration that a certain type of person is to, axiomatically, be suspected of a certain type of crime. That is wrong.
The other type is the profiling that police officers use all the time. It may be a conscious calculation or not, but it does exist. For experienced officers, this type of profiling may be the difference between life and death. For example:

You perform a traffic stop for a red-light violation, on a Saturday at 2 pm, in a shopping district. You approach the car and see an elderly black woman driving. In the back seat are bags of groceries and a cane. Your instinctual and intellectual assessment should be that this person presents an extremely low potential for danger. Guess what? You've just 'profiled' her. You know that there is no need to draw your gun, use a loud voice or aggressive demeanor. You (should) know that the threat level here is very minimal. That comes from both experience and knowledge of statistics.

She begins to cry. So, you check her license and ask her, politely, to please be more careful. (IF you don't - and I know there are some cops that won't - you are just an obnoxious jerk).

Now on the other hand...

It's Saturday at 2 am. You are in a known drug-trafficking area. You stop a car and can discern four young black males, all wearing red bandannas and shirts. One ducks down in the back seat. This situation does warrant aggressive behavior, placing your hand on your sidearm (if not drawing it outright) and calling for backup. Again, you've just 'profiled' the occupants. If you decide to be politically correct and NOT to profile this time and just saunter up to the car, casually, with a cup of coffee in hand - then you are a FOOL.

The point is, your reaction has nothing to do with the vehicle occupants being specifically black, male or female, or elderly. But those variables do 'add up' to a different equation .If you know what you are doing, and you know what the truth of reality is, then you will behave in two totally different ways. But both reactions are based upon your own personal 'profiling'. You know, or learn, what a threat is. Sometimes that threat assessment is based on minimal and superficial data - but you have to play the odds. And, (perhaps unfortunately) as in the second case, being a young black male in a red shirt does identify that person as a potential threat based upon your profiling. But that judgment is based upon a realistic judgment and not just knee-jerk racism.


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