When you become a police officer, you'll
be profiling people, circumstances and
geography all the time.  When you take
the physical description of a suspect from
a victim, you'll be profiling that suspect.  
If you do a good job at getting a
complete and usable description, you'll be
able to profile that suspect against
suspects in other similar crimes occurring
within a geographical area.

You might ask, "If it's that simple, what's
all the screaming about profiling?"  First,
profiling does get more complicated, and
I've provided an excellent resource link:
Again...it's all about politics.  If you ask
ten people today to describe profiling in
the context of police, the first word out
of nine of those persons' mouths will be,

Profiling has become an almost
black and white issue.  I say
that in the literal sense, because, to a lot
of people, it's all about race and nothing
else.  During my 20 years as a patrol
officer, I never had to worry about being
accused of
racial profiling, because all
the neighborhoods I patrolled were
exclusively African American.

The term, racial profiling, implies that race
is the only thing being considered when
you decide to take some kind of action.  
In that context, I would contend that
racial profiling certainly does exist...at
least initially.  When ever I observed
white people in my areas of patrol doing
anything other than driving through on a
main traffic artery, they certainly
attracted my attention.  Of course,
following the initial observation, other
circumstances would come into play such
as time of day, particular location, the
person's age, sex, and activity.

Let's look at a couple of examples:

1st Example:  You're patrolling your
post/beat when you turn a corner, and
you see a car parked at the curb with two
occupants...driver and passenger.  The
car is parked legally, and the only thing
that attracts your attention is the race of
the occupants...both are young white
men.  Here are the circumstances.  It's
10 o'clock PM on a weeknight; the
location is in a high drug distribution area
as evidenced by the number of drug
arrests and acts of violence associated
with the drug trade.  The neighborhood
is all black, and, to your knowledge,
there's not a white residence within
twenty blocks in any direction.

What would you do, if anything?  Well,
let's look a little bit closer.  You also
notice a decal on the back window of the
well kept late model car.  It's a decal for a
prestigious university in your city.  This
tells you that the two men may be
students from that university.  As you
continue your observation, you notice
the two men are frequently turning their
heads toward an alley entrance just
behind them.  You're soon convinced
that the two men are waiting for
someone, so you decide to continue your

After just a few minutes, you see a white
male emerge from the alley and walk
toward the car.  The passenger gets out
of the two door car and pulls the back of
the front passenger seat forward to allow
the third man to get into the back seat.  
However, before the third man enters the
car, the two pause for conversation.  
Both men are looking downward as they
talk.  It's clear to you that the third man
is holding something in his hand that's
he's showing to the front seat passenger.

It gets better.  As the two men enter the
car after their brief conversation, you
observe a black male emerge from the
same alley.  The black male turns in your
direction.  He only takes a few steps
when he spots you and makes an abrupt
about face.  He walks back to the alley
where he takes off like a sprinter out of
the starting blocks down the alley.  You
recognize the black male as a previously
arrested drug dealer from the area.

Of course, the three white guys are
totally oblivious to what's going on
around them as the three, now inside the
car, pull away from the curb.  At this
point, you're assuming the three white
men probably are college students as
evidenced by their stupid behavior and
their inattention to their surroundings.  
Oops, that statement could cause an
accusation of educational profiling.  
Anyway, it's time to put the screws to
these guys.

By the time they reach the first
intersection, you're sitting right behind
them at the red light.  You could turn on
your emergency lights right there and
pull them over, but let's observe a bit
more.  The light changes, and you follow
behind them.  You notice the driver
looking in his rear view mirror followed by
the back seat passenger looking back
directly at you.  You can see the two in
front turn there heads to the side and
they're talking.  They're obviously telling
the guy in the back seat to stop looking
at you as he snaps his head forward.
The History of Criminal Profiling

A Definition of Proactive Profiling

"To make judgments about another,
relative to possible criminal activity,
based on a number of overt and subtle
factors which may or may not include
things such as a person's race,
manner of dress and grooming,
behavioral characteristics, when and
where the observation is made, the
circumstances under which the
observation is made, and relative to
information the officer may already
possess." (Fredrickson & Siljander
2002: 15)
Let's add some circumstances.  This
white, affluent residential neighborhood
has been experiencing a rash of stolen
autos over a two week period.  While
there's no description of a suspect(s), all
five of the previous stolen cars were
recovered after they'd been abandoned in
an all black residential neighborhood.  All
of the cars were the same make and
model, and all had the ignitions popped.

This time, you observe two black males
sitting in the car.  Only, this time, they're
sitting in a car of the same make and
model of those recently stolen.  You're
also aware of where the stolen autos
were recovered.  You'd be negligent not
to investigate further.  A couple of
different things could happen.  You could
quickly learn that the men are not in the
business of stealing cars, or you could
find yourself standing in the street with
the smell of burnt rubber in your nostrils.

Here's the sad thing about the racial
profiling enthusiasts.  They couldn't care
less about how much probable cause you
may have when you investigate a black
person outside a predominantly black
neighborhood.  In the example I just
described, you could easily be accused of
racial profiling...even if these men turned
out to be the car thieves.

Probable cause or reasonable
suspicion...that's what it's all about.  
There will be plenty of times when your
attention will be drawn to a person due
to that person's race coupled with other
circumstances that may, or may not, be
suspicious.  The single most important
thing for you to remember is that race,
and race alone, is never enough to
support probable cause or reasonable

I used the example of the white men
buying drugs, because it's something
you may well see more than a few times if
you end up working in an all black
neighborhood that's rife with drugs.  As
soon as you spotted them under the
prevailing circumstances, you knew what
they were up to.  But...you made the
proper observations to support, with
probable cause, what you happened to
already know.

Here's the irony.  If you'd immediately
accosted the two white men simply on
the mere basis of race and location, racial
profiling would be a good description of
your action.  The same goes for the two
black men as to merely race and
location.  The only difference is that the
former doesn't count as racial profiling
and the latter does.  
They're doing their best at staying cool,
but this won't last long.  The inevitable
turn is coming up, and when you turn
with them, you'll see the panic set in.  
They turn...you turn...and panic they
do.  These guys are jumping all over the
place.  The guy in the back seat can't
resist looking back at you, and the
expression on his face is pure terror.

It's time to begin their worst nightmare
as you activate your emergency lights.  
The end to this story comes moments
later when your flashlight hits a single gel
cap of suspected cocaine that the back
seat passenger failed to get stuffed
behind the back seat.  A subsequent
search will reveal the other five he
purchased from the drug dealer.

Okay...was this racial profiling?  Race was
the single factor that initiated your
observations.  Had that car been
occupied by two black males, that
observation alone would not have caused
you to make any further observations.  
You would have continued on your way.

2d Example:  What if the same car, this
time occupied by two black males, was
setting, at the same hour, in an all white,
affluent residential neighborhood?  In the
first place, there are few exclusively all
white neighborhoods, so the mere
presence of the two black males would
not be unusual.  The former described
circumstances are not present.  The
neighborhood is not crime ridden, and
any local drug dealing is not going to be
done out of allies.

What about the university decal.  In the
first example, the decal only made you
suspect that the white men, who were
obviously there to buy drugs, happened
to be college students.  This time, the
decal again implies that the black men
may be college students. You observe no
circumstances that would cause you to
make any further observations, and you
continue on your way.

About thirty minutes later, you're
directed to an address to take a stolen
auto report.  You realize that the address
is on the same street where you earlier
observed the two black males.  Upon
speaking with the complainant, you
quickly recognize the description of the
stolen car...decal and all.  Hey...that's
just how it goes.  
"...it's all about politics.  If you ask
ten people today to describe profiling
in the context of police, the first word
out of nine of those persons' mouths
will be, 'Racial'." ~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2018  Barry M. Baker