U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Assessing the Use of Profiling in Searches by Law Enforcement Personnel

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 32 Issue: 3 Dated: May/June 2004 Pages: 183-193
Stan Becker
Kent B. Joscelyn
Date Published
May 2004
11 pages
This study examined statistical means of evaluating profiling in searches of individuals by law enforcement agencies, specifically focusing on racial profiling.
Profiling is a normal part of law enforcement work, as well as an important tool. A definition of profiling states that it is a process whereby police officers make judgments about another relative to possible criminal activity, based on numerous factors. This study explored two research questions regarding profiling by law enforcement personnel: (1) what are the most appropriate methods and measures to evaluate profiling and (2) is there evidence of inappropriate profiling by race in police searches of vehicles on Maryland roads after adjustment for potential confounding variables? The study reviewed examples of inappropriate methods in highway stops and searches in Maryland. It was argued that the more appropriate way to judge law enforcement profiling work in searches is by the concrete results, the finds of illegal activity. The method evaluated profiling for specified groups of interest by comparing the relative magnitudes of contraband find rates among those stopped and searched for each group. It was concluded from the analyses of the proportions of all finds by race in the Maryland police records that there was inappropriate profiling of Hispanic drivers and to a lesser extent, African-Americans because their overall find rates were significantly lower than those of Whites. In addition, in response to the second question, there was evidence of inappropriate profiling by race, but which race depended on the type of find used as a criterion. With an increasing number of jurisdictions mandated to collect data on stops and searches, it is seen as important that appropriate methods be used in their analyses so correct public policy conclusions can be drawn. References