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

Race Matters: A Critical Look at Racial Profiling, It's a Matter for the Courts

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 34 Issue: 6 Dated: 2006 Pages: 643-651
Michael L. Birzer; Gwynne Harris Birzer
Date Published
9 pages
In the examination of racial profiling, this article argues that the current police practice of disproportionately stopping minority motorists was formally sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.
To initiate attention on the matter of racial profiling, what is needed is for the U.S. Supreme Court to establish a universally applied objective test pertaining to racial profiling. By establishing such a test, fundamental policy can more appropriately be established and tailored. The Whren decision does not establish such a test which allows for little guidance toward establishing policy. The United States Supreme Court in 1986 made a profound statement in the case of Batson versus Kentucky, when racial profiling on juries was seemingly eliminated. In the Batson case, prosecutors used their peremptory challenges during jury selection to strike prospective African-American jurors from cases where the defendant was African-American. The U.S. Supreme Court in its reversal created a three-prong test. In applying the Batson test to the Whren facts, the burden would shift to the government to show a “race neutral” reason for its actions. The government must convince the court by a “clear and convincing” burden of proof that the law enforcement officer did not engage in racial profiling. The authors of this article present the idea that the United States Supreme Court effectively sanctioned the police practice of racial profiling in the 1996 case of Whren versus United States. To minimize the disproportionate stopping of minority citizens by the police, the court would need to carve out from the Whren decision a more objective test for the police when making pretextual stops. In this article, there are three objectives: discuss the nature of racial profiling, examine the Whren decision, and present a template which may assist in eliminating racial profiling. References