The study, titled "Addressing Ethnic Profiling by Police: A Report on the Strategies for Effective Police Stop and Search Project," is the result of 18 months of research on police stops in Spain, Bulgaria and Hungary.
In that study, the Justice Initiative worked with police to collect data on ethnicity and criminality, comparing the ethnicity of people stopped by police to those actually found to have committed a crime or offense. "In every pilot site, police were profiling people based on ethnicity or national origin," the study reports. "Minorities were more likely to be stopped, often more likely to be searched, but, almost without exception, were no more likely to be found to be offending than the majority group."
... At pilot sites in Hungary, for example, police were three times as likely to stop Roma as ethnic Hungarians, "yet the rate at which each group is detected in the commission of an offense is almost identical." In some areas, the data showed ethnic minorities were even less likely to be offenders than the local majority.
I've always been opposed to racial and ethnic profiling on moral and ethical grounds. But this study seems to argue that racial and ethnic profiling should be opposed on efficacy grounds. I have to say, I think the two are inextricably linked. Racism is an extreme example of poor judgment and unsound thinking. Assuming that people of a particular race or ethnicity will all have exactly the same outlook, goals, and prejudices is ignorant and stupid. It's not the kind of thinking that holds up in real life, and it's not the kind of thinking that illuminates human nature in a way that will become useful in social life, working life, or the study of criminal psychology.
So, ethnic profiling doesn't work? Duh. If I continued to insist that babies DID come from cabbage patches, because my parents told me so, would somebody have to do a study of the natural cycle of cabbage to help me design a policy to raise the US birthrate? But now we're getting dangerously close to other immoral and ineffective policy myths.
We've seen the extreme of ethnic profiling in Japanese internment. And we all know that's bad (except for M!ch3ll% M@lk!n, who shall be eternally disemvowelled for her sins), not least because it was ineffective: not a single Japanese American was ever shown to have spied for the Japanese. But just because police harrassment is less extreme, doesn't mean it's any more right ... or any more effective. So score a win for soft science ... let's hope.
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!