The problem of racism has always been one of the key problems of multinational societies. In this respect, American society seems to be particularly noteworthy because it is traditionally defined as highly democratic and progressive, including racial issues. In such a situation there should not be any problems related to racial issues, especially concerning official representatives of the US government and people, such as patrol officers.
Unfortunately, racial issues still remain in focus of public attention and some accusations of patrol officers in racial discrimination may be heard, especially when the actions of officers in traffic stops are analysed and discussed. This problem is particularly serious in Southern states such as Texas where the racial problem is very sensitive because of racial diversity, which is so typical for this state. Moreover, Texas is also the territory where a great number of immigrants flee from Latin American countries. Often patrol officers have to deal with representatives of different races, including immigrants from Latin America, which are often involved in criminal activity. However, it occurs not because of their race but because of their crucial socio-economic position.
Naturally, in such a situation, when the rate of crimes committed by representatives of a certain racial group is rather high patrol officer, consciously or not, tend to primarily suspect the representatives of this racial group in crimes committed in the area.
As a result, such a burning problem as racial profiling is getting to be particularly important. In the current situation it is obvious that “race cannot be used to any degree to support a discretionary judgment by a police officer to stop, frisk, or search a suspect, except where a description of a suspect has been provided” (Albonetti 1991, p.255). Thus, it should be said that ‘racial profiling’ is absolutely unacceptable practice and it should be eliminated by all possible means.
Basically, it cannot be done in a day and it is hardly possible to rely on a patrol officers’ free will, for instance. Actually, this problem can be eliminated by means of implementation of strict prohibition policies and patrol officers should be responsible for their actions. Naturally, such prohibition policies will be insufficient if their execution is not controlled. In this respect, courts should play an extremely important role since they should intervene when the violation of legislative norms or prohibition policies occurs.
Furthermore, in order to better evaluate the problem of racial discrimination it is also necessary to collect reliable data and analyse it “with respect to both racial disparities in stops and searches and whether adequate cause exists for the police intrusion” (Albonetti 1991, p.257). In such a way, it is necessary to thoroughly control the situation related to racial issues and patrol officers should clearly realise that their actions would be critically evaluated in the context of racial issues on the basis of equality of all races.
Naturally, the improvement and prevention of possible cases of racial discrimination from the part of patrol officers need the development of effective judicial remedial measures, which should include more progressive police management philosophies and hold the promise for significant amelioration of past abuses.
In such a situation, the following steps could be suggested to improve the current situation. Along with the prohibition of ‘racial profiling’ and collecting relevant data, it is also possible to recommend to prohibit pretextual stops by patrol officers. Basically, traffic stops should be made “only for observed traffic violations or where adequate cause supports a criminal investigatory stops” (Albonetti 1991, p.262). Moreover, in all circumstances in which consent to search is requested, the person should be informed of her right to refuse consent.
Naturally, patrol officers should avoid any violations of constitutional rights and follow regulations thoroughly in order to prevent possible problems caused by racial issues. Anyway, it is obviously necessary to enforce the control of the Department of Justice over patrol officers’ misconduct. On the other hand, Police Departments, in their turn, should insure that their “Internal Affairs Unit conduct investigations of police misconduct with impartiality, integrity, and with the necessary resources” (Kautt and Spohn 2002, p.1).
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that racial issues concerning traffic stops by patrol officers still constitute a significant problem but the situation can be really improved, if efficient policy is developed and properly implemented. Briefly speaking, it is necessary to develop legislative and administrative measures, aiming at the improvement of the current situation, implemented such changes in practical life, and provide efficient control over their practical functioning.
1. Albonetti, C. A. An integration of theories to explain judicial discretion. So¬cial Problems, 38, 1991, 247-266.
2. Kautt, Paul and Cassia Spohn. “Cracking down on black drug offenders? Testing for interactions among offend” Justice Quarterly: JQ; Mar 2002; 19, 1.
3. Parker, Karen F. and Scott R. Maggard. “Structural Theories and Race-Specific Drug Arrests: What Structural Factors Account for the Rise in Race-Specific Drug Arrests Over Time?” CRIME & DELINQUENCY. Vol, S I No. 4, October 2005 521-547.