Monday, March 16, 2009

Racial Profiling in Toronto

Racial Profiling has become one of the most controversial issues that the Canadian society faces these days. Toronto Star concluded through its research that members of visible minority group are stopped and searched by police for belonging to a specific ethnic group. Public surveys show that majority of people believe in the involvement of Police in Racial Profiling at some level. Publications on the issue can affect the performance of police to tackle crime. The presence of High density of Police in some ethnic minority areas can be justified by the uneven distribution of crime in the city but still the psychological impacts of this action on the society of members of ethnic minority are deep. A Change Cultural Values and bringing transparency in Law Enforcement System are the keys to solve this problem.

This article is about racial profiling. Racial profiling as the term suggests is to discriminate between the individuals on the basis of their color. (Gold, 2003) This term is used when normally police arrests, questions, discriminates or accuses a person of a crime keeping their race or ethnicity first. In the criminological literature, racial profiling is said to exist when the members of certain ethnicity or race are subject to greater levels of criminal justice surveillance than others.(Wortley, 2003) Racial Profiling is therefore commonly termed as police disparity in stop and search operations, searching and checking of goods on the airport and border areas, increased police patrolling in racial minority areas, undercover activities or sting operations that target particular ethnic groups.(Wortley, 2003)

The literature revolves around different writers' point of view about racial profiling. It all began with Toronto Star's reports in October 2002 which claimed to have evidence of Toronto police involved in racial profiling.( Melchers, 2003) Different writers have put their ideas into black and white discussing the boarder, narrower and general impacts and effects of racial profiling. The Toronto police did file a case back on the Toronto Star. In this review, I will describe and highlight the main points of the researched literature on Racial Profiling and then present my own ideas about the subject. Racial Profiling happens all the time. A police officer pulls over a car for a "routine" stop, or a customs officer at an airport or border crossing targets someone for a secondary examination. Usually nothing untoward is found and the person continues on their journey. (Wortley, 2003)

This sort of routine check is normal but when a member of a visible ethnic minority group is stopped for checking, the same routine checking turns into a horrifying nightmare extending over hours in some cases and the person investigated is left with an experience of guilt.( Gabor, 2004) Many times that investigation prolongs and continuous checking of that person goes on and on, keeping records and logs of his routine. It has been seen in a lot of cases that many persons driving on the road are stopped just because of being black. (Wortley, 2003)There is nothing wrong with routine checking but when it enters into the boundaries of racial biasing, it should be.

Thematic Presentations
Theme 1: Need for more Research on Racial Profiling
Racial profiling has become one of the most controversial issues facing the Canadian criminal justice system. In a recent article, Thomas Gabor dismisses much of the evidence of racial profiling in Canada as "baseless" and "inflammatory.”(Gabor, 2004) We address Gabor's critique by highlighting findings from a Toronto survey which suggest that black youth are much more likely to report being stopped and searched by the police than youth from other racial backgrounds. Logistic regression analysis reveals that the impact of race remains strongly significant after controlling for social class, self-reported criminal activity, gang membership, drug and alcohol use, and public leisure activities. (Gabor, 2004) The article concludes with a discussion of the impact that racial profiling has on minority communities and a brief review of the potential benefits - and consequences - of mandating the police to collect their own stop and search data. (Gabor, 2004)
University of Toronto criminologist Scot Wortley wrote that "being stopped and searched by the police … seems to be experienced by black people as evidence that race still matters in Canadian society.(Wortley, 2003) No matter how well you behave, how hard you try, being black means that you will always be considered one of the ‘usual suspects.'"(Wortley, 2003) Wortley argues for more research and more data collection by police forces, saying the refusal to deal with it will "ensure that the issue of racial discrimination continues to haunt law enforcement agencies for decades to come." (Wortley, 2003)

Theme 2: Racial Profiling: Sociological Impacts
Alan D Gold was appointed by the Toronto police department to answer the obligations of Toronto Star. Gold in his article about the accusations by the Toronto Star took the point of view that the allegation by the journal on Toronto police was not based on any scientific grounds. It could be referred to as a junk science and nothing more than that.(Melchers, 2003) He added that any parts there exists a belief in racial profiling and this is a social reality but the fact that these allegations are of really some importance can not be true(Gold, 2003). He further added that usually media talked about an issue and rumors are an important part of this industry making it a multi million dollar industry in its context. The matter of racial profiling true or not is not of such importance as the solution to this problem (Melchers, 2003). There can be number of ways to resolve this problem.
The problem can be solved by improving communication, building transparency in justice system and by ensuring that each such case of discrimination can be dealt with as quickly as possible. In a society including many races and nationalities, this matter takes serious form as it brings a question mark to the entire system and puts it at a risk. It has also become a threat to the ability of the police to maintain law( Wortley, 2003) and order because if the police gets involved in such activities then there will no longer be a trust on the police department. The information by the Toronto star was obtained by Criminal Information Processing System also called CIPS. (Gold, 2003)

Theme 3: Public Views about Racial Profiling
Melcher how ever is of the point of view that many surveys show that majority of public and majority of visible minority group ("Blacks") do believe that the Police is racially biased and they do discriminate on the basis of race and color.( Melchers, 2003) Media did promote the word profiling and it has become common in recent decades." The police and other public organizations continuously monitor the color and race of the person stopped and keep records of it for future uses. This strengthens the case that racial profiling exists", said Melcher.(Melcher, 2003) Data collecting systems have become the main reason for people to believe that racial profiling exists.( Gabor, 2004)
Of course, it's always the appeal to higher values that allows racism to flourish.( Wortley, 2003) Prior to the civil rights movement, for example, many advocates of segregation claimed it was in the best interests of everyone. Blacks benefited from and wanted the system, it was argued.(Wortley, 2003) And today, it's easy to see the comparable argument about universal benefits for racial profiling of, say, airline passengers: everyone, even those targeted, is safer when those who fit the profile of a terrorist are subject to increased search. The argument was cogently summed up by Rudy Maxa, the travel expert in residence on the public radio program Marketplace, August 11, 2004:

The data under CIPS is provided free and the above mentioned paper used the data for further analysis by its experts and then using a deductive method, calculated the results. The results challenged both the proactively and reactivity of the police department which can not be true (Gold, 2003).Only the evidences that were useful in approving their point were used and the remaining was left which is a case of unfair evaluation and hence molding of the results to one’s own will.(Gold, 2003)

The Star used as its comparison, the general population figures from the last available census and claimed it to be a recognized standard which can not be true as no reputable researcher uses this kind of data as the backbone of the research (Gold, 2003). If the police were involved in any such activity then there would be increase in unsuccessful outcomes which is definitely not the case. Star had incorrectly presented the facts and violated many rules of research due to which its claim is wrong.(Gold, 2003)

The police department answered with Gold and denied the accusations set by the Star of singling out blacks. The police union went further and launched a $ 2.7 billion class action libel suit on behalf of its 7,200 union members.( Wortley, 2003) Since then this claim by Toronto police went to many attorneys, crown prosecutors, judges and police officials for their remarks on the issue for further strengthening the case against Toronto Star. (Melchers. 2003)

Wortley analyzed the report and concluded that Gold's report (1) does not properly define racial profiling and totally ignores the published criminological literature on this topic; (2) makes several incorrect and/or misleading statements designed to discredit the Star's analysis; (3) engages in questionable "data cleaning" procedures that may dramatically reduce racial disparities in the arrest statistics; (4) provides neither a transparent nor a complete re-analysis of the Star's major findings; and (5) provides no concrete evidence that can disprove the Star's allegations of racial bias.(Wortley, 2003)

This detailed conclusion open the door for further arguments defining racial profiling in broader and narrower contexts. All of the researchers do agree that there was lack of evidence in Star’s publication, yet it is to be noted that the reports published after Gold's report, do not rule out the possibility of Toronto Police's involvement in Racial Profiling. It is still believed as shown above through public opinions that majority of the public agree with the idea that police is involved in racial profiling.( Melcher 2003). The earlier reports did not address the racial profiling on a narrower scale. In 2004, Gabor's article brought new meanings to the topic stating that the previous articles failed to describe the reasons for high police presence in some minority neighborhoods. ( Gabor, 2004). Gabor further argues that it is true for crime to be distributed unevenly yet, it is not fair for high police density to be present in some minority areas most of the time. It makes the members of visible minority to feel like a criminal (Gabor, 2004). More over, if certain types of headings do continue to appear in news then it will certainly affect the society and it will have a deeper impact both psychologically and socially. ( Gabor, 2004)

Personal Reflection
There is no other subject that is more controversial at this time than racial profiling. If an air line pays special attention to the passengers from Middle East, it can get itself into trouble. If the air line takes out two such passengers on the other hand for checking, then it again risks a lawsuit. But the other side of the coin tells a different story. The al Qaeda members who are mostly Arab men look for potential security loopholes into the US system. I am trying to look at racial profiling from a completely different perspective. So is it unfair and against civil rights to check people especially on the airports if doubted?I do not think so but the process should be performed efficiently and transparently.

Another view of this scenario is that it is again making the life easier for the white people and discrimination is done on the basis of race and color.( Melchers, 2003) The old types of distinction used to consist of religion. It is all statistical these days. You get the statistics that it is highly probable for a terrorist to be from Middle East and have a swarthy complexion.

But the old racism was also based on science. But it was a junk science. We were supposed to prevent the black from mixing up in the white superiority. The segregation was of course done on this junkyard science that whites have bigger brains. We can say thanks to Stephen Jay Gould's classic. The "mismeasure" of man which was wrapped in the cover of science was totally flat out wrong.(Wortley, 2003) Gould showed that the scientists had totally measured the brain casings wrongly which had helped to justify the dominance of the whites. Gould measured the space inside the skull and found out the results that totally busted this idea supported by previous researches.

Even if we talk of today's era of scientific facts, racial profiling still exists, whether it's a railway station, bus stop or an airport, the racial discrimination is still part of the system on the basis of color and ethnicity(Wortley, 2003). It is more of cultural than statistical.( Gabor, 2004) The idea of scrutinizing a few people from the crowd facilitates the security agencies rather than pushing every one in the queue which can further dampen the ticket sales and demoralize those who travel only for luxury and visits( Wortley, 2003). To avoid the situations, only a few people are selected based on their race, separate from the crowd which lowers the cost of the security agencies as well.

Since it seems as if the racial profiling helps by lowering down the cost and facilitating the process, it is therefore our nature now to see it vas more scientific than as racism (Gabor, 2004). This is the same kind of trap that the scientists have been falling into in past days with the theory of white having bigger brains. It was not only mythological but was also not based on any scientific facts. Even now days, we have to think that are we seeing the data correctly or it is again just like the old days, being tricked by the context of cultural values wrapping the so called "scientific facts". (Melchers, 2004)

The security on the airport is a serious security concern how ever. We can not say that there is no need for it and treat it as a myth. I.S. has killed civilians around the world. Statistically, more than 5,000 in Afghanistan and more than 37,000 are killed in Iraq so far. Dictators are being trained and financed. It can not be a mystery that there are organizations who want to attack back on us. Their violence is reprehensible, just as ours is. But if we're going to insist on empire, then heightened airport security is part of the cost of doing our grisly business.

There are so many nations and races here there it is not possible to say which one is the superior one. It is totally unethical and wrong. Police department has been accused of racial profiling.( Wortley, 2003) Despite all the contradictory speeches and cases, it is still a fact that racial profiling is done. It has somehow become part of the system. The areas where black people live are more patrolled by the police than the other areas.(Melcher, 2003) It is true that some areas are more risky and a recent survey does show that at least 60% calls for public crimes at police emergency numbers report almost some specific areas for those crimes. (Wortley, 2003)It increases the probability of crime in those areas and in turn the police patrolling, but the problem here is that police people are found to stop people of visible minority group without any specific reason and investigate them without a proof.( Wortley, 2003) It is not to just stop any one and start investigating because he/she belongs to a visible minority group.( Gabor, 2004)

On the other hand, this is also true that if security is not tightened this way, then there can be further delays and hindrances to justice. It has also been proved that in specific areas, 70% crimes are done by members of a specific ethnic minority group (Gold, 2003). Police is some times, how ever obliged to take these kinds of steps to fulfill the security needs.

It is also not necessary that a person from a visible minority group is essentially involved in a crime of any time.(Melchers, 2003)Although according to police, there can be high probability for it, yet it makes no sense at all. All people are equal and should be treated equally. It is totally unfair to bring out a few people out of the crowd and only investigate them doubting them on the basis of visible minority color or ethnicity.(Melchers, 2003) The effects of this kind of controversy are long lasting but we have to eliminate the racial profiling from our society.

Research Question: Do racial Profiling exist in Canada? If yes, what are the factors that contribute in furthering this problem and what actions can be taken to avoid and limit society's black hole?

All the Articles that I have studied mostly debate about racial profiling, the causes and effects of it and the methods to eliminate it. They all revolve around the involvement of police in racial profiling. The topic is of utmost importance because it deals with the community of blacks and Hispanics and their problems with police. The minorities are important part of the society and they should be given equal rights and respect as stated by the law and also we should be caring for them because they are humans as ourselves.

Racial profiling to some extent do exist and as the reports and surveys state, there are some proofs of it that it exists even if only psychologically or in reality. Whether people are involved in it willingly or unwillingly, it should be stopped coz it is a big dot on the entire system and the system should be cleared of it. The overall mindset of people has to be changed about this issue. Only by making the trials & investigations unbiased and more transparent, eliminating the factors that increase the psyche of racial biasing and by ensuring that every one is treated equally regardless of gender, race, color and ethnicity, this problem can be resolved and we can succeed in making a secure and unbiased society free of racial profiling.

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