The Question of Racial Profiling

2004
Distributed by Human Relations Media, 41 Kensico Drive, Mt. Kisco, NY 10549; 800-431-2050
Produced by Jason Samuels & Andrew Lehren for NBC News Production
Director n/a
VHS, color, 40 min.
Jr. High - Adult
African American Studies, Ethics, Law


Reviewed by Patricia B. McGee, Coordinator of Media Services, Volpe Library & Media Center, Tennessee Technological University

Recommended   
 
Date Entered: 10/10/2005

This NBC Dateline program explores whether the Cincinnati police are racially profiling African-American residents. The police argue they engaging in a program of "aggressive pro-active policing," yet of the 18 people killed in the past several years in confrontations with the police, all are African-American. The most recent fatality, nineteen year old Timothy Thomas, had been pulled over eleven times and cited for non-moving violations. Blacks in Cincinnati are three times more likely to be ticketed for non-moving violations, such as failure to wear a seatbelt or driving without a license. The non-moving violations are used as an excuse to search drivers and vehicles for weapons and drugs, when in fact there has been no probable cause for such a search. Critics argue that this "allows an end run around the constitution," and generates "hostility and anger."

Dateline examined some four million traffic stops in cities across the United States. Twelve cities clearly demonstrated that black drivers were stopped at anywhere from twice to three times the rate that white drivers were stopped. Only two cites, Nashville and Hartford, had no difference. Based on the statistical analysis it is hard not to reach the conclusion that racial profiling by police departments is happening in many of Americaís cities. At the same time, further evidence suggests that racial profiling is ineffective at preventing crime. Cincinnati police vigorously deny they practice racial profiling, yet the city settled a court case brought by Timothy Thomasís mother and others for $4.5 million. The Justice Department has announced new federal guidelines on racial profiling, yet without requiring police to record every stop and without any penalties for violations, the guidelines appear to be ineffective.

The Question of Racial Profiling is an excellent classroom resource. The problem of racial profiling is very clearly presented in this disturbing documentary and the teacherís guide is a useful aid that highlights the problem and offers topics for class discussion.