Profiles in Injustice by David A. Harris
Why Police Profiling Cannot Work

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Synopsis

A powerful, myth-busting argument against racial profiling. Racial profiling—as practiced by police officers, highway troopers, and customs officials—has become one of America's most explosive public issues. But even as protest against the practice has swelled, little attention has been given to the law enforcement basis of profiling. Indeed, profiling has become one of the nation's most hotly contested social issues partly because of the assumption that underlying the practice is a common-sense consideration of racial patterns in crime. Profiling, it has been repeatedly argued, is ultimately rational. Profiles in Injustice dismantles those arguments, drawing on a wealth of new evidence to show convincingly that profiling is not only morally and legally wrong—but startlingly mistaken and ineffective. In this myth-busting book, David Harris—described by the Seattle Times as "America's leading authority on racial profiling"—reveals that the data collected by law-enforcement agencies themselves on racial profiling makes the case against it. Though it has been argued that people of color are targeted by police because they are disproportionately involved in crime, statistics from several states as well as the Customs Service show that the "hit rate"—the rates at which police actually find contraband on people they stop—is actually lower for blacks than for whites, and the hit rate for Latinos is much lower than for either blacks or whites. Profiles in Injustice is the first book to rigorously scrutinize the rationale and practice of racial profiling, as well as its remarkably far-reaching effects, from the way profiling has reinforced residential segregation to how it has corroded public confidence in the criminal justice system. Harris concludes with an examination of law enforcement agencies that have pioneered better, more effective policing while renouncing the poison of racial and ethnic bias.
 

About David A. Harris

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David A. Harris is Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Good Cops: The Case for Preventive Policing and Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work. He lives in Pittsburgh.
 
Published February 1, 2001 by New Press. 276 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Given Attorney General John Ashcroft’s recently announced plan to “question” thousands of young men about terrorism based on little more than their demographic profile, a searching debate on the merits of racial profiling would seem more urgent than ever.

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This thoughtful and scrupulous analysis of racial profiling's history, uses and ultimate failure as a measure for crime prevention takes on even deeper meaning following September 11.

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