We all engage in “profiling” every day. When we buy a car or purchase a home, seek a spouse, or even choose a restaurant, we are seeking specific qualities and traits and choosing to exclude other qualities and traits.
As Seattle drug crimes lawyers, we know that the police engage in profiling as well. If you have ever been stopped in traffic and ticketed for an equipment violation like a busted headlight or a broken wiper, you know that the police are constantly “profiling” automobiles – to ensure that those vehicles are safe to be on the road.
WHAT IS “RACIAL” PROFILING?
Police officers cannot legally use racial profiling, but it may still be used – anyway – to charge you with a crime. On the basis of racial profiling, some people have even been wrongly convicted of crimes.
Some kind of racial profiling happens every day. Hispanic students get asked if they’re “legal.” Black customers are followed by store employees. This may not directly harm the victims, but it has a ripple effect on society – in business, education, law enforcement, and criminal justice.
HOW DOES THE ACLU EXPLAIN RACIAL PROFILING?
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): “‘Racial profiling’ refers to the practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.”
The ACLU further says, “Racial profiling occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country … is patently illegal … and causes law enforcement to lose credibility and trust among the people they are sworn to protect and serve.”
Where profiling goes wrong – and when it’s against the law – is when law enforcement officers focus on a single characteristic – race – and use that single trait as the basis for stopping, detaining, or arresting a suspect.
Racial profiling by the police is illegal and unconstitutional, but it is still happening.
HOW DOES WASHINGTON STATE COMBAT RACIAL PROFILING?
However, the state of Washington is one of the states that has explicitly made racial profiling illegal. By law, every police agency in this state:
1. must have a written policy designed to condemn and prevent racial profiling
2. conduct training to address issues related to racial profiling
3. review and audit procedures, practices, and training to ensure that they do not enable or foster racial profiling
According to James Bible, a former president of the Seattle King County NAACP, “Nearly every African-American male can point to an instance where he feels he has been profiled.”
WHAT ARE THE THREATS POSED BY RACIAL PROFILING?
There is also a hidden danger to racial profiling – long-term health problems for its victims. According to Rutgers law professor Rachel Godsil, “There are enormous health consequences to those experiencing these everyday harms … because of the constancy of this stress.”
Racial profiling – and profiling based on religion, ethnicity and national origin – continues in the United States despite the many laws against it and the constitutional guarantee of equal treatment for all.
In a recent report, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights found that racial profiling is widespread, and they also found abundant evidence that African-Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately likely to be stopped, searched, and questioned by police officers.
Racial profiling undermines the public’s safety and destroys the trust between police departments and the communities they serve. When police officers target residents based on race, religion, or national origin, crime-fighting is less effective, and distrust of the police increases.
WHAT IF YOU ARE ARRESTED BECAUSE OF RACIAL PROFILING?
If you are arrested and charged with a crime in King County or anywhere else in the state of Washington, and if you believe that you were arrested and charged on the basis of a racial profile, what can you do?
If racial profiling has played any role in the state’s case against you, discuss your legal rights and options as quickly as you can with a criminal defense attorney.
If your rights are violated by the police in any way during a traffic stop, an interrogation, a search, or an arrest, it is possible that the charge against you could be reduced or even entirely dismissed, but you are going to need a good defense lawyer to argue on your behalf.
A criminal conviction can destroy your freedom and your future. If you are charged with a crime in this state – whether or not racial profiling was involved – you will need an experienced Seattle defense attorney to protect your legal rights and to defend you against the charge.
HOW CAN A LAWYER HELP A RACIAL PROFILING VICTIM?
Your defense lawyer will investigate the crime that you allegedly committed and the charge that has been filed against you. If the charge cannot be reduced or dismissed, in many cases, your attorney may recommend taking the case to trial and asking a jury to return a not guilty verdict.
If you believe that you were arrested on the basis of racial profiling, your attorney will investigate the police officer involved to determine if that officer has previously been accused of racial profiling or racial discrimination. If so, that will strengthen your case.
Your attorney will also examine the state’s evidence against you, interview any witnesses, and develop an effective defense strategy aimed at protecting your rights and your freedom.
However, if you in fact committed the crime and the evidence against you is conclusive, your defense attorney will probably recommend accepting a plea bargain that will allow you to plead guilty to a lesser charge, and your attorney will also ask for reduced or alternative sentencing.
DO THE SEATTLE POLICE HAVE A RACIAL PROFILING POLICY?
There is no tolerance for racial profiling in the state of Washington, and if it is discovered, it is dealt with. Seattle Police Department Public Affairs Director Sergeant Sean Whitcomb insists, “Every complaint is important to us and they will all be looked at.”
Get the legal help you need – immediately – if you’re charged with any felony or misdemeanor in the greater Seattle area or anywhere in the state. Nothing is more important than your freedom and your future, and having a good defense attorney’s help is your right.