Police officers are trained to set aside personal biases, and refrain from committing acts of brutality, harassment, and discrimination. However, it is not uncommon for these things to occur. Several years ago, the Philadelphia Police Department agreed to reform its policing practices to reduce racial profiling. However, according to some experts, there has been little improvement. Victims of racial profiling are protected by various laws, including the Fourth and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution. If you suspect you have been a victim of racial profiling, our civil rights lawyers can help.
What Is Racial Profiling?
Racial profiling is the expected belief that a person of a specific race is more likely to commit a particular crime or act a certain way. Law enforcement officers often engage in racial profiling when they spot an individual or group of individuals of a particular race and assume that they are breaking the law. Studies have shown that 37 percent of pedestrian stops in Philadelphia are made without a reasonable suspicion that the targeted individual was involved in a crime. One reason the statistics are so high is that police officers often operate under an unwritten but understood code of conduct known as the “blue wall of silence,” such that they often do not speak out against wrongdoing committed by their fellow officers. This is exacerbated by the fact that few police departments require their officers to record information about pedestrian stops or pat down searches.
Examples of Racial Profiling
Racial profiling can happen to an individual of any race, some examples include:
- If police see a group of African American males walking down the street and stop and frisk them under the mistaken belief that they are selling drugs.
- If police stop a person they believe to be of Middle Eastern descent under the assumption that they are planning or carrying out a terrorist attack.
- If a police officer stops a white man driving in a predominantly African American neighborhood at night thinking that he is there to purchase narcotics.
- Pulling over a minority driver because they are driving an expensive car.
In order to defend their behavior, police often charge victims of their misconduct with a crime, such as resisting arrest.
What Laws Prohibit Racial Profiling?
The United States Supreme Court has held that stopping a person on account of his or her race, even if there is another legitimate reason for the stop, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Racial profiling also violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits police from making arrests, or searching citizens or their property without a warrant.
The Pennsylvania State Police require their officers to record data (including the race of drivers) when they conduct traffic stops. However, there is no Pennsylvania or federal law that requires officers to record this information when making stops.
What Can Victims of Racial Profiling Do?
If you have had a confrontation with the police, and you believe it was prompted by your race, there are some steps you can and should take.
First, contact an experienced civil rights lawyers as soon as possible to begin building a strong foundation for your case. At Williams Cedar, we can help by conducting an independent investigation that involves interviewing witnesses, doctors who treated you for any injuries, and police experts.
Also, preserve evidence. This means that you should take pictures of any injuries you have sustained or other information pertinent to the situation. Keep any clothing you were wearing at the time. Locate people who were witnesses and write down their contact information. Take notes while the incident is still fresh in your mind.
With guidance from your lawyer, consider filing a complaint with the police department, the United States Department of Justice, and the United States Attorney General’s Office
Philadelphia Civil Rights Lawyers at Williams Cedar Fight Back for Victims of Racial Profiling
Having a recognizable race or ethnicity is not a crime. The police are supposed to protect and serve all citizens, and no one deserves to be the victim of police misconduct. Consult the trusted Philadelphia civil rights lawyers at Williams Cedar today if you suspect that you are a victim of illegal search and seizure or harassment by police. To learn more about how we can help, call us at 215-557-0099 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. With offices located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we represent clients across the United States.