Sample Essay on Racial Profiling on Juveniles in Urban Communities

Racial Profiling on Juveniles in Urban Communities


            Racial profiling defines an act of believing or suspecting that a person belonging to a certain race is a criminal because of existing stereotypes about that race. As explained by Rice (2010), racial profiling defines discriminatory acts carried out by law enforcement executives against targeted individuals that are prone to suspicions of criminal activities because of their racial, ethnic, and religious background or nationality. In general terms, racial profiling, as often practiced by the police, is the dependence on characteristics associated to a certain group that people believe is likely to commit crime. An example of racial profiling can occur when the traffic police incline their judgment of certain racial characteristics to establish which drivers to stop to investigate small traffic violations, often termed to as “driving while black”. This paper investigates the use of community policing to control and prevent criminal activities linked to racial profiling on juveniles in urban communities.

Background Information

            The issue of racial profiling is not new in United States and in other parts of the globe. This practices dates back to the period of slavery, particularly in the 1600s. For instance, in 1693, the law enforcement officials in Philadelphia gave mandate to the police authority to arrest any Negro found roaming around the streets. As a result of this mandate, the discriminative practice prevailed through the Jim Crow period as well as the 21st century where it is believed to be largely prevalent in most cities in the United States (Kamalu, 2010). In 1996, the United States’ Supreme Court, in a case involving the US government v Armstrong, judged that racial profiling, especially among members of minority groups is legal in instances where there is no data showing that “similarly convicted” defendants from a majority group may have been disparately situated. This violated a court ruling passed during the 9th Circuit, which stated that law enforcement must be carried out on the assumption that individuals belonging to all races are capable of committing all sorts of crimes. Hence, law enforcement executives should not base judgment on the premise that certain types of crimes are exclusive to members of certain ethnic or racial groups (Tapia, 2012). The provisions made on the Ninth Circuit Court Ruling waved away possible challenges affecting provisions made on the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the US constitution, which gave all citizens the right to be safe from unjustified seizure and be treated equally as supported by the law respectively. However, the 1996 US Supreme Court Ruling has cemented racial profiling to an extent that there is no known case where any US legal agency has dismissed criminal allegations even when court officials discover that the defendant was detained on basis of race (Rice, 2010).

In his attempt to end racial profiling in United States, George W. Bush during a national congress session declared that the practice was wrong and would be terminated in the country without necessarily interfering with the work of courageous police officers. The president’s declaration led to the establishment of an internet-based resource center where all data linked to racial profiling in the country would be gathered. The team managing the resource center currently maintains a website through which police officers, legislators, social activists, community leaders, media officials as well as legal researchers can access data on efforts, legislation, policies, and community initiatives linked to racial profiling (Kamalu, 2010). The website also dispenses information regarding background of gathered data, jurisdictions involved in data collection, community initiatives as well as the legislation that either has been implemented or is pending in different states across the country. The website further has information regarding planning and implementation of data collection procedures, the training officials involved in system implementation, the analysis, and dispensation of data and results. In 2003, the United States’ Department of Justice outlined guidelines that would be used by the Law Enforcement Agencies in curbing racial profiling (Rice, 2010). Today, most states in United States have established reporting requirements in addressing the issue of racial profiling. For instance, Texas has reporting requirements demanding that all legal agencies would provide annual reports on racial profiling to its Law Enforcement Commission. This requirement was imposed in 2001 when the state passed a new law demanding that all legal agencies would start to collect any data related to traffic or pedestrian seizures. Other states across the country have continued to follow this trend by creating laws requiring legal agencies to submit annual reports related to racial profiling (Kamalu, 2010).

Problem Statement

            The issue of racial profiling has been prevalent in United States, which affects racial minorities that include juveniles. Differential rates of arrests indicate that juveniles, particularly those living among the urban communities, are mostly affected by violent offending that is often perpetuated by police officers, who relate stereotypical characteristics associated with juveniles to crime. According to Kamalu (2010), data obtained from the 1998 UCR indicates that differential rates or arrests that see most juveniles becoming victims are based on race. For instance, arrests made in 1998 comprised white juveniles estimated at 71% of all arrests made, black youths estimated at 26%, and Indian and Asian natives estimated at 1% as well as Pacific Islanders estimated at 2%. With black juveniles constituting about 15% of United States’ juvenile population, it is obvious that they were overrepresented in the differential arrests compared to white juveniles that make up 79% and other races that make up 5% of United States’ juvenile population. The distribution of the defendants by crime index also varies with black youths accounting to 42% of violent crimes as opposed to white juveniles that account to 55% and other races accounting to 3% of these crimes (Kamalu, 2010). According to Rice (2010), current data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that black juveniles, when compared with white juveniles, tend to be overrepresented in arrests for crimes, such as robbery, murder, and manslaughter, usually estimated at 54% and 43%, 49% and 47% and 55% and 42% respectively. The black juveniles are also overrepresented in arrests for crimes related to homicides. As explained by Kamalu (2010), black juveniles are five times more probable to be incarcerated for homicides than their white counterparts. Therefore, it is apparent that racial profiling is a critical factor in determining differential arrests for various crimes in the United States, which justifies the need to investigate the topic.

Study Justification

            Researchers have observed significant differences in arrests for both the juvenile and adult offences among members of various ethnicities and races for a long time. Such differences have attracted varying theoretical interpretations as well as public policy discussions. However, most researchers have made significant conclusions about differences in offences and arrests basing their facts on individual-level data, thereby yielding incomplete outcomes. As such, there are no multilevel analyses that could generate full understanding about such differences that have been employed (Rice, 2010). Similarly, other scholars have only been concerned about the statistical differences prevailing between offenders from varying racial and ethnic backgrounds. On this note, a knowledge gap, especially in relation to factors, effects, and solutions to racial profiling on juveniles, particularly those living in urban communities where various crimes are more likely to prevail exists. Similarly, no study has sought to investigate how community policing has been employed to curb racial profiling on minority members, particularly juveniles residing in urban communities (Tapia, 2012). It is thus rational that this study is carried out to help bridge this gap as well as add this topic to the already existing body of knowledge.

Research Questions

The overarching topic of this inquiry is the use of community policing in controlling and preventing racial profiling on juveniles living in urban communities in Jackson, Mississippi. The specific questions of the study will include:

  • Are there cases of racial profiling on juveniles living in urban communities in Jackson, ms?
  • Are there possible factors that are likely to contribute to racial profiling in relation to differential arrests on juveniles?
  • How does racial profiling affect juveniles in urban communities in Jackson, ms?
  • How can community policing be used in addressing racial profiling in relation to differential arrests on juveniles in urban cities in Jackson, ms?

Literature Review

Racial profiling, which is often carried out by middle aged patrol police officers, is a subject that has gained prominence, particularly in the field of criminology and criminal justice in the recent past. This is because juveniles, mainly from the African American population, exhibit a significant overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. The study has attracted attention among many scholars that have employed varying scope and methodology in attempt to understand the subject. Most of these scholars have agreed that the key contributing factor to such thrilling numbers is that most police officers may have used race as the primary factor for stopping, questioning, and arresting members of the minority group. This section aims to review information compiled by various researchers to understand what they have studied about the topic.

Factors Contributing to Racial Profiling on Juveniles

            Literature indicates that most middle-aged patrol police officers have various reasons that drive them to use punitive treatment towards juveniles living in urban communities, particularly those from the African American community. A study by Kamalu (2010) was conducted among middle-aged patrol police officers to determine whether previous crime statistics influence their decision to use actions that are more punitive on juveniles. A popular explanation that most police officers gave was that the African American juveniles living in urban communities already had high crime statistics compared to juveniles from other races. As such, the African American juveniles were more likely to commit crime, which mainly included violent crimes, than juveniles from other races. Kamalu discovered that most of the police officers justified their use of crime statistics to arrest and convict juveniles, thereby promoting racial profiling as a primary measure for arrest and conviction among juveniles. Thus, Kamalu concluded that the African American juveniles living in high crime areas, which mainly include urban communities, have a high degree of contact with the police, and are therefore likely to be arrested on basis of their racial and ethnic background.

Literature has also indicated that urban disadvantage is another factor that promotes patrol police officers to use racial profiling in arresting juveniles living in urban communities. A study by Tapia (2012) showed that urban disadvantage enhances racial discrimination in urban housing, thereby concentrating most African American juveniles in poor neighborhoods. Urban disadvantage thus exposes the African American juveniles to pronounced race-based residential segregation, abject social isolation, and poverty. This gives middle-aged patrol police officers more reasons to believe that juveniles living in such neighborhoods are more likely to commit crime than juveniles from other races. Similarly, urban disadvantage as well as residential segregation marks pronounced boundaries between “poor” African American juveniles and “wealthy” juveniles from other races. Tapia thus concluded that urban disadvantage exposes the African American juveniles to greater contact with the police compared to juveniles from other races, thereby increasing their chances of arrest on basis of racial profiling.

A research that was carried out by Rice (2010) showed that social disorganization is another factor that exposes juveniles in urban communities to more punitive actions that include arrest from police officers. Rice (2010) explained that social disorganization is a common factor in poor neighborhoods where most African American juveniles are concentrated. This factor in return hinders residents in these neighborhoods from realizing common goals in life, thereby being unable to regulate the conduct of at-risk groups that mainly include juveniles. While this factor further enhances neighborhood instability, communication barrier and constant neighborhood mobility, it increases the juveniles contact with the police compared to juveniles from other races. Therefore, Rice concluded that social disorganization is a primary factor for racial profiling, which increases the overrepresentation of arrested African American juveniles compared to juveniles from other races.

Effects of Racial Profiling on Juveniles in Urban Communities

            The reviewed literature has shown that racial profiling on juveniles living in urban communities attribute to serious implications that affect both the judicial system and the wider community in Jackson. According to Kamalu (2010), racial profiling approaches are associated with increasing disparities in the arrests as well as the rate of crimes that are usually ascribed to the African American juveniles. As a result, the trend translates to overrepresentation of the African American juveniles in prisons, thereby presenting racial profiling as a “self-accomplish prophesy”. This is because constant arrest of the African-American juveniles means that the police will continue to sharpen their skills and generate more resources to be able to apprehend more.

A study conducted by Rice (2010) showed that the overrepresentation of the African American juveniles as a result of racial profiling has led to growth in prison bureaucracy, which affects the social, economic, and political societal aspects. For instance, increased arrests on the African American juveniles increase prison population, which demands for more resources to fight crime and cater for inmates’ prison expenses. Differential arrests on juveniles affect the degree of productivity in the wider community as potentially productive members of the society are often taken away, thereby interfering with their ability to make any significant contribution to the society.

The Role of Community Policing in Controlling Racial Profiling

            Literature has shown that community policing has a critical role in preventing racial profiling, which is often associated with police brutality. Fr example, literature has suggested that police officers should be assigned to the same neighborhood every time they go on patrol. This would ensure that they interact with and know community members to be able to look beyond their skin color. A study by Kamalu (2010) has shown that community policing, which was mainly carried out at a personal level, was embraced in San Diego and it eventually reduced cases of racial profiling and police abuse. This was because police officers took time to know community members, and hence, could not arrest them because of their skin color.

Literature has also suggested that the use civilian review panels to investigate police misconducts can also prevent racial profiling on juveniles. A study by Tapia (2012) was conducted to investigate how Los Angeles managed to curb racial profiling through civilian review panels. The findings of this inquiry showed that most areas in Los Angeles had established programs that aimed to raise awareness as well as report cases of police misconducts. The panels were also given authority to independently investigate possible police misconducts and victim complaints as well as punish blameworthy police officers. Most areas also established civilian advisory panels that would direct police officers in arresting actual offender in their communities. Tapia (2012) concluded that similar programs could be employed in Jackson MS to help curb racial profiling.


Racial profiling on juveniles living in urban communities has gained significance, especially because it instills serious implications that affect the judicial system as well as the larger society. The implications of this practice range between increasing overrepresentation of minority groups in prisons, high prison bureaucracy, increasing crimes associated with minorities and growing complexities on the social, economic, and political societal aspects. Although scholars have attempted to study this topic, they have only concentrated on trends, factors, and effects of racial profiling but have not looked at how community policing can enhance the prevention and control of this practice. This section outlines the research methodology that will be employed in bridging this gap.

The type of research design that will be used in this study will be exploratory, as it will entail examining existing data set to establish the type of relationship that is likely to prevail between the important study variables. While the study explores the use of community policing to prevent racial profiling on juveniles, community policing will constitute the independent variable while racial profiling will represent the dependent variable. Qualitative methodology will be employed during the data collection process. Data will be gathered from both the primary and secondary sources, which is justified by the fact that reliable data on this topic is likely to be available from government sources and personal reporting data. The study will be conducted in the urban region in Jackson, Mississippi. Secondary data will be gathered from government databases available at the Federal Bureau of Investigation offices while the primary data will be gathered from urban communities. Community representatives will be chosen randomly and requested to participate in the study.

Direct interviews and focus group dialogues will be used to collect information from the community representatives. Before the material day of inquiry, participants’ consent will be sought and an assurance for confidentiality given. The questions that will be used in the study will be presented to a panel of highly experienced professionals that can help to test for validity. The reliability of these materials will also be tested using a group of close and trustworthy friends. Participants will be requested to give genuine responses to the questions as possible.

At the end of the data collection activity, data will be coded to enhance easy analysis. All the information will be analyzed statistically to ease the generation of reliable outcomes. The SPSS software will be employed during the analysis exercise and the results presented using various statistical devices. The study outcomes will be adopted in making conclusions as well as recommendations that can help to address the problem of inquiry.



Kamalu, N.C. (2010). Racial Disparities in Sentencing: Implications for the Criminal Justice System and the African American Community, African Journal Of Criminology & Justice Studies: AJCJS, 4(1), 1-31.

Rice, S. (2010). Race, Ethnicity, and Policing: New and Essential Readings, New York: New York University Press, Print.

Tapia, M. (2012). Juvenile Arrest in America: Race, Social Class and Gang Membership. London:  LFB Scholarly.