The Decline of Racial Profiling


Jul 30, 2009

This commentary originally appeared on on July 30, 2009.

President Obama called the arrest of his friend Professor Henry Gates a "teachable moment." This is a moment to learn the facts of race and policing these days. The president put it this way: "There is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact."

Racial profiling has indeed been an ugly reality for many years. But our research in several large cities finds little evidence that it continues to be a major problem.

Police departments have made tremendous progress in both policy and practice of racial profiling. Numerous states and departments have banned it, and racial profiling prevention training is commonplace. Sgt. James Crowley, the officer who arrested Gates, has taught such a class at the local police academy for five years.

It's true that minorities continue to be stopped disproportionately to their representation in the population. But this information says nothing about whether police are racial profiling. A key reason for this disparity is exposure to police....

The remainder of this op-ed can be found at

Greg Ridgeway is director of the Center on Quality Policing and Nelson Lim is a Senior Demographer at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis.

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