Hear Me Out: Is it racial profiling or protecting the community?

PHOENIX - Each Sunday, ABC15.com debuts an Arizona issue - along with two opposing sides on the topic.

Don't worry, you always have the opportunity to make comments at the bottom of the page. Yeah, your opinion matters, too.

This week we're tackling the debate on whether or not racial profiling is really taking place in our Arizona communities.

Richard Rodriguez, a retired Hispanic rights activist, says racial profiling has been used as a tool that police and other security personnel employ to identify groups they wish to target.

John Augustyn, a retired police officer, says it is highly unlikely that organized racial profiling could go undetected and unreported in a law enforcement agency in Phoenix or Maricopa County today.

Click "next page" to read the first of two positions, "Racial profiling can't go undetected ".


"Racial profiling can't go undetected": By John Augustyn, a retired police officer

As a retired law enforcement officer, I am very interested when I hear an allegation of racial profiling. I know that racial profiling was not acceptable and not condoned by my superiors or peers at any time during my law enforcement career. Frankly, my colleagues and I find racial profiling to be repugnant.

The basic definition of racial profiling involves "the practice followed by law-enforcement officer of using race, national origin or ethnicity as a salient basis for suspicion of criminal activity" ( www.uslegal.com).  The American Civil Liberties Union provides a similar definition, then describes "criminal profiling" as "practiced by police" to be "the reliance on a group of characteristics they believe to be associated with a crime".   ( www.aclu.org)

The practice of criminal profiling frequently uses race, national origin or ethnicity to describe the victim or suspect in a crime. Factors, such as skin pigmentation, spoken language and other physical factors are important to identify or exclude persons accused of a crime.

It is highly unlikely that organized racial profiling could go undetected and unreported in a law enforcement agency in Phoenix or Maricopa County today. The level of the conspiracy to hide the practice of racial profiling is virtually unachievable. Today's society contains a wonderful and incredible blending of people of all races, national origins and ethnicities. It is highly likely that a law enforcement officer in any agency would have family members of other races and ethnicities. I do. I would not tolerate the practice of racial profiling because it has the potential to affect close family members. Many other law enforcement officers have the same diversity experience in their families and they would be offended by the abusive practice of racial profiling.

The use of descriptors of race, national origin and ethnicity continue to exist for statistical purposes. Their use for physical characteristics is less useful. Middle Eastern and some Mediterranean people share physical characteristics with people from other parts of the world, including many Arizona residents from Mexico and Central American countries. 

The term "Hispanic" was used in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting System and describes persons whose ancestry is associated with Spain and the Iberian Peninsula. Obviously, these people typically speak Spanish. Persons with white, brown or black skin can be classified as Hispanic. Therefore, this term does not, by definition, describe physical characteristics and is not necessarily useful in criminal profiling. Frankly, I am not sure why these labels exist in society-- whether for law enforcement or other purposes, excepting perhaps immigration statistics.

Physical characteristics are critical elements of an investigation. Race, national origin and ethnicity are poor substitutes for more clear descriptions of physical factors and spoken language. Perhaps, the time has arrived for the association of race, etc., to be eliminated in favor of simpler and clearer terms.

Racial profiling constitutes a practice that is not accepted by law enforcement professionals. Criminal profiling is a necessary practice in protecting the community. To think otherwise, is confused.

Do you agree with this opinion? Add a comment below to sound off.

Click "next page" to read the second position, "  Police, security personnel use racial profiling as a tool".


"Police, security personnel use racial profiling as a tool": By Richard Rodriguez, a retired Hispanic rights activist


How have we become so hardened that we look at people and based on what we see and how we see them, that assumptions are made regarding their character or who they are?

Sometimes these decisions are made because these people do not fit in the settings that we are in or where we are. Sometimes decisions made are based on certain ethnic characteristics. 

Racial profiling had been a tool that police/security personnel used to identify possible wrong doers or groups that they wish to target.

This became an abusive method that got out of hand when persons in charge forged ahead with their own agendas and their attitudes permeated the depth of their departments, organizations and staff.

If you wish to target a group because of how they looked, how they dressed, where they hung out.

This became their crime; they looked like they did not belong there.

This methodology has to stop and never be tolerated or accepted.

Do you agree with this opinion? Add a comment below to sound off.

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