Racial Profiling

This assignment is designed to recognize and evaluate your understanding of the material covered in this module. Your work will be assessed for demonstrated critical thinking, analytical and communication skills.  Read the instructions carefully and present your response in a clear and organized fashion. For grading criteria, please consult the rubric for this assignment.

After 9/11, the federal government announced a major program to conduct "voluntary" interviews with 5,000 holders of temporary visas from Arab countries thought to have significant ties to Al Qaeda. The Justice Department wanted local law enforcement personnel to conduct these interviews, with federal agents playing a supporting role. In Dearborn, Michigan, where the population of individuals of Arab descent has grown to nearly 30 percent since the 1960s, city and police officials resisted this plan. They insisted that the feds conduct the interviews (in plain clothes), supported by the local police and monitored by them to make sure that the feds acted professionally. The locals also got the feds to abandon the idea of unannounced calls and agree to schedule visits via letters, stressing that the interviews were voluntary and that there was no reason to suspect the individuals being interviewed of terrorist activities. (Source: Thacher, David: "The Local Role in Homeland Security," 39 Law and Society Review 635-76 [September 2005]).

  • Does such questioning as in the Dearborn case constitute racial profiling?  Does it undermine the principles of community policing?
  • Do the police need the discretion to use such investigative techniques in order to prevent and probe crime? 
  • How does police and prosecutorial discretion allow for racial and ethnic discrimination in the criminal justice system?  Is allowing such discretion desirable, when used fairly? 
  • What are some ways of curbing or checking this discretion to make the system more fair?  Do you think these things will be effective?  Why or why not? 

You should address these questions in a paper of approximately 2,400 words, relying primarily on the readings and other materials assigned in this module;  you will not receive credit without demonstrating that you have read and understood the material assigned.


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