Criminology Colloquium Series: Ojmarrh Mitchell

Wednesday, November 6, 2019 - 12:00pm

395 McNeil Building 
3718 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104

"What's Wrong with 'Racial Profiling?': A Critique of the Concept, Research, and Proposed Remedies"
“Racial profiling” is a term without an agreed upon definition but it is widely understood to involve the improper use of race, ethnicity, or national origin in law enforcement decision-making. In this presentation, I argue that much of what we think we “know” about racial profiling is wrong. Popular definitions of the term “racial profiling” are much too narrow or too vague, and, in this way, they are wrong. I contend prevailing thought on the causes of racial profiling as residing within individuals is deeply flawed and leads to interventions that will be ineffective such as implicit bias training. I demonstrate that racial profiling is not primarily a problem of biased cognitions; instead, racial profiling is caused by remediable structural factors that are beyond the control of individual officers patrolling American streets. These structural factors motivate police officers to take racially biased actions and facilitate racial profiling by providing legally defensible shields to conceal biased actions. The recognition of the true causes of racial profiling combined with technological innovations in policing lead to real-world solutions that could end racial profiling.