The New York Times recently reported a study from the Center for Constitutional Rights in which it was revealed that Black and Latino people were nine times more likely to be stopped and frisked by police in New York. As the article notes, this study was a response to issues that the organization feels are a result of a Supreme Court decision to allow officers to “briefly” detain people for “reasonable suspicion.” What they found is that even though people of color are stopped for “reasonable suspicion” more often, they are not arrested any more often than white individuals. Interestingly enough, white people were found to be arrested and possess a weapon slightly more often.
Numerous scholars have shown the obvious negatives effects of police stereotyping, or profiling as it is termed, on people of color. However, an interesting consequence to think about is the amount of White “blue-collar” criminals not getting stopped because they do not fit the stereotype, or profile, of a “blue-collar” criminal. In fact, in a 1996 study, Gordon, Michels, and Nelson, showed that people significantly underestimated the amount of “blue-collar” crimes that White criminals commit. Moreover, Gordon and his colleagues found that White criminals are overly estimated to be “white-collar” criminals, as opposed to “blue-collar” criminals. Therefore, it is likely that some of the results presented in the New York Times article are due, at least to some degree, to the fact that white people do not fit the stereotype (i.e. profile) of a “blue-collar” criminal. Consequently, racial profiling may be allowing some criminals to walk free because they do not fit the profile and are therefore not eliciting “reasonable suspicion”.
Gordon R. A., Michels, J. L., & Nelson, C. L. (1996). Majority Group Perceptions of Criminal Behavior: The Accuracy of Race-Related Crime Stereotypes. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 26, 148-159.