“There shall be one law for all of you.” Leviticus 24:22
Do not make a mockery of justice for it is one of the . . . pillars of the world.” Talmud, Devarim Rabbah 5:1
Women of Reform Judaism has a strong history of challenging policies and practices that result in disparate treatment of minorities in our legal system. (Costigan-Wagner Federal Anti- 8 Lynching Bill, 1936 Resolution; Crime and the Criminal Justice System, 1983 Resolution; Equal 9 Justice and Equal Protection, 1999 Resolution.) Racial profiling occurs when law enforcement officials target people of color for detention, interrogation, and searches without evidence of criminal activity based on the person’s perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion. It happens every day throughout North America.
The practice of racial profiling became an issue in the recent presidential campaign in the United States. President Donald Trump declared his support of the practice when he cited New York City’s “stop and frisk” program as being legal and effective in a presidential debate on September 26, 2016. “Stop and frisk” is a policing tactic that allows police officers to search anyone they encounter. Data shows that 85% of the people who were stopped under the New York City program were black or Hispanic while those groups made up only 52% of the city’s population. The program was declared unconstitutional in 2013.
The American Civil Liberties Union has collected data that demonstrates that communities of color are policed excessively and inequitably. In one study, it found that blacks in one Midwestern city, who made up 19% of the population, were 25 times more likely to be arrested for loitering with intent to commit a narcotics offense. The same study showed that black drivers were nine times more likely than white drivers to be arrested for an active driving violation during daylight hours but only two times more likely when conditions made it difficult to identify the race of the driver. A Canadian study showed 30 that police in one eastern Ontario city were 3.7 times more likely to stop a black person than a white person and 1.4 times more likely to stop an aboriginal than a white person.
Racial profiling is as ineffective in protecting the public as it is inequitable. A study of San Francisco police data showed that black people accounted for 15% of police stops but 42% of non-consensual searches following stops. Whites, however, were two times as likely to be found to be carrying illegal contraband. In a study done in Ferguson, Missouri, blacks were more than twice as likely to be searched during vehicle stops than white drivers, but they were 26% less likely to be found with illegal contraband than whites. Similarly, a Chicago study showed that blacks and Hispanics were searched approximately four times as often as White drivers but contraband was found on white drivers twice as often as on black and Hispanic drivers.
In 2016, the Governor of Maine declared that he had collected data on arrests of drug dealers in his state and claimed that 90% of them were black or Hispanic. At a press conference, the Governor referred to drug dealers entering the state as the “enemy,” suggested that it is appropriate to “shoot at the enemy,” and stated that “the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of color or people of Hispanic origin”. The Governor’s own data, however, showed that at least 55% of the people arrested in the state for drug offenses were white.
A lack of trust between law enforcement and the public is both a cause and a consequence of racial profiling. Law enforcement agencies can address the problem by providing training to raise officers' awareness of implicit bias in policing, implementing clear policies regarding the circumstances under which stops, frisks, searches, and chases are performed, and encouraging the building of positive relationships among communities and the law enforcement personnel that serve them, a concept that is called community policing.
In the tradition of WRJ's strong voice against racial discrimination and in light of overwhelming evidence that racial profiling leads to inequitable treatment of minorities and is an ineffective policing tool, we, the Board of the Women of Reform Judaism, call on our members to:
- Become educated on the existence, harms, and inefficacy of racial profiling;
- Support local organizations that monitor police actions and combat racial profiling;
- Advocate for local, state, provincial, or national legislation that requires the collection of data and supports the training of police inequitable policing tactics;
- Participate in community-based dialogues pertaining to race and community-police relations; and
- Advocate for community policing programs.