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.