Racial profiling: Perception vs Reality

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There is a fundamental principle enshrined in law which means that that all are equal before the law. However, the existence and extent of racial profiling in the UK gives rise to a disproportional effect on the application of the law to the Black community. Pressure on government, caused by a disparity between the perceptions and reality on controlled drug use, leads to a distorted national drug policy with racial profiling magnifying the effects on the Black community negatively.

At present, the Misuse of Drugs Act accounts for over 1 in 3 stop and search arrests by the Met. Recent analysis by the LSE and Open Society Justice Initiative as reported in shows that 'Black people are now 30 times more likely to be stopped by the police than White people'.

Advocates of racial profiling argue that although it is unfair to judge on appearances, if the individuals in a group are more likely to commit a crime then it would give a pragmatic and experiential reason for the Met to do so. Despite the obvious distasteful and moral bankruptcy of racial profiling, if the logic and the pragmatism of the argument stood up, it could be appreciated, but the premise simply does not hold up to scrutiny.

Last year, the subsequent arrest rate percentages by ethnic appearance of the White and Black population were 9.4 and 9.9 respectively. For the Black and White population, it suggests that ethnicity has little if any overall correlation with the likelihood of arrest following a stop and search by the Met. Therefore, despite the disproportionality of stop and search on the Black community, the arrest rates are the virtually identical, eliminating any perceived value of racial profiling.

With the Justice Secretary's recent assertions on the UK 'losing the war on drugs' and recent AIDS2012 conference, the political debate on drug policies will be brought even further to the front. Whilst tackling the drug problem and its negative effects is crucial, the extent of racial profiling and its magnifying effects on the application of punitive drug laws on racial groups must be highlighted.

Without the voices from those in more direct contact with the reality of racial profiling, I fear that important concerns and perspectives will go unrepresented in the political discussions.

Berny Torre

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