Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age Of Colorblindness By Michelle Alexander

1164 Words 5 Pages
In her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander discusses the legal mechanisms used by the criminal justice system that contribute to the mass incarceration of African American males. Among sentencing laws and prejudice in jury selection, Alexander (2010) identifies stop and frisk policies as a discriminatory practice that allows police to racially profile African American men when stopping and searching them in the streets at higher rates than White individuals. Though stop and frisk policies are constitutional under the law, as decided by the Supreme Court, these policies can also be discriminatory in practice when police officers disproportionately target people of color in stops and searches. …show more content…
Ohio requires a reasonable suspicion to stop and search pedestrians, Whren v. United States required a higher burden of proof to pull over a vehicle. Police officers must have a “probable cause,” or a reason to believe that a traffic violation has occurred to conduct a traffic stop (Harris, 1997, p.545). Traffic violations such as running a red light, or in the case of Whren, failure to use turn signals and speeding satisfy this burden. The defense in the case argued that police officers used a traffic violation as an excuse to stop Whren’s vehicle and search for drugs because he was a Black man driving in a neighborhood with high crime (Harris 1997). The Supreme Court disagreed with the defense and reasoned that the personal motivations of the police officers in conducting the traffic stop were unimportant because a probable cause to pull Whren over existed when the initial traffic violation took place (Harris 1997). The decision in Whren v. United States is significant because it allows police officers to use traffic infractions as a pretext to pull over the individuals they suspect of committing a crime, even when racial and biased motivations might …show more content…
City of New York was the first district case to successfully challenge stop and frisk policies. The class action suit filed against New York City alleged that the procedures were racially biased and unconstitutional. The report detailed that in over 4.4 million stop and frisks, 55% of the individuals stopped were Black and 31% were Hispanic (Clark 2015). In addition, evidence described that police officers searched individuals, even if a reasonable suspicion did not exist. However, in their decision, the District Court did not invalidate the use of stop and frisk policies or rule them unconstitutional. Instead, the Court decided that the manner the City of New York practiced these procedures violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments (Clark 2015). In the end, the District Court created a committee to oversee the training of police officers and to implement reforms throughout New York City’s police departments. This case was significant in acknowledging the role of racial profiling, however, it was limited in its effect when ruling only in the jurisdiction of New York City and upholding the legality of stop and frisk

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