Posts Tagged ‘racial profiling’

Using racial profiling is to be banned – except for those who need to use it

December 6, 2014

The point about profiling of any kind is that is tries to tie certain kinds of unwanted behaviour to other visible characteristics as a way of trying to detect such unwanted behaviour before it happens. But in almost every case it tries to increase the probability of detection of what is always a very low incidence rate of a particular behaviour.

For example if more terrorists tend to be bearded than not, then all bearded people are made subject to extra checks even though the incidence of a bearded person being a terrorist may be very low. The liberties of bearded people at large are sacrificed for the potential benefit of finding the “bad”, bearded guy. Or, as is happening in the US, and because certain crimes are more likely to be carried out by black or hispanic people, police detain and check black and hispanics more often just because they are black or hispanic rather than because they have any other indicators. But the connections between behaviour and profiles are a long, long way from being a science. Profiling is a very crude tool.

But using just race or appearance is not just crude, it also uses the ends (finding the “bad guy”) to justify the means (disenfranchising a great many of a particular group). And of course these means then tend to become self-fulfilling. It inconveniences and harasses the many in order to find the very few. It becomes a vicious loop when the means used provoke the very behaviour that is to be detected and avoided. And then to use such a crude tool – as profiling actually is – ends up with a huge amount of collateral damage.

The recent deaths of black people in encounters with white policemen, where the US Grand Juries do just what the prosecutor wants, and finds that policemen have no case to answer, have brought this again in to focus. And so racial profiling is to be banned except for use by the Department of Homeland Security and the Customs. Presumably the justification is that the DHS and Customs are looking at “very serious crimes”. Therefore the trampling on of individual liberties of many can be justified by the level of the potential downside.

VAGazetteAs the Obama administration prepares to announce new curbs on racial profiling by federal law enforcement, government officials said Friday that many officers and agents at the Department of Homeland Security will still be allowed to use the controversial practice, including while they screen airline passengers and guard the country’s southwestern border. …… 

The changes will also expand the definition of profiling to prevent FBI agents from considering factors such as religion and national origin when opening cases, officials said.

But after sharp disagreements among top officials, the administration will exempt a broad swath of DHS, namely the Transportation Security Administration and key parts of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to law enforcement officials.

The announcement of the new policy comes at a time of rising national protest over allegations that police engage in profiling when investigating and using force against minorities. The debate has been fueled by the recent deaths of three unarmed African-Americans at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, New York and Cleveland, and the absence so far of criminal charges against the police officers who were involved.

But this logic is flawed. If it is acceptable for use by Customs to look for drug runners, then why is it not also acceptable for policemen doing the same thing? Either it is a good enough tool or it is not.

This action does not actually address the problems displayed at Ferguson or New York. And it is not just that there is a single problem. Policemen in the US, it is clear, profile people by race and do it automatically and unconsciously. They have some justification in real crime rates. Prosecutors and District Attorney’s use the grand juries for political ends – especially in not prosecuting those that they wish to protect. They also use prosecutions to harass political opponents. And thirdly – and that cannot either be ignored – the crime rate among blacks is undoubtedly significantly higher than for other groups (whatever the causes may be).

I suspect that these actions are primarily for the administration to demonstrate that they are doing something – anything – and to defuse the current wave of protests.

“Asians” were travelling on two of the stolen European passports on MH370

March 10, 2014

The Malaysian Home Minister is embarrassed.

But in good politician style he will find others to pass the buck on to. In this case he is passing responsibility on to his immigration staff. He “slammed Immigration officials for not conducting proper passport checks, and identified the two passengers who were travelling on stolen passports as “Asians”. He clearly believes in racial profiling and probably has not heard about how many Europeans today are of “Asian” origin.  A special investigation – or will it be a witch-hunt? – is under-way. There is little doubt that a scapegoat within the immigration department will be found. And I would venture to predict that the staff found to be blamed will be of Chinese or Indian ethnicity.

Malaysian Insider: The Home Minister slammed Immigration officials for not conducting proper passport checks, and identified the two passengers who were travelling on stolen passports as “Asians”. Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid  Hamidi  hit out at the Immigration officers allowing two “Asian” men with European identities to board the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370. 

“I am puzzled how come (immigration officers) cannot think, Italian and Austrian (passengers) but with Asian facial features,” he was quoted saying by national news agency Bernama, adding that an internal investigation of the Immigration Department has commenced.  

“The investigation would give special attention to the department’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) branch. “We will conduct an internal probe, particularly of the officers who were on duty at the KLIA Immigration counter during flight MH370.”
Ahmad Zahid said the investigation was being conducted by a special team led by Immigration Department director-general Datuk Aloyah Mamat.

It is now thought that “only” two passengers were using false passports and not four. Small comfort!

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