‘How to combat racial profiling without talking about race’

In France, young people who identify as black or Arab are 20 times more likely to be stopped by police, according to the French human rights monitor. Racial profiling is entrenched in the French police force, but unlike the United States and Canada, France has done little to combat this form of discrimination.

The warning signs are there.French nonprofits, anti-racism activists and pundits have been sounding the alarm for decades –lNot long ago, Nahel, a 17-year-old French boy of Moroccan and Algerian descent, was killed by the police, triggering days of riots across the country.

Video of unthreatened police shooting unarmed teen during traffic jam reignites calls from left-wing politicians and the United Nations French police acknowledge its racial profiling problem.

young people identified as black or arab 20 times more likely More likely than others to be pulled over for an ID check.

However, French authorities deny that there is systemic racism. While some efforts have been made to address racial profiling, such as training police officers on potential discriminatory practices, no specific policies or laws have been implemented to address the issue.

Faced with similar disparities between theoretically color-blind policing and unfair treatment of minorities, the United States and Canada have attempted to curb such racial profiling, with little success so far.

Court ruling not enough to change ‘wider police culture’

In 1996, New Jersey became first state Racial profiling was confirmed after a court ruled that police officers unfairly targeted and arrested minorities on the New Jersey Turnpike. A few years later, the Justice Department asked state police departments to track racial disparities in turnpike enforcement and placed 2,500 officers under federal consent orders to ensure they complied.

But racial profiling allegations on the New Jersey Turnpike persist. Thirty years after the original ruling, audit Black drivers are still more frequently searched, arrested and used force during police traffic stops, the survey found. ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) Report In 2018, black New Jersey residents were still 3.5 times more likely than white residents to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite similar rates of use, the study found.

“[The ruling] It doesn’t change the broader police culture,” said Jean Beaman, an associate professor of sociology at UC Santa Barbara who has studied state violence in France and the United States.

“Just look at the legislation passed in New York [to reform] Stop and search,” Beeman said.

read moreWhy deadly police shootings are on the rise on French roads

Body cameras and accountability

A few miles north of New York City, former mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to fight racism. In a way, he did. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that New York’s stop-and-frisk practices were racially biased. Previously, the practice allowed police to stop, question and search residents only on the basis of “reasonable suspicion”.

new york police department ordered Overhaul policies, training, and practices to eliminate racial discrimination in stop and search cases. Police are required to wear body cameras and monitor them to hold accountable.

“It’s a huge win,” Beeman said.according to New York TimesSince then, de Blasio has managed to reduce the total number of arrests, criminal citations and pedestrian stops by 82%. Crime rates have also dropped.

But that’s not enough. 2020 Report Surveys by the Justice Data Collaborative found that black neighborhoods still have higher vigilante rates than white neighborhoods.Racial Disparities Remain, Blacks and Hispanics Remain More likely Easier to stop and arrest than whites.

While Beeman acknowledged the positive outcomes of the ban, she said “it doesn’t change the overall practice of police racial profiling, because they’re more likely to harass people they think may be involved in criminal activity.”

“You can change things, but the logic of policing … treating certain people as criminals or suspects rather than ordinary citizens … won’t change,” she explained.

“Tools that incite racial profiling”

Anaïk Purenne, a French sociologist who works on youth-police relations, focusing on issues of discrimination and police profiling, agrees with Jean Beaman’s reference to the larger “policing logic” is one possible explanation for reform deficiencies. “We have to take into account the biases that certain public policy priorities may have,” Prener said. She said if “fighting crime” was the top priority of the police force, it was important to understand the biases instilled in the police force.

But Prena was intrigued by another case. in a book titled “pull over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship,” researchers observed police behavior during traffic stops in Kansas City and surveyed 2,300 drivers over several years. Conduct racial profiling. However, during police stop investigations, similar to previous stop and frisk practices, were based on “reasonable suspicion” that racial profiling was evident.

“[The authors] The conclusion was that police detection tools themselves had to be broken … police tools had to be completely abolished,” Prene said. “I found that to be a very interesting idea. Removing tools that incite racial profiling can be very beneficial. ”

The sociologist explained that this approach is being tested in some parts of the world, including Canada.In Nova Scotia, police aren’t allowed to conduct random street ID checks Since 2019. “It’s too early for us to really measure the impact, but it’s worth monitoring,” Prena said.

Step One: Acknowledge the Problem

There are many ways to reform policing to end racial profiling. The US examples may not be perfect, but they are a start.

Beeman and Prena both expressed pessimism when it came to possible reforms to the French police aimed at curbing racial profiling. The crucial first step, the two sociologists agree, is for French authorities to acknowledge that there is a problem.

“It was very simple,” said Purenne, “we started by acknowledging that there was a problem and naming it.”

she added It is also important to be open within the police force to the idea that there may be structural reasons for this behaviour.

For Beeman, both France and the United States “need comprehensive accountability mechanisms for the police”.

“Part of that is recognizing how to systematize [racism or discrimination] In fact, even in the U.S., we’ve pretty much avoided dealing with it, but that’s the first step,” she said.

However, Biman knows that achieving accountability in France can be challenging. For example, compiling racial statistics is illegal in France. “You can’t talk about racial profiling without having the infrastructure to talk about race,” she said.

read moreFrance Considers Itself Colorblind – So How Do The French Talk About Race?

lack of statistics

What’s more, French police are not obliged to keep records of pedestrians they stop. “Police will only fill out stop forms if they think the information they gather is relevant or interesting. [for another case],” Prena said. “We need more transparency. “

NGOs and anti-racism activists have made numerous proposals to combat police violence and racial profiling in France. For example, in low-income neighborhoods like the one where young Naher came from, there is talk of “close police.”French sociologist Julien Talpin said in an interview with FRANCE 24 TV interview “Residents demand ‘close police,’ police officers who are in the community every day and can actually build trust with residents”.

In July 2021, six NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, filed a class-action lawsuit with France’s highest administrative court to finally end racial profiling in light of the authorities’ inaction on the issue. They claim that French police target minorities in the selection of who they stop and check, a practice they say is rooted in a culture of systemic discrimination.

The case is still pending.

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