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Smith: The Good Reasons For Banning Racial Profiling

Tom Chaulkey
Credit Tom Chaulkey


Here’s the other good reason for banning racial and other profiling. Atty. Gen. Brian Frosh reminds us that profiling is counterproductive.

"Experience has taught us," he writes, "that improper profiling by police exacts a terrible cost, discouraging cooperation by law abiding citizens … and eroding community trust."

Eroding community trust. Too many African American citizens are stopped, pulled over or suspected simply because they are black. Others face no such presumption.

The practice has a not-so-funny chorus: "Driving while black…" Or "standing around while black." Or "showing up in the wrong neighborhood while black."

Incidents of police brutality , including notably the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, sharpen the focus of police training in a number of areas. And not just in Baltimore. Every police agency in the state, from the mountains to the shore, may need a refresher course in the evils of profiling.

Again, the attorney general: "Rules and policies predicated on the discredited claim that certain groups commit crimes at higher rates … have been widely rejected," he says. And again a reference to the spate of often-lethal encounters between police and citizens.

"These tragic events have recently come to define the relationship between communities and police. That should not be," Frosh writes. His "guidance memorandum" is "meant to help repair fraying relationships… "

There are exceptions to the ban. They’re to be laid out carefully in the attorney general’s training program. And not a moment too soon. We can’t afford any more erosion of trust.

Copyright 2015 WYPR - 88.1 FM Baltimore

Fraser Smith has been in the news business for over 30 years. He began his reportorial career with the Jersey Journal, a daily New Jersey newspaper and then moved on to the Providence Journal in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1969 Fraser won a prestigious American Political Science Association Public Affairs Fellowship, which enabled him to devote a year to graduate study at Yale University. In 1977, Fraser was hired away by The Baltimore Sun where in 1981, he moved to the newspaper's Washington bureau to focus on policy problems and their everyday effect on Marylanders. In 1983, he became the Sun's chief political reporter.