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Authorities unjustly cite minorities more

Nicolas Molina , Opinion Writer
November 7, 2013
Filed under Opinion

While racial profiling on motorists in larger cities like New York can be a common occurrence,  black motorists have received a large majority of police citations in Green Bay, Wis.

A Press-Gazette Media analysis showed Green Bay police have issued, on average, 276.7 citations for every 1,000 black motorists as opposed to the 71.1 issued to whites in 2010-2011, Press-Gazette Media writer Charles Davis said.

Racial profiling can happen anywhere and to anyone and is an unfortunate, but inevitable part of our society. However, in the case of minorities in cities, it’s entirely preventable in law enforcement agencies.

What makes this surprising is the fact that such a small city like Green Bay would have a significant amount of citations for black motorists over whites, when blacks are only 3.5 percent of the population of the city, according to Davis.

Other minority groups in the city, such as Native Americans and Hispanics, also have more citations per 1,000 residents, with 253.1 and 132 citations respectively, than whites or Asians, Davis said. While much of the data collected contains margins of error accounting for such variables like repeated citations that can offset numbers, it’s clear this issue goes beyond coincidence.

Many in the city have noticed these disparities in the numbers and want some form of action to take place, such as Randell Steele, board member of the Multicultural Center of Greater Green Bay, who even received complaints of people being followed by police officers, according to Davis.

“We need to address the issue and inform people,” Steele said, according to Davis.

In urbanized areas dependent on the individual officer and on the police force as a whole, an utmost respect toward those who serve and protect the law must be in order. That doesn’t prevent necessary changes from taking place in law enforcement agencies though.

Nevertheless, more programs should be made requiring law enforcement agencies to collect more data on drivers and other passengers such as ethnicity, age, gender and their ZIP code. This extra information would help accurately determine whether minorities are truly being cited in disproportionate numbers.

One such program that would have benefitted this research was in fact passed around 2011, only to be repealed a mere six months later by Gov. Scott Walker, according to Davis.

While action seems halted in Wisconsin, citizens and families in Chicago are protesting the allegedly increasing rate of racial profiling by law enforcement and the workplace, according to the Applied Research Center. Two public hearings presented stories from people claiming unfair treatment and were conducted by human rights and racial justice organizations, the Applied Research Center said.

Individuals provided testimonies about their own experiences relating to the dangers of discrimination throughout the years such as one Japanese American who drew connections between the present day and time spent in World War II internment, the Applied Research Center said.

“Witnesses at Amnesty International’s previous hearings have testified to the humiliating nature of being wrongly targeted by race-focused law enforcement practices that is destroying families and exploiting minor technicalities in the law to rob people, including U.S. citizens, of their freedoms,” said Nancy Bothne the Midwest Regional Director of Amnesty International USA, according to the Applied Research Center.

Similar hearings have also been held in cities like Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and New York, according to the Applied Research Center.

Smaller cities like Green Bay need these kinds of programs to inform the general public about the social problems brought forth by racial profiling.

It’s not enough to do away with programs that might seem unnecessary to politicians or to simply disregard the problem as something that only happens in larger metropolitan areas. If we want to keep minorities from being accused of crimes simply due to the color of their skin, the public needs to be informed so proper action can be taken.