Canadian Policing Research Catalogue

Racial profiling in the United States [electronic resource] : a review of the literature / by Colin Goff.

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Canadian Policing Research Catalogue



Alternate Title

Le profilage racial aux États-Unis : un examen de la documentation.



Includes bibliographical references.


1 online resource (103 p.)


Issued also in French under title: Le profilage racial aux États-Unis : un examen de la documentation.
Description based on print version record.


This report reviews empirical studies conducted in the United States to evaluate police-citizen contacts during traffic stops. The thrust of these studies has been to determine if racial profiling (in the popular sense) exists within an agency or jurisdiction, by determining if minorities are disproportionately represented in traffic stops, searches and/or citations based on their population in the study jurisdiction. Many of these studies concluded that racial disparities exist in the aggregate rates of such stops. The issue with these conclusions is the mere presence of a disparity in the aggregate rate of stops does not, in itself, demonstrate racial prejudice or racial discrimination by police officers any more than the racial disparity in prison populations demonstrates racial prejudice and/or discrimination by judges. As a result, all studies investigating racial profiling focus much of their attention upon methodological concerns, most notably the proper denominator or base rate - that is, the expected rate of stops of a racial minority group by police officers. Different studies have used different base rates, but to date, the studies of racial profiling are split in their conclusions about disparity in the aggregate rate of stops being adequately explained by individual police officers racial prejudice and/or discrimination. However, since there is no general agreement concerning the appropriate base rate, all such conclusions are premature.


Online Access


Racial profiling studies in the United States: a brief history. -- The need for an empirically based policy. -- Definitions of racial profiling. -- Pretextual stops. -- Methodological issues of racial profiling studies. -- Identifying the numerator. -- Identifying the denominator. -- Developing a policy. -- Methodological issues.

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