Minneapolis policy tends toward profiling

Racial profiling, as unofficial doctrine or renegade acts, is unacceptable.

A study recently released by the Council on Crime and Justice found that blacks in Hennepin County were 15 times more likely to be cited for minor crimes than whites. Even though the study focused on data from 2001, it re-emphasized the fact that the Minneapolis Police Department will have to work a bit harder to improve community relations and its image.

The issue at the core is racial profiling. The numbers show more blacks were arrested than whites and with a much higher frequency. The fact more blacks than whites were arrested is not troubling, if those arrests were legitimate. However, the council’s study found more than half of blacks charged for low-level crimes were acquitted in court. At its face, the numbers suggest blacks are being frivolously arrested, but this leap cannot be made entirely, because the study does not mention whether those acquitted were because of a lack of evidence, witnesses or other factors.

Indeed, racial profiling, as an unofficial police department doctrine or as a renegade act by individual police officials, is unacceptable. Sadly, in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, racial profiling has gone on the increase for citizens of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent. But for many blacks, racial profiling is a harsh reality that reveals the hypocrisy of a government that promises a right of freedom for all citizens but less so for minority citizens.

The numbers are troubling, but the Minneapolis Police Department is on its way to improving its relationship with the residents it is sworn to protect. The formation of the Police Community Relations Council and the hiring of Bill McManus as police chief, in addition to frank exposure of the statistical realities, provide tremendous groundwork for improvement. Clearly, larger issues such as education and economic status are at issue here. But the first steps to immediately addressing potential racial profiling can be taken together by the police department and community leaders.