Saturday, December 29, 2012

"The 'drug-courier profiles' utilized by the DEA and other law enforcement agencies for drug sweeps on highways, as well as in airports and train stations, are notoriously unreliable. In theory, a drug-courier profile reflects the collective wisdom and judgment of a law enforcement agency's officials. Instead of allowing each officer to rely on his or her own limited experience and biases in detecting suspicious behavior, a drug-courier profile affords every officer the advantage of the agency's collective experience and expertise. However, as legal scholar David Cole has observed, 'in practice, the drug-courier profile is a scattershot hodgepodge of traits and characteristics so expansive that it potentially justifies stopping anybody and everybody.' The profile can include traveling with luggage, traveling without luggage, driving an expensive car, driving a car that needs repairs, driving with out-of-state license plates, driving a rental car, driving with 'mismatched occupants,' acting too calm, acting too nervous, dressing casually, wearing expensive clothing or jewelry, being one of the first to deplane, being one of the last to deplane, deplaning in the middle, paying for a ticket in cash, using large-denomination currency, using small-denomination currency, traveling alone, traveling with a companion, and so on. Even striving to obey the law fits the profile! The Florida Highway Patrol Drug Courier Profile cautioned troopers to be suspicious of 'scrupulous obedience to traffic laws.' As Cole points out, 'such profiles do not so much focus an investigation as provide law enforcement officials a ready-made excuse for stopping whomever they please.'"
--Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, 71-72

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