Profiling in modern criminal justice is an extremely common technology assisting professionals in better decision making. In particular, artificial intelligence helps the police in preventing crime and reducing the overall number of criminal cases (CBS News [00:30]). However, data-driven criminal justice activities may lead to worse racial discrimination and racial profiling which identifies structural racism. Racial profiling is the suspicion or targeting of a person in committing a criminal activity based on racial, ethnic, religious or individual characteristics. This phenomenon is a consequence of structural racism, as well as active discrimination against racial minorities. However, “population-level race/crime differentials alone do not tell us much about how race and crime correlate” (Atenasio 14). Thus, racial profiling is associated with a number of ethical concerns, which are primarily based on the principles of data collection and processing.
Profiling is now a necessary part of the police toolkit that cannot be abandoned. Atenasio reports that there are supporters of racial profiling whose arguments are based on the principles of epistemic rationality (2). In particular, philosophers argue that “if members of certain races or ethnicities commit crimes at greater rates, then it is rational for law enforcement officials to subject them to greater scrutiny” (Atenasio 2). Thus, racial profiling, in their opinion, is morally justified as it provides a benefit to a large part of society. At the same time, racial profiling can have a number of unforeseen consequences that lead to an increase in racist attitudes in the long term. In particular, this practice may lead to greater humiliation of certain groups, the risk of police abuse, the development of structural racism and unjust social structures (Atenasio 2). Moreover, racial profiling can violate a person’s right to innocence by claiming him or her guilty based on general data.
Criminal activity is unevenly distributed within certain racial minorities, which is more dependent on conditions. The ethical concerns associated with racial profiling are based on the principles of data collection and processing, and not on the use of the system as such. In particular, for the criminal justice system, it is necessary to consider who is involved in the collection and analysis of data, as well as with whom it is shared. However, what matters most is the extent to which the utilization of the data could result in either violations of privacy or a sort of feedback loop. These aspects, if left unaddressed, potentially lead to additional humilization of neighborhoods, which reinforces racial profiling as well as discrimination in society. Thus, in order to address ethical concerns, it is necessary to review the procedures for collecting and analyzing data for racial profiling.
Atenasio, David. “The Rationality of Racial Profiling.” Criminal Justice Ethics, vol. 39, no. 3, 2020, pp. 1-19.
CBS News. “Racial Profiling 2.0 | Full Documentary.” YouTube, uploaded by CBS News, 2020.