Racial Profiling: They Stopped Me Because I'm ------------!, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Racial Profiling

They Stopped Me Because I'm ------------!, 1st Edition

By Michael L. Birzer

CRC Press

241 pages | 3 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781439872253
pub: 2012-11-14
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pub: 2012-11-14
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Many racial minority communities claim profiling occurs frequently in their neighborhoods. Police authorities, for the most part, deny that they engage in racially biased police tactics. A handful of books have been published on the topic, but they tend to offer only anecdotal reports offering little reliable insight. Few use a qualitative methodological lens to provide the context of how minority citizens experience racial profiling.

Racial Profiling: They Stopped Me Because I’m ———! places minority citizens who believe they have been racially profiled by police authorities at the center of the data. Using primary empirical studies and extensive, in-depth interviews, the book draws on nearly two years of field research into how minorities experience racial profiling by police authorities.

The author interviewed more than 100 racial and ethnic minority citizens. Citing 87 of these cases, the book examines each individual case and employs a rigorous qualitative phenomenological method to develop dominant themes and determine their associated meaning. Through an exploration of these themes, we can learn:

  • What racial profiling is, its historical context, and how formal legal codes and public policy generally define it
  • The best methods of data collection and the advantages of collecting racial profiling data
  • How certain challenges can prevent data collection from properly identifying racial profiling or bias-based policing practices
  • Data analysis and methods of determining the validity of the data
  • The impact of pretextual stops and the effect of Whren v. United States

A compelling account of how minority citizens experience racial profiling and how they ascribe and give meaning to these experiences, the book provides a candid discussion of what the findings of the research mean for the police, racial minority citizens, and future racial profiling research.

Michael L. Birzer was recently interviewed on public radio about his book, Racial Profiling: They Stopped Me Because I’m ———!

Table of Contents

Stylin’ n’ Profilin’


Richard’s Story

David’s Story

Purpose of the Book

The Cambridge Incident

Scope of the Problem

Defining Racial Profiling

Criminal Profiling

What’s in a Name?

Experience Is Powerful

Putting Racial Profiling into Context


Vigilante Justice?

Experience Matters

A History of Disparate Treatment

Color by the Numbers

A Legacy of Racialized Justice

The Thin Blue Line

The War on Drugs

Intensified War Efforts

Collateral Damage

Policing and the War

What about Congress, Data Collection, and the Court?


Congressional Mandates




Washington State


New York

Police Stop Data

Data Collection Methods

Benchmark Data

External Benchmark Data

Traffic Surveys

Internal Benchmarking

Search Data

Final Thoughts on Data Collection

Did the Supreme Court Sanction Racial Profiling?

The Whren Decision

Would Have, Could Have, Should Have

What Would a New Test Look Like?

Phenomenology as Method in Racial Profiling Research


Framing the Study

Alternative Epistemology

The Paradigm Divide

Qualitative Research

Inductive and Deductive Reasoning

Multiple Data Sources

The Discovery of Meaning


Selecting Participants



A Portrait of the Participants and Setting

Treatment of Data

Analyzing Phenomenological Data

Experiencing Racial Profiling


Constructing the Stop

Theme 1: Emotional/Affective

Theme 2: The Symbolic Vehicle

Theme 3: Nature of the Traffic Violation

Theme 4: Officer Demeanor

Theme 5: Normative Experiences

Theme 6: Race and Place

Coercion and Appearance

Feeling Compelled

Symbolic Appearance

Unifying Experience

Berry’s Story

Trusting the Data



Internal Validity

External Validity

Face Validity

Content Validity

Construct Validity



Member Checks



Rich, Thick Descriptions

Researcher Reflexivity

Interview Memo


The Interview

Descriptive Notes

Reflective Notes

Striking Revelations


Global Conclusions

Striking Revelations

The Stop

You’re Not Supposed To Be Driving Here

Is It Socioeconomic Class and Not Race?

The Emotional Roller Coaster

The Symbolic Hooptie

How Can You Afford That Car?

Why You Harassin’ Me, Man?

Welcome To My World

I Think of Young Black Males

Where Do We Go From Here?


Implications for Police Practice

Racial Profiling Training

Cultural Diversity Training

Fostering Mutual Respect

Motorist Contacts

Community Coalitions


Citizen Review Panel

Citizen Police Academies

Racial Profiling Policy

The Pretext Stop

The Consent Search

The Police Warrior Culture

Community Policing

Implications for Citizens

What to Do When Stopped by the Police

Know Your Rights

Know Reporting Venues

Get Involved

Implications for Research


Other Research Approaches

The White Male Researcher



Establishing Rapport

Interview Location


About the Author

Michael L. Birzer is the Director of the School of Community Affairs and a professor of criminal justice at Wichita State University. He was recently named a Leadership Fellow at his university. Professor Birzer’s research interests include the intersection of race and the criminal justice system, police behavior and policy, and criminal justice training and education strategies. He is the author or co-author of eight books in such areas as policing, private security, and criminology. Prior to academia, he served more than 18 years with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department in Wichita where he worked in a wide variety of patrol, investigative, supervisory, and management positions.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Criminal Law / General
LAW / Forensic Science
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / General