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

Racial Profiling
They Stopped Me Because I'm ------------!

ISBN 9781439872253
Published November 14, 2012 by Routledge
241 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

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



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.