Embrace Racial Profiling

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

From today's NYT editorial:

London's bombings continue to echo throughout the urban world. In New York City, commuters have been facing random searches of backpacks, duffel bags and briefcases by police officers who are trying to thwart a potential terrorist attack

Travelers have long since gotten used to extensive searches before they board airplanes, and they should be relieved to see security measures on the subways and commuter trains as well. The New York City Police Department seems to have taken some pains to make sure that people's constitutional rights are respected.

The police officers must be careful not to give the impression that every rider who looks Arab or South Asian is automatically a subject of suspicion. They will naturally choose to search the bags of those people who appear suspicious, like those wearing bulky clothes in warm weather. But those who are selected simply because they are carrying packages should be chosen in a way that does not raise fears of racial profiling - by, for example, searching every 5th or 12th person, with the exact sequence chosen at random.
Yes, because we saw how well it worked when London police killed a Brazilian for wearing "bulky clothes" in warm weather. It is perfectly reasonable in today's time to search anyone carrying a package onto a subway car - especially if he looks Arab.

It sucks yes, but so does getting blown up because we were afraid to offend Mohammed Sadique Khan because his ethnicity represents the majority of modern day suicide bombers.