Dearborn Case | Racial Profiling Assignment

After 9/11, the federal government announced a major program to conduct “voluntary” interviews with 5,000 holders of temporary visas from Arab countries thought to have significant ties to Al Qaeda. The Justice Department wanted local law enforcement personnel to conduct these interviews, with federal agents playing a supporting role.

In Dearborn, Michigan, where the population of individuals of Arab descent has grown to nearly 30 percent since the 1960s, city and police officials resisted this plan. They insisted that the feds conduct the interviews (in plain clothes), supported by the local police and monitored by them to make sure that the feds acted professionally.

The locals also got the feds to abandon the idea of unannounced calls and agree to schedule visits via letters, stressing that the interviews were voluntary and that there was no reason to suspect the individuals being interviewed of terrorist activities. (Source: Thacher, David: “The Local Role in Homeland Security,” 39 Law and Society Review 635-76 [September 2005]).

  1. Does such questioning as in the Dearborn case constitute racial profiling? Does it undermine the principles of community policing?
  2. Do the police need the discretion to use such investigative techniques in order to prevent and probe crime?
  3. How does police and prosecutorial discretion allow for racial and ethnic discrimination in the criminal justice system? Is allowing such discretion desirable, when used fairly?
  4. What are some ways of curbing or checking this discretion to make the system more fair?
  5. Do you think these things will be effective? Why or why not?

You should address these questions in a paper of approximately 2,400 words, relying primarily on the readings and other materials assigned in this module; you will not receive credit without demonstrating that you have read and understood the material assigned. You may include independent sources. All information should be documented in MLA style.

Solution Example (APA Format)

Dearborn Case of Racial Profiling and Police Discretion


Institutional Affiliation

Course Number and Name



Racial profiling

Racial profiling is a complex and multidimensional issue. Our communities are safer because of dedicated police officers and competent police operations. The vast majority of police officers are dedicated public servants who perform a risky profession with integrity and honor. However, there is a widespread belief that certain police personnel engage in racial profiling. Profiling has produced animosity and distrust of the police, particularly in minority communities. These towns recognize the value of community policing in lowering crime, but they also feel that genuinely successful community policing. Policing will only be effective if officers protect their neighborhoods from crime while also respecting the civil liberties of all people. When law enforcement is regarded to be biased, unfair, or rude, people of color are less likely to trust and confide in police personnel. Report crimes, participate in problem-solving activities, and testify in court may serve on juries in trials.

Police Discretion

Several factors can impact an officer’s choice to conduct a stop-and-frisk. Individual, but the different conceivable scenarios can be simply divided into high-discretion and low-discretion domains. Pedestrians and traffic stops can be considered as a continuum beginning with low-discretion stops and progressing to high-discretion stops. The decision of an officer not to make a stop is confined to high-discretion stops. When the choice to stop someone is frequently based on an officer’s field experience this is considered as a high police discretion.


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