Reasons And Effects Of Police Racial Profiling

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Racial profiling is a form of discrimination which violates basic human rights and contributes to inefficient and ineffective policing. Racial profiling occurs when police stop, question, search or detain a person on the basis of their race. Victims of racial profiling can be severely impacted by this experience (Police accountability 2013). In 2011, a report by the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Revealed that Victoria Police were racially profiling South Sudanese refugees in Melbourne (Run 2013). After an allegation of racial profiling was settled by the Australian Federal Court in 2013, Victoria Police issued a statement pledging to investigate its treatment of ethnic groups (Victoria Police 2013). This research essay will discuss the nature and extent of the problem of racial profiling by police in Victoria and the impacts it has on victims of racial profiling. This essay will also critically discuss the steps that have been taken to address this ongoing problem.

The nature and extent of police racial profiling in Victoria

Racial profiling by police in Victoria has been an issue for many years. Racial profiling occurs by police due to malevolent officers intentionally acting upon preconceived stereotypes and prejudices (Police accountability 2013). Postcolonial scholarship suggests that racial profiling is seen as a product of racist attitudes as a result of an imperial relationship between the conquerors and the conquered. Racial profiling in Australia can be seen as a colonially minded attempt to maintain racial inequality (Run 2013). Due to the White Australia policy institutionalising racism, it may be seen that racial profiling has been embedded within the system and results in racial bias by police officers. Both explicit and implicit bias exists within racial profiling (Run 2013). Explicit bias is a racist belief manifesting as a discriminatory behaviour (Schlosser 2018). The submission documented many instances where police displayed explicit biased behaviour such as using derogatory racist language towards young men of African ethnicity. Implicit bias is where seemingly tolerant police officers unconsciously associate certain ethnicities with violence and or criminality (Clarke 2018).

Most people who experience racial profiling in Victoria do not make a complaint even when it is serious. This is due to the complaints being investigated by Victoria Police rather than a separate organisation or entity. Young people report fear of making their situation worse and potentially becoming a target for local police, as well as having their complaint dismissed and possibly getting further charges as a result (Youth Law Australia 2017). Eminent statistician, Professor Ian Gordon from the University of Melbourne analysed the Victorian Police Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) data and revealed that between 2006 and 2009, Africans in the Flemington and North Melbourne area were two and a half times more likely to be stopped by police than any other minority group in spite of having a lower crime rate (Hayle et al. 2016). This data provides evidence and confirms the allegation and existence of racial profiling within Victoria Police. Qualitative research substantiates the claim and reveals racial profiling has been an ongoing problem across Victoria for many years. A supposedly high representation in local crime statistics was the justification given for such poor policing (Logan 2019). However, the data revealed a significant underrepresentation of the stopped young African Australians in the crime figures. Additionally, Victoria Police have been known to target African youth and operation Molto in 2006 is proof of the targeting of young African men. This shows the nature and extent of the problem of racial profiling by Victorian police (Police accountability 2013).

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Impacts of racial profiling on victims

Racial discrimination, in the form of racial profiling, has many detrimental effects on the community who are of an ethnic minority but also effects the ability of the police to practice their role as community protectors (Markwick et al. 2019). If the community loses its confidence and trust in the police, the community are most likely not going to report crimes or get involved in police investigations. Not only does this impede the police in their duties, it also means that vulnerable members of the community become more vulnerable as they sense that they do not have the resources to protect their rights and safety (Young 2013). Racial profiling causes communities to feel disengaged from the broader Victorian community as a result of feeling watched and singled out for mistreatment (Victoria Health 2014). When this occurs, police are failing to uphold the rights of the community and are also contributing to the disengagement of ethnic minorities from society (Police accountability 2013). Racial profiling has many impacts on the people who experience discrimination by police, it can cause isolation, exclusion, disengagement, unnecessary criminalisation, detrimental health and socio-economic impacts. Additionally, it inhibits minority groups from having the confidence and trust to report crimes and seek help from the police. (Police accountability 2013). Racially profiling individuals on the bases of skin colour, race and or religion can cause victims to isolate themselves and disengage from participating in the community which results in the exclusion of those individuals. This exclusion can negatively impact the socio-economic aspect of victims of racial profiling due to feeling undervalued and or unwanted. All these factors can cause and contribute to detrimental health issues a result of police discrimination (Police accountability 2013).


After fulfilling a condition of a settlement in the Australian Federal Court regarding racially biased policing, Victoria Police invited community comments and submissions from individuals and organisations to undertake an examination of its Field Contact policy, data collection and cross-cultural training (Victoria Police 2013). After concluding the review process, Victoria Police published the equality is not the same report. The report outlined the findings and presented an extensive set of recommendations and actions to scope, develop and trial a receipting pilot the report identifies a number of improvement opportunities for Victoria Police to implement over a period of three years. This three-year plan to address racial profiling issues within Victoria outlines key commitment across five areas of focus that emerged from consultations and external reviews which included community engagement, communication and respect, Field Contact Policy and process, complain process and cross-cultural training (Victoria Police 2013).

During year one of the three-year action plan, Victoria Police undertook extensive community consultation and discussion to identify community needs. As a result, Victoria Police developed a concept of a receipting pilot that considers the needs of the Victorian Community. This concept was developed to promote transparency and accountability of police interactions with members of the community. This concept provides individuals with tangible evidence of their interaction with police or Protective Service Officers (PSO). This concept will help in discouraging racially biased policing as the community now has the opportunity to hold police officers accountable for any type of racially biased policing. In the second year of the action plan, The Receipting Proof of Concept (RPoC) was tested across four police service areas. The RPoC used a business card method and also a smart-phone application. The RPoC project team implemented a comprehensive internal and external communication strategy, police and PSO training to support this concept. In the final year of the action plan, a summary of the work undertaken by Victoria Police assessed police and community perceptions on the receipting concept. The results of this evaluation revealed a number of findings and recommendations. Mandatory issuing of a receipt to the public was not adopted. The development of contact cards for police officers that may be issued to a member of the community when a request is made. The Receipting Proof of Concept (RPoC) is an extensive body of work implemented to change and eradicate racially biased policing by holding police officers accountable. Extensive training and education were critical to the success of the project as well as providing police with an e-learning package, face to face officer in charge training and comprehensive group training for the use of smartphone receipting technology. However, the findings of the evaluation indicate that the practice of providing a record of contact with police received mixed support. The mandatory issuing of a receipt of contact made people confused and at times concerned as to why they are receiving this record of contact. Issuing a mandatory receipt was seen to be opposing to the value of the receipt and as a result a more flexible approach was introduced. The receipt of contact would be given at the request and discretion of a member of the public. This improved and flexible approach received support and was considered both practical and a positive contribution to an improved policing service (Victoria Police 2013). All these steps have been taken by Victoria Police as well as the community to address the issue of racial profiling within its ranks.


In conclusion, this essay has covered a number of aspects regarding the problem of racial profiling by police in Victoria. This essay discussed the nature and extent of racial profiling by police in Victoria and explored the underlying factors that contribute to this systemic racism (O’Donnell 2019). The impacts racial profiling has on its victims are detrimental and affects both the individual and the community as a whole. This essay also critically discussed the steps that have been taken to address the issue of racially biased policing including the introduction of a Recipient proof of contact approach as well as introducing a face to face training program to improve and effectively respond to the problem of racial profiling. This research essay shows that racial profiling to a certain degree is embedded within the system and has been a major issue for many years in Victoria.


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  10. Logan, W 2019, ‘Policing Police Access to Criminal Justice Data’, Iowa Law Review, vol. 104, no. 2, pp. 619–677, viewed 2 June 2020,,sso&db=a9h&AN=134341289&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  11. O’Donnell, M 2019, ‘Challenging Racist Predictive Policing Algorithms under the Equal Protection Clause’, New York University Law Review, vol. 94, no. 3, pp. 544–580, viewed 27 May 2020,,sso&db=lgs&AN=136595710&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  12. Hayle, S, Wortley, S & Tanner, J 2016, ‘Race, Street Life, and Policing: Implications for Racial Profiling’, Canadian Journal of Criminology & Criminal Justice, vol. 58, no. 3, p. 322, viewed 1 June 2020,,sso&db=f5h&AN=116849479&site=ehost-live&scope=site>.
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