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Racial profiling is a practice that the law enforcement department can have on discriminatory grounds based on race, ethnicity or religion when looking for suspects of a certain crime (Glover, 2009).) In the U.S there is a law amendment that prohibits this no matter the state. However, there are certain people who encounter this treatment especially due to the increased terrorist attacks. Though it may not be as direct as it is put, the baseline is that it still affects them even though they have got no idea what is going on (Muffler, 2006).
Racial profiling within policy seems to resemble racism but is a little different because this is not any other people carrying out this practice but the law enforcement department. In this day and age when we are trying to eliminate discrimination of any sort, these should be the last people who are carrying out such practices as they are meant to protect us.
The 9/11 attack on the U.S grounds brought a lot of attention on the people of the Muslim community since the terrorists came from this community. The increased cases of the terrorists’ attacks being done by the people of Muslim origin makes one but raise an eye blow at the site of these people. The police department has been affected by this influence.
This research will be carried out in New Jersey but only limited to the Muslims in the Atlantic City due to the limitation in time, materials and available resources. It will attempt to answer the following three questions especially on this particular area:-
a) Are there any cases of racial profiling and are they many or just minimal?
b) Are the Muslims more or less affected?
c) Are the cases reported and if so, what is the judicial system doing about it?
New Jersey is a relatively big state with a population of around 8,707,739 people and the Atlantic City is also a busy and big city with a population of around 40,517 people. It has a total population of around 17,892 African Americans, 10,809 whites, 4,213 Asians and 5,575 multiracial people not to mention the different religions in the city including Muslim, Christianity, Buddhism and many others (U.S Census Bureau, 2007). The city has many activities, places and features that attract many people even from different places of the world especially when they visit New Jersey.
Some of the people affected are the Muslims who are also quite a number in this city. This group of people is mostly affected when it comes to ratio profiling due to their beliefs and the fact that most terrorist groups and cases have been of people from the Muslim religion (Muffler, 2006).
Challenges faced in recruiting participants
Like in any other research projects, there are many challenges that a researcher faces when doing their research. Recruiting participants to help one to come up with the required data is a challenge in itself. Approaching a stranger and asking them to answer a couple of questions regarding the law enforcement department no matter how one seems friendly can be quite challenging. People tend to pull away especially on matters concerning the police.
There is the expectation of being ignored when approaching a participant. Because am simply a stranger. There is mistrust and doubt in the people because I am a stranger and they do not know who I really work for. People investigating about the police or the law enforcement department can be up to many things including trying to nail down the interviewee.
The challenge of not getting accurate or even the truth is quite prominent. There are those who will not tell the truth in fear of being followed up or just to protect themselves and their loved ones. There are different types of people out there and different people will do different things for different reasons. There are those who will just give me any information just to get me off their door step or just to drive me away.
Having police or one the people in the law enforcement department as a participant is also a challenge. Nobody wants to talk negatively about their workplace and especially not the people in this department. However, for my research to be fair and accurate, I must include these participants.
How to overcome
Starting by stating that I am a student and even producing my school identity card or any other identification materials may prove that I am doing this research for my course work and not any malicious activity, but help the participants relax and be willing to open up.
Though getting participants might be a challenge, there are a couple of things that can be done in order to overcome this. Approaching the people in a friendly way can be a first step. Approaching a stranger and heading straight to the question may not yield much result. If possible, buying them coffee or simply breaking the ice and starting with a more general topic can be a good start. Asking them about their day or their job or business would get them talking.
Getting referrals from people who have encountered such experiences of being racial profiled can also work as mentioning someone familiar to the interviewee would put them more at ease (Glover, 2009).
For the ones in the law enforcement department, approaching and asking them whether they have had such experiences can be a first start or I could ask them to tell me of officers who have been involved in such cases. Though this might be a little difficult, there cannot luck a couple who will open up with a little more genuine persuasion.
Having the necessary materials shows that one is serious with their work but wearing casually (not too official) to give a student impression, will play a role in easing the tension between the interviewer (me) and the potential participant.
Places that have a lot of human activity therefore making the level of law offences or crimes high are good research sites. These places include the roads especially where there are road blocks or the traffic police are mostly sited, airports or train stations e.g. Atlantic City Airport (Westergaard, 2006). For interviews with the policemen, one can visit a police station or approach one of the policemen/women at one of the sites visited to do observation and ask them for a few enquiries.
Going to people’s residential areas especially since the people in the Muslim community tend to live together is one way of getting into contact with these people.
How to gain access
Gaining access to some of the sites is quite easy. For the referrals given, it is always good to contact the participant. One can also go directly to their homes if the person giving the referral explains they would not mind a stranger knocking on their door and asking them about racial profiling in the Muslim community.
To gain access to the road block areas or where there are traffic police, one can always ask for the right from the local authority or from the person in charge of the traffic police in that particular area visited. For example, if I decide to visit the city centre, I can ask for a permit from the one in charge of police in the city centre.
Sitting in a bench close enough to view the happenings in the airport especially the luggage and persons inspection part, can be good enough to know which people to pick for an interview or what exactly goes on.
The challenge of being denied access is there. Being looked at suspiciously and trying about oneself every now and then is quite challenging. There is also the challenge of being denied the necessary access permits especially by the individuals who still have the corruption ‘disease’.
The challenging of going to those areas is also there especially if they prove to be expensive in terms of transport fare of means to get there for the one who may be living in interior places. There are the potential participants who will refuse to have coffee with the interviewer or even have the interview at their place.
How to overcome
This can be overcome by offering my student identification documents to show that I am just doing a research for my course work and nothing more than that. Giving the necessary authorities and contacts in order to confirm would also solve some of the problems. Asking the people who gave me the referrals to contact the referrals so as to introduce me would also give me an easier time.
Dressing appropriately when visiting the people is quite important as the Muslims are very keen on good and descent dressing.
Research methodology and why the choice
The research method used will be qualitative method. This is because this research will involve direct observation especially when analyzing how the policemen are carrying out their work, there will also be participant observation, unstructured interviewing where I will directly interact with the participants and there will be case studies where I will study the cases of people who have undergone through racial profiling. Qualitative method does not need a lot of data calculation but rather helps one get an overview of the happenings of that particular research.
The research tools needed are a questionnaire written the relevant questions to the research. This will help one be focus in attaining the goal of the research. It also prevents one from looking confused in front of the participant. One will need a tape recorder and a camera if managed in order to record the interviews and take pictures where necessary. One will also need the necessary permits and identification documents in order to present them where necessary. A map of the city is also important so as to have a guide of the unfamiliar places. Writing materials such more paper and pens are a must (Muffler, 2007).
In the civilians’ questionnaire, there may be questions like:-
Do you know what racial profiling is? Do you believe it happens in this country and particularly this city? Have you ever heard of someone who has undergone this especially through the media? Have you ever undergone such an experience? (If yes) On what grounds and of which origin was you racial profiled? What happened and how was the experience? Do you personally know people who have ever encountered such an experience? Did you or they tell it to a higher authority? (If yes) What was done about it? Do you think the cases are increasing or decreasing? Do you think the government is doing anything to reduce such cases? How do you think the people who have undergone racial be treated in order to overcome that experience?
The police questionnaire should have questions like:-
Do you know what racial profiling is? Do you think there are many cases racial profiling in the law enforcement department? Have you ever racial profiled anyone? (If yes) What was the crime committed and of which origin was the suspect? Did anyone know about it? (If yes) Was anything done to you? Did the victim do anything about it? Do you know anyone who has racial profiled or who constantly does this? (If yes) Have they ever been found out? (If yes) has anything ever been done to them? Are there more such cases than people actually know or are all this news we hear exaggerated? Do you think the concerned authorities are doing enough to minimize or completely stop such incidences?
After collection of the data, one can only seat down and carefully go through what collected whether in the questionnaires or the recordings or even the photographs taken in if any. The final information of the research should be put across having thoroughly gone through all the information and data collected. One can also ask help from people carried out such researches in order to come up with something concrete and that can be presentable.