APA Resolution on Racial/Ethnic Profiling and Other Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Law and Security Enforcement Activities

Adopted by the APA Council of Representatives, February, 2001.

Whereas psychologists are ethically guided to "respect the fundamental rights, dignity, and worth of all people" (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, American Psychological Association, 1992, Principle D, p. 3-4); and

Whereas "psychologists are aware of their professional and scientific responsibilities to the community and the society in which they work and live" (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, American Psychological Association, 1992, Principle F, p. 4); and

Whereas the ways in which people react to racial/ethnic differences between themselves and others may reveal racial/ethnic biases; and that the responses to these biases can "operate without conscious intervention or awareness" (Jones, 1997a; Jones, 1997b; Mio & Awakuni, 2000; Ridley, 1995); and

Whereas some law and security enforcement officers may use stereotypical notions to determine alleged suspects of criminal behavior in a variety of circumstances including: traffic stops, border stops, "out of place" stops such as questioning of racial/ethnic minorities in predominantly White suburban areas and in other locations and venues where law and security officers might perceive ethnic minorities as being "out of place", disturbances in education environments, and other situations where local, state, or federal law and security enforcement have independent decision making authority (American Civil Liberties Union, 1999; American Psychological Association, 2000; Bachman, 1996; Government Accounting Office, 2000; Harris, 1997; Irving, 1989); and

Whereas it has been reported that members of racial/ethnic minority groups are stopped by police more often than majority group members (American Civil Liberties Union, 1999; Government Accounting Office, 2000; Wordes, Bynum, & Corley, 1994); and

Whereas it has been reported that of people who are stopped, more African Americans and other racial/ethnic minorities report being treated unfairly as compared to White/European Americans (American Civil Liberties Union, 1999; American Psychological Association, 2000; Cervantes, Salgado de Snyder, & Padilla, 1989; Jackson & Volckens, 1998; Norris, 1992; Vrana & Rollock, 1996); and

Whereas reliable statistics regarding the prevalence of racial/ethnic profiling and other racial/ethnic disparities in law and security enforcement activities and research on related psychological effects on victims and communities of color are quite limited (American Psychological Association, 2000);

Therefore be it resolved that:

The American Psychological Association (APA) advocates for and encourages research efforts to investigate:

(a) the role of racial/ethnic bias and stereotyping in traffic stops, other law enforcement activities, and security activities (e.g., airport and border security);

(b) the prevalence of racial/ethnic profiling and racial/ethnic disparities in law enforcement and security activities; and

(c) related effects on individuals, communities of color, and law and security enforcement officers and agencies.

Also, APA should promote programs to increase awareness of local, state, and federal government officials, as well as the public, about issues and concerns related to racial/ethnic profiling and other racial/ethnic disparities in law and security enforcement.

APA also should encourage the development of strong community-police relationships.

APA also should promote programs that help law/security enforcement agencies recognize and overcome racial/ethnic profiling and other racial/ethnic disparities in law and security enforcement.


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American Psychological Association. (2000, August 4). APA fact sheet: Psychology and law enforcement roundtable. Washington, D.C.: Author.

Cervantes, R.C., Salgado de Snyder, V.N., & Padilla, A.M. (1989). Posttraumatic stress in immigrants from Central America and Mexico. Hospital & Community Psychiatry, 40, 615-619.

Harris, D.A. (1997). "Driving while Black" and all other traffic offenses: The Supreme Court and pretextual traffic stops. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 87, 544.

Irving, P. J. (1989). Minority group threat, crime, and policing: Social context and social control. New York: Praeger.

Jackson, J.S., & Volckens, J. (1998). Community stressors and racism: Structural and individual perspectives on racial bias. In X.B. Arriaga & S. Oskamp (Eds.), Addressing community problems: Psychological research and interventions (pp. 19-51). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Jones, J. (1997a, August 14). Can America be colorblind? Research finding suggest not; even well-intentioned people are influenced by racial bias. News Release of: Can or should America be color-blind: Psychological research reveals fallacies in a color-blind response to racism? [Brochure]. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Jones, J. (1997b). Prejudice and racism (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Mio, J. S., & Awakuni, G. I. (2000). Resistance to multiculturalism: Issues and interventions. Philadelphia: Brunner/Mazel.

Norris, F. H. (1992). Epidemiology of trauma: Frequency and impact of different potentially traumatic events on different demographic groups. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60, 409-418.

Ridley, C.R. (1995). Overcoming unintentional racism in counseling and therapy: A practitioner's guide to intentional intervention. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

U.S. Government Accounting Office. (2000). U.S. Customs Service: Better targeting of airline passengers for personal searches could produce better results. Washington, D.C.: Author.

Vrana, S. R., & Rollock, D. (1996). The social context of emotion: Effects of ethnicity and authority/peer status on the emotional reports of African American college students. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 297-306.

Wordes, M., Bynum, T. S., & Corley, C. (1994). Locking up youth: The impact of race on detention decisions. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 31, 140-165.