A writer explores his father's mysterious imprisonment, and accusations that he was spying for the CIA, in revolutionary-era Iran.
George Zimmerman was charged last week with the second degree murder of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Prosecutors claim that Zimmerman “profiled” Martin, assuming he was a criminal based on his appearance. They have not explicitly accused Zimmerman of racial prejudice, but Martin was black and many are asking the question. Such profiling would be illegal for a police officer. But rights groups say it often happens. They worry it will become even more common thanks to Arizona’s new immigration law, which is the subject of a Supreme Court hearing next week. Join Diane for an examination of profiling, and its impact.
- Michael Dougherty director, Decision, Attention and Memory Lab at the University of Maryland.
- Margaret Huang executive director, Rights Working Group.
- Ronald Hampton Washington representative, Blacks in Law Enforcement of America.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Last week, George Zimmerman was charged with the murder of Trayvon Martin. Prosecutors have accused him of profiling Martin. Joining me to examine the causes and consequences of profiling: Billy Martin of Martin and Gitner, Ronald Hampton of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, Margaret Huang of Rights Working Group and Michael Dougherty of the University of Maryland.
MS. DIANE REHMI'm looking forward to hearing from you. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to all of you.
MR. MICHAEL DOUGHERTYGood morning.
MS. MARGARET HUANGGood morning.
REHMGood to have you all here and good to be back with you. I do want to thank my friends and colleagues, Tom Gjelten of NPR, Susan Page of USA Today, for sitting in for me while I was off for a voice treatment. Margaret Huang, let me start with you. I have the affidavit of probable cause for second-degree murder against George Zimmerman here in front of me.
REHMThere is one sentence that says, "Zimmerman felt Martin did not belong in the gated community." He called police. Trayvon Martin was profiled by George Zimmerman. What does that mean? What does the word profiled mean there?
HUANGDiane, racial profiling is when a police officer or another law enforcement officer makes a decision about whom to question or stop or harass or arrest sometimes, even just to investigate or surveil or to spy upon that person, based on their race, religion, ethnicity or national origin.
REHMSo the point being, Ronald Hampton, if a police officer does it, it's one thing. If a civilian does, it's another?
MR. RONALD HAMPTONNo, that's not true. Even in policing, you -- if you -- your conclusion has to be made or based on more than just race. That's why it's called racial profiling, and it's against the law. Now, if the -- if his behavior, for example, if his actions drew attention from Mr. Zimmerman, along with the fact that he happened to be African American, that he happened to have a hoodie on, if he happened to be in all of that.
MR. RONALD HAMPTONBut still, I think Mr. Zimmerman needed to also -- part of his conclusion drawn needed to be that this is a gated community, and the only way he could've gotten in there was by permission or have permission to be in there. So that changes the whole dynamic of it from a law enforcement perspective.
REHMMartin (sic) Dougherty, what's wrong with profiling someone if you instinctively look at someone and think, gosh, that's curious, why are they here? What's this person up to? What's going on there?
DOUGHERTYWell, we very frequently make decisions based on very little information, right? In fact, this is the way we operate in every day of our lives, right? We make snap decisions, and, most of the time, these decisions get us by just fine. The problem becomes one of -- when those snap decisions are the wrong decisions. The problem is we don't know a priori what decisions are going to be right and which ones are going to be wrong.
DOUGHERTYSo when we're making our snap decisions, in the cases -- say, for example, the case of George Zimmerman, ideally, what he does is he stops, and he deploys a decision system that involves analytic processing. And so he can override his heuristic-based processes by considering, for example, that this is a gated community and coming up with alternative explanation as for why this individual is walking across town.
REHMTo ask a question, perhaps?
DOUGHERTYPossibly ask a question. In some cases, we have to ask questions of ourselves, right? So for -- let me just take a different example in a different context.
DOUGHERTYPhysicians very frequently make decisions within the first couple of seconds after viewing a patient's symptoms. These are very quick decisions, OK? Now, in most cases, physicians have plenty of time to consider alternative diagnoses, right? So after they make these first couple of diagnostic hypotheses, they can deploy their analytic system to test out which one of those things are plausible causes.
DOUGHERTYNow, the problem is as we -- when we put people in high-stress, time-sensitive situations, those cognitive processes that we need to override our initial gut reactions aren't there, right? We know from a variety of research studies that stress depletes our cognitive and mental resources.
REHMSo stress, in a situation of profiling, Margaret, sort of intensifies the whole characteristic of the encounter.
HUANGAbsolutely. And I think it's important to know that in the Trayvon Martin case, he was actually racially profiled twice. The first time was by George Zimmerman who used race as one of the factors in deciding to pursue Trayvon and to follow him to call the police. But the second time was actually by the police in Sanford, Fla.
HUANGWhen they showed up on the scene, they didn't do an investigation. They took the word of the man with the gun and said, apparently, this young African-American man was guilty of something, and didn't make the arrest on the spot.
HUANGAnd that's another decision that was made.
REHMRonald Hampton, as a former police officer yourself, can you identify with the police officers, who made that decision not to go any further by virtue of their own racial profiling?
HAMPTONI can professionally because I've been a police officer and watched how the decision process is made or has been made. But the problem with what I said was is that police departments are engaged in training and education of officers.
HAMPTONAnd that's the whole purpose that, in Michael's comments earlier, that's the purpose of training and education, is to equip individuals that's going to make these quick decisions with some background in their brain, another background in their brain, so that when they make those decisions or when it's time to make those decisions, they will have a balance, something to bounce them off in this -- in their head.
HAMPTONBecause much as a split decision is made in a split -- in a small period of time, it's usually based on the knowledge that you have acquired over this -- over a period of time, but also from handling a number of incidents that are similar and maybe even the same. That's also supposed to, in some sense, help erase those past experiences that have been negative that each of us have sometime cause in our society when we stereotype people based on negative kind of things.
REHMOK. But give me an idea of what kind of training you're talking about.
HAMPTONWell, it's usually education lecture -- lecture style. It's also -- it's usually done in the classroom. There's also generally some role play that's involved in it. It's also -- sometimes it's modeled after bringing individuals in from certain community, ethnic communities to talk about their perception on the part of how police -- how they interact with police and as well as what -- how they will like to see interaction take place.
REHMBut how much training goes on?
HAMPTONUsually -- unfortunately, I think police departments think these types of trainings can take place in a day-and-a-half, two-day, two-day-and-a-half training, rather than some long -- rather, what I would like to see personally is a week-long training incorporated within the training process and then periodic reinforcement of it because…
REHMWhat do you think about that, Michael Dougherty, the kind of training that Ronald Hampton is talking about taking maybe a day-and-a-half? How does that instill, or what does that instill in a police officer's mind and maybe, you know, for all of us, this kind of training?
DOUGHERTYWell, we can learn things very quickly, but what we're talking about in this case is trying to override these previous experiences or prejudices. And this is a tough thing to do, particularly, again, in high-stress situations. Now, the training that -- I'm not familiar with the training regiments for police officers, but, typically, when we think about training, we're talking about extensive training over weeks and years.
DOUGHERTYSo if you think about the military, for example, they go through -- what is it, a nine-month or nine-week -- I don't know -- some extensive boot camp where they're taught the strategies to carry out effective decisions in a time-critical manner and also to recognize those cases when they need to withhold their snap decision. So a day-and-a-half training probably is not enough, but, on the other hand, you also have a lifetime of experience that -- or experiences that you build up on the job.
REHMAnd, Margaret Huang, one wonders whether neighborhood watch programs go through any such training.
HUANGI believe that they do, Diane. But I also think it's important to note that there has been a number of studies that show, when good training happens, how it can actually help police be more effective. For example, there was a study done by the customs agency in the 1990s where they have been sued for racially profiling and gender profiling people whom they were stopping entering the country.
HUANGAnd so they trained their officers to stop looking at race and gender and instead to look at behavior, other signs that there's some criminal activity happening, for example, a lot of sweating or traveling without luggage or some unusual things like that. And the fascinating thing is they brought in the Lambert Consulting Group to do a study of what the impact of that training had done, and they had more than 300 percent increase in the hit rate, the number of people found with criminal activity.
REHMMargaret Huang, she is executive director of the Rights Working Group. We'll take a short break here. When we come back, we'll talk further, take your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd as we talk about profiling and certainly profiling in the case of Trayvon Martin, here in the studio: Ronald Hampton, he is Washington representative for Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. Margaret Huang is executive director of the Rights Working Group. Michael Dougherty is director of Decision, Attention, and Memory Lab at the University of Maryland.
REHMWe are going to open the phones in just a few moments. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Margaret Huang, I wonder, is it ever possible to absolutely conclude that somebody acted because of racial profiling?
HUANGIt's quite difficult, Diane. And as you've noted, the challenges are many for those who feel that they've been a victim to try to bring a case. And despite the fact that the Constitution, in fact, outlaws racial profiling, it's very difficult in our courts to bring a case, and it's very difficult for individuals who have suffered from racial profiling to prove it.
REHMWould you agree with that, Ronald Hampton?
HAMPTONYes, Ms. Rehm, I would because it's very difficult. It's almost absolutely impossible to place yourself inside a person's body and mind when it comes to making that decision. I would also like to go back just for one second because when I talked about the (word?) training, I used an example of one-and-a-half. Well, there's a range of days, but most of the time, it may range from a one and a half maybe to a week to an actual 40-hour course.
HAMPTONThere are also a couple of other options. It can be done outside the agency. It can be done inside the agency. Sometimes when it's done outside the agency, it's court-ordered. But later on, what tends to happen is is that -- I mean, and this may happen in Sanford, Fla., that because of this incident and the court decision, it's very possible that there could be some court order sensitivity training that takes place that's ordered for the Sanford Police Department.
HAMPTONI would also like to address just shortly -- briefly rather, the point about who trains neighborhood watch people. Most of the time, nine times out of 10, police train neighborhood watch people because it's a...
REHMBut if their training has not been extensive...
REHMSo how are they going to pass on that kind of knowledge?
HAMPTONWell, you're absolutely right. And -- but, see, it goes to -- fortunately, when I worked here in Washington, D.C. -- I'm a retired metropolitan police officer. I worked in the agency for 24 years. And I happened to be around from '70 to '94, and that -- in that period of time, we were involved in not only neighborhood watch, but we were involved in the Orange Hat people, the civilians that patrol the community.
HAMPTONAnd we talked about training. We did training. We also talked very extensively about the role of neighborhood watch in the vigils, as well as Orange Hats people. And the notion -- the whole idea is is that they are to monitor and watch, and then when they recognize something that is out of the ordinary, 'cause sometimes you can't tell -- I could be acting suspicious, but that doesn't mean that I'm involved in any criminal activity.
HAMPTONBut when you see something that's out of the ordinary, then you're supposed to call the police like Mr. Zimmerman did. And then when you call the police, what are you supposed to do? You're supposed to follow their instructions.
REHMAnd what did the police tell him?
HAMPTONTell him -- said to disengage and not to follow Mr. Martin at all.
HAMPTONBut he disregarded that.
REHMSo, Michael Dougherty, in your mind, what would be an ideal for training not only police but individual neighborhood watch communities on what the best way is to avoid this kind of profiling?
DOUGHERTYOh, that's a good question. I wish I had a good answer for it. And if I did, someone else probably came up with the answer before me. But, you know, I think one thing is to recognize a situation and to know when to disengage. And the disengagement seems to be so critical, particularly in this case, being able to understand when you need to back off and let the police do their job.
HAMPTONMm hmm. That's right.
REHMDo you agree with that, Margaret?
HUANGI do. I do. I think it's also particularly important for communities to know their rights, and that's another component of this. When communities know what their rights and responsibilities are vis a vis the police, then it helps also address the problem. Although there was an extraordinary editorial in The New York Times by a young man, Nicholas Peart, who wrote about being racially profiled many times.
HUANGAnd his experience, his training, in fact, was learning how to respond when he was pulled over by the police, learning not to run, learning to show his ID. So, you know, that's not exactly the training that we want to promote, but it's also needed.
HAMPTONBut, believe it or not, I mean, that's the training, unfortunately, that takes place in a lot of the homes -- African-American homes...
HAMPTON...between parents and their black male children, and sometimes female children, in our community in this country because we have to instruct our children on how to handle that situation based on what had happened in the past and our perceptions and perspective on how to navigate those situations.
REHMAs a former police officer, did you have those conversations with your own children?
HAMPTONI certainly did because I was there.
REHMWhat did you say to them?
HAMPTONI was not only there. I was a victim of sometimes those types of things. What I would say to my daughter -- and my son is a person with autism, so he doesn't drive. But my oldest daughter and now my baby daughter, both of them are driving, and I would say to them -- I give them instructions on how to behave when the police officer pulls them over. Don't make radical moves. Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Look ahead.
HAMPTONSay, yes, sir, and no, ma'am, and all those kinds of things, which they do anyway, but I want to emphasize that those are the kind of things. But what I also emphasize is I give them information about the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eight and First Amendment. But those kind of things can also get you in trouble because if you say to the police when they ask you, for example, can I -- do I have consent to search you car?
HAMPTONI instruct my children to say, no, 'cause you don't give them consent. 'Cause if you have to go to court later on, you have to invoke your right in order to get your right, but if you allow them to search your car -- and they will say things like, well, if you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about. That's not true. You do have something to worry about, and you don't have any right until you say have a right.
REHMBut if you say you have a right to prevent that officer from...
REHM...coming in or refuse to have that officer investigate your car, might not that police officer, if nobody else is around, tell you that you've got to get out of that car?
HAMPTONOh, absolutely, 'cause they believe that. They believe that because they believe that as a...
REHMWell, that goes back to the training issue.
HAMPTONYeah. As an investigator, too, they believe that. But the fact of the matter is this: the bottom line is that if they have probable cause or reasonable suspicion, they don't have to ask you for consent. All they had to do is search your car, but they have to tell you what the probable cause is or the reasonable suspicion is.
REHMNow, how have you personally been racially or otherwise profiled?
HAMPTONTwo ways. I was working when -- I had been on the department for about three years, and I was working at -- happened to be in the car with a white officer turning south on 14th Street off of U. And, again, this is around '73, '74, so the white officer says, I'm going to stop this black man driving this Cadillac right here. So I said, well, why? 'Cause I'm looking at him, too. I didn't see any violation. And, I mean, this was before when and all the other stuff that has gone through the court since that time.
HAMPTONAnd so when he pulled it over, he pulled over and say -- and before he got out of the car, he said, you know, it's unusual for a black man to be driving a Cadillac. And so, you know, I said, well, it's not unusual to me 'cause I know a lot of black men who drive a Cadillac, and some of them are police officers. So his bias had popped up. The other example was in --in 1974, I had bought a brand-new Thunderbird myself.
HAMPTONAs a matter of fact, my story is in Charles Ogletree's book about Prof. Gates, and I was driving south. I had just gotten off from work, put a shirt on, but I still had my pants and service weapon on. I'm going south on 9th Street. And a police officer pulls me over -- brand-new 1974 Thunderbird...
HAMPTONNo, no. It was white.
REHMIt was red.
HAMPTONIt was white. I'm very conservative.
REHMOK, all right.
HAMPTONAnd so he pulls me over, walks up to the car and says, you know, you were speeding. I said, no, I wasn't speeding. I was paying attention to the thing. So he looks at my car and all of that. So I said, well, aren't you supposed to say something to me? He said, what do you mean, you know? I said, well, aren't you supposed to tell me what the violation is and all that kind of stuff? He said, well -- he said, are you a police officer?
HAMPTONI said, yeah, matter of fact, I am a police officer. He said, well, why didn't you tell me that? So my reply to him was, why do I have to tell you I'm a police officer to get you to do your job the way you're supposed to do it?
HAMPTON'Cause, I mean, all of that's information that I was requesting is in the police bible called the general orders. And when I responded to him, he just turned around, walked back to the car and got in the car.
HAMPTONBut he also wanted to say that he thought the car was stolen. Now, you know, you...
HAMPTONI don't think that. But I also think it's a matter of his conditioning to the kind of stereotyping that takes place in our society when we talk about black men, the kind of cars they drive, the kind of things that they do in their community.
REHMRonald Hampton, he's Washington representative for Blacks in Law Enforcement in America. I want to ask you, Margaret. This week, the Senate is holding a hearing to ban racial profiling. Why do we need to ban it if it's already illegal?
HUANGIt's a great question, Diane. But we're so happy that Sen. Durbin is, in fact, holding this hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning. And the reason is because, even though it is unconstitutional to racially profile -- as you've already noted, it's very difficult to make a case when somebody, in fact, has been a victim of racial profiling.
HUANGSo the legislation would not only define and ban racial profiling, but it would require law enforcement agencies to adopt very clear policies against the practice. It would require them to collect data to show whether or not they're, in fact, complying with the ban. And it would even make available some grants to help law enforcement agencies do better training, provide other kinds of information to their officers and do -- share some best practices about how best to stop this.
REHMI wonder how much support there's going to be for that.
HUANGWell, you know, the legislation was first introduced in the summer of 2001, and, in fact, it was expected to pass. President Bush at the time had promised to sign the bill into law, and there were what we expected to be the necessary votes in both houses. Unfortunately, at the end of the summer of 2001, we had the Sept. 11 attacks.
HUANGAnd since that time, we've gone from having public polls, which overwhelmingly support a ban of racial profiling, to a lot of questions in the public. Is racial profiling ever necessary or effective? And even though I think the experts all believe it's never very effective, it's been difficult to overcome the public fear about it.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And also the Supreme Court is going to hear arguments over Arizona's new immigration law next week, and that law is being challenged. Explain why.
HUANGThe Arizona law was the first of several laws adopted by now six states that require the police to ask for papers of anyone that they believe is reasonably suspicious of being in the country without papers, undocumented. And so the challenge has come not only from civil rights groups, but also, in fact, from the Department of Justice, which has sued the state of Arizona and said that this law cannot be enforced.
HUANGThat Supreme Court hearing is going to determine whether or not the federal government has the authority to oversee immigration laws or whether states can make their own patchwork mix of laws deciding who can be allowed into their states and who can't.
REHMThat's going to be tough.
HUANGIt's going to be a real challenge. And as I said, there are five other states that have already adopted copycat legislation like the Arizona law, and there are more states that are waiting in the wings to see what happens with the Supreme Court's decision.
REHMAnd if they are profiling, what does that mean? How are they profiled?
HUANGWell, this is the challenge. You know, when the governor of Arizona was asked how the police were supposed to find someone suspicious of being undocumented, she said, well, you know, you can look at them, and you can see. And everyone said, what are you looking at? And she...
HUANG...was not able to answer that question. I think the reality is the police have not been given any guidance about this. It's actually not the police's fault.
HAMPTONNo, it's not.
HUANGThe fault is the legislature that has created this mandate and then expected the police to somehow figure out how to identify undocumented people.
REHMMichael Dougherty, how are they going to go about doing that?
DOUGHERTYOh, boy. I can't give you a clear answer on that, unfortunately. You know, it's...
REHMI mean, they're going to look at somebody and react, as you said, instinctively.
DOUGHERTYMm hmm. Right. You know, and we -- something that we haven't talked about yet are implicit biases or implicit beliefs. So we operate in our world, and we're oftentimes guided by things that we're unaware of, right? So we decide not to step on a street -- into the street when traffic is oncoming. But it's not that we're consciously deliberating about whether or not we should step into oncoming traffic. We do this instinctively.
DOUGHERTYWe have these implicit reactions that we follow. In the case of profiling, in essence, what one might be doing is engaging in some sort of conscious process where they're explicitly deciding...
DOUGHERTY...what those bases are for pulling someone over or checking their papers.
HAMPTONYeah, yeah, yeah.
REHMHow tough is that going to be, Ronald?
HAMPTONIt's going to really be tough, and, for me, we got a very early signal. There was a police officer in Tucson, Ariz. that, once the governor of Arizona sign the legislation, the following week, he got a lawyer and filed a lawsuit against the state. And his reason for filing the lawsuit was to injunctify (sic) the action of the governor's legislation, and his rationale was that it was going to impede his ability to be a police officer and work in the community because his community was overwhelmingly Hispanic.
HAMPTONLet me suggest to you that if this legislation addresses immigrants and whether or not immigrants are legal or not, in the District of Columbia, what area of the city would you go work in? 'Cause most of the time, we don't assume that African-Americans, even though they aren't necessarily -- people of African descent aren't necessarily immigrants -- I mean, citizens of the U.S., but we immediately think about Hispanics when we think about immigration.
HAMPTONSo you would probably be working and looking for people in Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, because that's where the majority of Hispanic people live in our community, if you're out there doing that kind of work. But we have a huge percentage of immigrants in our community from Ethiopia, and they are people of African descent. But in Arizona, we think about it when that comes up. We think about people of Hispanic descent.
REHMRonald Hampton. He is Washington representative for Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. Short break. When we come back, we'll take your calls, your comments. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd we'll go right to the phones. To Richard in Haverhill, Mass., good morning to you, sir.
RICHARDGood morning, Diane. Welcome back. I saw you...
RICHARDYeah. I saw your interview with Maria Hinojosa a few months ago. No wonder why we all love you.
REHMOh, thank you.
RICHARDI hope your husband's doing better. Diane, this is a trend that's been going on for years throughout this country: Young black teenagers getting killed by policemen. Just to give you a few cases, just last month, a young 19-year-old black teenager was killed in Pasadena, no weapon. A couple of years before that in Pasadena, another black young teenager killed, no weapon. A young black -- I think he was from Africa, actually -- and Bruce Springsteen wrote a song about it -- was shot 41 times in Brooklyn, no weapon.
RICHARDAnd this has been going on for years, Diane, and all that I can think is it's just outright racism 'cause how many times do you read about a young white teenager getting killed by police? I wish someone would document over the years how many black teenagers have been killed, Diane.
REHMThanks for calling, Richard. Margaret, how widespread is profiling?
HUANGIn fact, it is quite pervasive. A couple of summers ago, we held a series of field hearings around the country to invite the communities to come in and talk about the problem, and we were almost overwhelmed by the response. So many people came forward from the African-American and Latino communities, but also from Asian communities, from South Asian communities, from the Muslim and Sikh faiths. And it's extraordinary how commonplace it's become in all of these communities.
REHMMichael Dougherty, it sounds to me as though this is something that begins very early in our training as young people. Be wary of that neighborhood. Be wary of that person. I mean, all in the name of safety and precaution and that sort of thing. But it does build up, doesn't it?
DOUGHERTYOh, absolutely. You know, we build up our implicit biases or implicit beliefs over a lifetime. And as I said earlier, sometimes these things serve us quite well. And other times, they can be to our detriment.
REHMOne of our listeners tweets, "Our community watch group received a one-hour talk 11 years ago. All original members moved. New members never got any training." What about that, Ronald?
HAMPTONPower for the course. Power for the course.
REHMPower for the course.
HAMPTONPower for the course, that's right.
HAMPTONBecause there's -- it's, you know, the police -- one of the things that I think happens is is that the police want community support.
HAMPTONI definitely believe that...
REHMAnd they need that support.
HAMPTONThey certainly do. But they want it in a particular kind of way. They may not necessarily want it in a real pro-active community-engagement process. They want it after the fact -- after the crime has occurred, they need all the information they can because they need to solve the crime. And since they weren't there on the scene 99 percent of the time, they need witnesses, or people call witnesses.
HAMPTONBut the real way to get community engagement in public safety is to have a pro-active relationship, like being married. If you are now married, that's a real relationship. Then there will be benefits from it. But sometime, you can be married to an individual with no benefits at all.
HAMPTONSee, there's a difference, and that's what I'm talking about.
HAMPTONSee, so what the police want sometimes is they want the latter rather than the first because the first you have to really work on.
REHMAll right. To Fort Worth, Texas, good morning, Martin.
MARTINGood morning. I have a hoarse throat this morning. Hope you can hear me.
REHMI sure can. Go right ahead, sir.
MARTINWell, I called in about George Zimmerman, but I'd like to make another comment about what a caller just brought up a moment ago, too. George Zimmerman should never have been allowed out of the box. He was a broken toy as it is -- as it were. The police department didn't want him. The crime watch people knew that he was. I don't think he's ever been to any crime watch training.
REHMMartin, tell me where you're getting your information.
MARTINGeorge Zimmerman had been in trouble with the police early on, a few years ago.
MARTINBut he had also wanted to become a police officer.
MARTINAnd he was not allowed to become a police officer, and...
REHMBut that doesn't mean that they didn't want him or didn't accept him as a neighborhood watch member, does it?
MARTINWell, two things: Number one, he had a problem in a bar that should have been a felony that was swept under the rug by somebody...
REHMI don't know about that, and, therefore, I'm reluctant to have you continue, Martin. Margaret.
HUANGYou know, Diane, the -- I was thinking a lot about what Ron said in the impact of what profiling like this has on communities. The head of the Hispanic Interest Coalition in Alabama, Isabel Rubio, shared with me a story about a young woman and her mother who came to see Isabel a few months after the Alabama copycat legislation was enacted. And -- the teenage girl had been raped, and they were asking Isabel, what can we do? And she said well, you should call the police.
HUANGYou should report this crime so that this can't happen again. And they were too afraid to do it because some of the members of the girl's family were not documented. And this is the kind of impact that profiling has if the community becomes afraid to be witnesses, to report crimes. It actually makes everyone less safe, not just immigrant communities or other communities, but we all become less safe.
REHMAll right. To Grafton, Ill., good morning, Chris.
CHRISGood morning. Thank you for taking my call.
CHRISI got a question, and they touched on it earlier about the community watch groups. It sounded like the people who came after to these non-training sessions were trained by their peers who were trained by previous. And it begs my question: What is the training program? How do they address the peer pressure among the police officers 'cause their co-workers depend on them to do their jobs correctly to support them?
CHRISAnd if they have to think about all of that on top of all of this other stuff, which, in my mind, is we expect our policemen to do everything, but we don't want them to do a thing. And they have to guide themselves between these two far-reaching goals.
HAMPTONI don't know. I respectfully -- well, it ain't that I agree or disagree, but let me just say I think the job of the police officer is really clearly defined. There are things that he or she can do and things that they can't do. There's also a -- there's also this field of discretion. And if you use your discretion in a way that benefits society, along with the humanity component of it, then I believe we're going to be able to do -- that police officer do the kind of things that they want.
HAMPTONWhen we talk about training for these citizen groups, it's a very narrow field in terms of what it is that law enforcement expect them to do. And I remember being involved in some training where we clearly articulated what it was and even went out and worked with the citizens in the community. I worked around in the third district here in the city.
REHMBut did they all carry guns?
HAMPTONOh, no, no. You don't get no guns.
HAMPTONYou're not allowed to carry a gun in Washington, D.C.
REHMNot in Washington, but in...
HAMPTONAnd I think that's the way it ought to be in most places, too.
REHMWell, but are you allowed to carry guns in Sanford, Fla.?
HAMPTONOh, yes, yes. So -- and I would just...
HUANGBut not as a neighborhood watchman.
REHMThat's what I want to get at.
HAMPTONNo. No, you're right. That's exactly right. In probably 100 percent of neighborhood watch examples, carrying a gun is not what it is that neighborhood watch people ought to be doing.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Flagler Beach, Fla. Good morning, Blanche.
BLANCHEYes. Good morning. The language used by George Zimmerman towards Trayvon on the 911 tapes like, these effing a-holes are always getting away, and other similar remarks, were assumptions and aggressive by Zimmerman. And that's profiling. One more point, these pro-gun groups say that we have the right to defend ourselves against armed bad guys. Well, I'm equally concerned about aggressive people with guns who have anger issues and no self-control.
REHMI'll bet you're concerned about that, too, Michael.
DOUGHERTYOh, yeah, right. You know, impulsivity is a big problem, right, so most of us, when we have time to think about our situations, can pull back from impulsive -- making impulsive decisions. But, you know, we don't always have the cognitive resources available to do so. And, you know, I'll take just a perspective of what I believe a police officer might place himself in every day, every hour, right? You watch police officers do their job, and it's quite clearly a high-stress environment.
DOUGHERTYWe talked earlier about the need for individuals to react in a way when they are being questioned by a police officer not to draw suspicion to them self, not to provoke, and we have to put ourselves in the position of our law enforcement officers.
REHMLet's hear another perspective from Mike in San Antonio. Good morning to you.
MIKEGood morning. And thank you for listening to me. I think the gentleman was just speaking exactly what I was talking about. We all have a responsibility as an individual to dress and act the part. And I think that society and a lot of our entertainment community has glamorized certain types of thug looks. And if I were to dress like a thug and walk around a neighborhood at one o'clock in the morning and have somebody profile me, well, I'm kind of, you know, getting what I deserve for dressing like that.
MIKEAnd for me to say, oh, I'm being profiled because, you know, I'm -- you know, because of my -- the color of my skin, when it might be the way I dress, or if I had tattoos or piercings, it's irresponsible to expect people not to see me as that part.
REHMIt's interesting because so many people came out in support of Trayvon Martin wearing those same hoodies.
HAMPTONYeah, I think you can wear -- we live in a country where you can wear anything you want to wear. As a matter of fact, you can walk down the street naked if you want to, to be exact.
REHMNot really. Not really.
HAMPTONBut it's interesting. I mean, I just -- I think whatever you want to wear. Again, the premise ought to be based on what are you doing, not what are you wearing. How were you conditioned in relationship to these kind of things? I mean, we wasn't told that if a person is walking down the street with a hoodie on that that person is a bad person. We don't know that. It's just unbelievable now that we are drawing these conclusions about certain -- about certain -- not only about how people dress but, again, how they act.
DOUGHERTYOh, absolutely. You know what? Attire doesn't justify profiling in any way, right? Behavior should be -- behavioral patterns should be the focus of any -- and, you know, and police officers are trained to look for behavioral patterns, presumably to look past the surface level details that they're seeing in front of them.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Ronald, I want to get back to really something that, I think, Margaret raised, which was that the police officers themselves, when they arrived at the scene, did their own profiling.
REHMAnd this young man lay dead on the street, or wherever he was, and the officers -- I don't get it. There is one story that says some officers wanted him arrested, some said no. What's your understanding, Margaret?
HUANGYes, in fact, I believe that the officer-in-charge had recommended that Zimmerman should be arrested, but the prosecutor made the decision not to charge him.
HUANGYes. And the police chief also made that decision. So there were conflicting views inside the Sanford police department.
REHMSo how did you react to that?
HAMPTONWell, I was appalled because I think that they were reacting more to the components of the legislation. The Stand Your Ground legislation talks about some of their responses to -- when people use their weapon and if they are legally possessing it 'cause the legislation not only are you immune criminally but the legislation immunes you civilly. So, I mean, this is crazy. To me, it's like giving permission for vigilantism.
HAMPTONBut the other side of it is that as a police officer, you -- I would have gone to the scene, and the first thing we should have done was rope off the scene, do a thorough investigation, interview every witness. I mean, go looking for witnesses.
REHMSome of them didn't want to talk (unintelligible). Yeah.
HAMPTONThat's exactly right, I mean, because at the end of the day, regardless of the legislation, the investigation is either going to prove you did it or he did it or he didn't do it and what the reasons are. And then you can go into court and argue that component.
HUANGDiane, one of your callers talked about the fact that we're expecting the police to take on more and more responsibilities these days. And that's true not only in the issues of immigration enforcement we talked about earlier this hour, but also regarding surveillance. And one of our biggest concerns has actually been the reports that have come out about how the New York Police Department has been engaging in surveillance of Muslim communities.
HUANGAnd, again, it's an example of how the police are using resources and the time of their officers to monitor things like who's shopping at a particular cafe or who's praying at a particular mosque, none of which has actually led to prosecutions or criminal investigations but, in fact, has made the Muslim community not just in New York but also in New Jersey, in Pennsylvania, in Connecticut and Upstate New York -- all of these communities are feeling in fear from this. And so your caller was right.
HUANGIt's one of the challenges as to really think about what is the appropriate role of police. Should police be doing intelligence work? And should they be trying to do the kind of counterterrorism work that, in fact, federal agencies have traditionally been responsible for?
REHMIt's interesting because earlier in the program, Ronald, you said something about police almost becoming part of the military.
HAMPTONYeah. The roles have changed. And there's some research out there as well there are reasons, some underground reasons, why the role of policing has increased. But I think it's time for a real, again, a thorough examination of some of these kind of things that now we see police are involved into.
REHMAnd that's where we leave this discussion. I'm sure there'll be lots more. Ronald Hampton is Washington representative for Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. Margaret Huang is executive director of the Rights Working Group. Michael Dougherty is director of Decision, Attention, and Memory Lab at the University of Maryland. Thank you all so much.
HUANGThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Nikki Jecks, Susan Nabors and Lisa Dunn, and the engineer is Tobey Schreiner. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
Most Recent Shows
A lame duck, with diminished power to get anything done: This is how many had expected to describe President Barack Obama in his final two years in office. But Obama has had a string of recent victories, and now, he’s setting his sights on other issues. We look at the president's evolution and his political priorities for the remainder of his term.
Turkish jets attack Islamic State positions in Syria for the first time. Negotiations begin in Athens on a third bailout for Greece. And President Barack Obama visits Kenya and Ethiopia. A panel of journalists joins guest host Susan Page of USA Today for analysis of the week's top international news stories.
Secretary of State John Kerry defends the Iran nuclear deal in Congress. Republican candidates scramble for a spot in the upcoming GOP debate. And a dash-cam video of Sandra Bland’s arrest in Texas fuels debate over her death. A panel of journalists joins guest host Susan Page for analysis of the week's top national news stories.