Library and Archives
Glossary of Terms
These terms are some that are basic to the conversation about racial profiling data collection.
- A measurement that serves as a standard against which the data collected in the data collection program can be judged.
- Internal benchmark
- A standard against which to judge the data that is generated from within the data set, such as a comparison between the percentages of persons searched and the hit rates.
- External benchmark
- A comparative benchmark external to the data set, such as a benchmark generated through a road survey or residential population data.
- CAD file
- Computer-Aided Dispatch files are created by the dispatcher on each stop called in to the dispatcher. The dispatcher inputs information and then stores the data on a computer system.
- Hit rate
- The number or percentage of searches that produce contraband.
- MDT unit
- Mobile Data Terminal units are similar to laptop computers and are used in police cars to transmit data to a central dispatch unit.
- Probable cause
- Probable cause is a standard of proof of criminal activity that justifies a search or seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Officers are required to meet the following standard of proof for probable cause: enough particularized facts to lead a person of reasonable caution to believe that there is a fair probability of criminal activity. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt or proof by a preponderance of the evidence is not required.
- Racial Profiling
- Racial profiling has been defined in a myriad of ways. Following are some samples of those definitions:
- "Racially-biased policing occurs when law enforcement inappropriately considers race or ethnicity in deciding with whom and how to intervene in an enforcement capacity." Lorie Fridell, Robert Lunney, Drew Diamond and Bruce Kubu, Racially Biased Policing: A Principled Response 5 (Washington, D.C.: Police Executive Research Forum, 2001).
- "Using race as a key factor in deciding whether to make a traffic stop." General Accounting Office, Racial Profiling: Limited Data Available on Motorist Stops. GAO/GGD-00-41. Washington, DC: March 2000.
- "Any police-initiated action that relies on the race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than the behavior of an individual or information that leads the police to a particular individual who has been identified as begin, or having been, engaged in criminal activity." Deborah Ramirez, Jack McDevitt, and Amy Farrell, A Resource Guide on Racial Profiling Data Collection Systems: Promising Practices and Lessons Learned (Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice, November 2000).
- "The practice of a law enforcement agent relying, to any degree, on race, ethnicity, or national origin in selecting which individuals to subject to routine investigatory activities, or in deciding upon the scope and substance of law enforcement activity following the initial routine investigatory activity, except that racial profiling does not include reliance on such criteria in combination with other identifying factors when the law enforcement agent is seeking to apprehend a specific suspect whose race, ethnicity, or national origin is part of the description of the suspect." End Racial Profiling Act, S.989, 107th Congress, Section 501 (2001).
- "The practice of detaining a suspect based on a broad set of criteria which casts suspicion on an entire class of people without any individualized suspicion of the particular person being stopped." Massachusetts SB 228, "An Act Providing For the Collection Of Data Relative To Traffic Stops," Chapter 228 of the Acts of 2000.
- "In the literature to date, there appear to be at least two clearly distinguishable definitions of the term 'racial profiling': a narrow definition and a broad definition. . . . Under the narrow definition, racial profiling occurs when a police officer stops, questions, arrests, and/or searches someone solely on the basis of the person's race or ethnicity. . . . Under the broader definition, racial profiling occurs whenever police routinely use race as a factor that, along with an accumulation of other factors, causes an officer to react with suspicion and take action." Jim Cleary, "Racial Profiling Studies in Law Enforcement: Issues and Methodology," MN House of Rep. Research Info. Br., at 5-6 (June 2000).
- Reasonable Articulable Suspicion
- A Fourth Amendment standard, less demanding than "probable cause," under which officers are required to have at least a minimal level of objective justification for an investigatory stop. Courts employ a totality of the circumstances test to determine whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to believe that a suspect was engaging or about to engage in illegal activity. Relevant factors in the totality of the circumstances test include characteristics of the location (patterns of activity, time of day, high crime area) and characteristics about the suspect (familiarity with the surroundings, criminal record, attempts to evade police surveillance, implausible answers during an encounter).
If there are additional terms you'd like to see in this glossary, please contact us at email@example.com.