Monday, June 3, 2013

Why is Law Enforcement Profiling a Bad Thing at All Times?

"With all the power that a President has, the most important thing to bear in mind is this: You must not give power to a man unless, above everything else, he has character. Character is the most important qualification the President of the United States can have."
--Richard Nixon endorsing Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign in 1964.

Giving power to anyone to enforce laws on the basis of character is bad governance.  If the enforcer has a bad character, you have done nothing but empower rank prejudice.  Tricky Dick is but one example among hundreds which can be found.  Profiling is a threat to liberty in all circumstances.

Profiling is nothing more and nothing less than inferring unlawful character from appearances and opinion.  Character inference is then used to construct inferences about behavior and propensities.  If the propensities lead an enforcement official to believe that a person is intending to break the law then the enforcement official decides to take the next step.  The corruption is to use “character” to prevent the supposed violation by investigation and premature intervention.

A great fictional lawman of an earlier time had a term for this technique: “nip it Ange.  You got to nip it in the bid!”

Just as Barney Fife was the object of ridicule for his simplistic and autocratic methods, all of us should be revolted by profiling, not selectively but absolutely.  Count me in the camp that rejects profiling in all its forms.  Profiling is merely prejudice, cloaked in law.

So, let me be clear.  It was wrong and unlawful to scrutinize applications for 501(c)(3) status based upon keywords.  And so, I condemn the IRS decision to use the terms “tea party” and “patriot” to single out 501(c) (3) applications for extra scrutiny.  Just because you used those words in your name does not mean that the purpose of your group was to influence elections.  Wrong.  Nip it, Ange!  This was bad.  It should be stopped.  Those responsible should be held accountable.  Count me in!  Profiling is a pernicious evil and should be condemned.  Fundraising will tea-partying is no crime.

Now let’s talk about the law enforcement profiling that has impacted far more Americans’ civil liberties  for far longer: racial profiling and religious profiling.  North Carolina’s Republican Party is counting on the fact that profiling Democrats is perfectly legal when deciding whether they should be allowed to cast a vote in their newly-gerrymandered dollar store districts.  Those folks need to show their papers, especially the poors and those folks who were alive when FDR saved the country.  But hopefully, they recognize that profiling folks for their race and their religious beliefs is also despicable.  So where is their outrage?

   Driving while Hispanic is apparently a basis for being stopped in Alamance County, North Carolina.   Where is Congressman Issa’s outrage on this “profiling? What about Driving While Black?  No outrage left for that one, either Mr. Issa?  What about Flying while Muslim?