Cop is a derogatory term

Immigration, Displacement and Asylum: Current Issues

Vanessa Eileen Thompson

Dr. des. Vanessa Eileen Thompson is a research associate at the Institute for Sociology at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. Her main research interests include critical racism and migration research, gender and queer studies as well as intersectionality research and post- / decolonial theories and methodologies.

If people are controlled by the police solely on the basis of their physical appearance or ethnic characteristics, one speaks of racial profiling. A contribution about why it falls short of considering such an illegal practice only as misconduct of individuals.

Racial profiling is used when people are controlled by the police solely on the basis of their physical appearance or ethnic characteristics. (& copy dpa)

Conceptual and legal framework

Racial Profiling (racist profiling, also called "ethnic profiling") refers to police measures and measures by other security, immigration and customs officers, such as identity checks, interviews, surveillance, searches or arrests that are not based on a specific suspicion or danger (such as behavior of a person or group), but solely on the basis of ("external") racialized [1] or ethnicized characteristics [2] - in particular skin color or (presumed) religious affiliation. Often there are also connections with other dimensions of inequality such as gender, socio-economic status, legal status, sexuality, disability [3], language and age. [4] Unprovoked personal checks solely on the basis of a phenotypic appearance violate the Basic Law (Article 3, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law), the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) and the prohibition of racist discrimination laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights and the prohibition of racist discrimination laid down in the international anti-racism convention . [5]

The term Racial Profiling originated in the USA and the practice of control goes back a long way to the history of slavery. [6] It is now recognized as a problem by institutions (e.g. courts) in some countries such as the USA or Great Britain, legal regulations are intended to prevent this practice. In Germany, on the other hand, there is neither a legal definition nor explicit prohibitions - for example in the police laws - for the application of Racial Profiling. Instead, police laws at federal and state level implicitly open up room for maneuver for these police measures, which are primarily aimed at controlling the movement of people who are not granted entry and residence rights, as well as at the containment of criminal offenses. Articles 22 and 23 of the Federal Police Act, for example, provide for identity checks in border areas up to 30 kilometers inland, at airports, on trains and at train stations and on motorways to control and prevent unauthorized entry, regardless of suspicion or cause. [7] In addition, the state police laws on the designation and definition of so-called "danger areas", "dangerous" or "endangered" places provide a legal basis for preventive crime prevention controls that are independent of cause and suspicion. At these designated locations, local police authorities are allowed to carry out personal and identity checks, question and search people, and video-monitor the premises without any cause, on the basis of so-called police experience or crime statistics. [8]

Racial profiling as everyday life

In everyday police practice, according to international human rights organizations, civil society - especially anti-racist - initiatives and organizations as well as experience and research reports, stereotypical and racist stigmatization and criminalization of people and groups who are classified as "different" by society occur. [9 ] Initial legal proceedings also indicate that "external" characteristics such as skin color are used as a major reason for checking immigration. [10] With regard to the identification of so-called "dangerous places", it is argued that particularly migrant or migrant people [11] and People of Color[12] from precarious milieus as well as migrant or migrant sex workers are targeted by the controls. [13]

For those affected, the consequences of these controls range from public humiliation to physical and psychosocial injuries and crises. Racial Profiling takes up a lot of time, energy and space from the perspective of the affected person and produces psychological and physical stress for those affected. Not only is the situation itself experienced by many as a form of violence, racial profiling can also cause long-lasting psychological stress, so that one can speak of slow violence [14] - violence that is not about "spectacular" events it is fragmented and creeping. There are no independent complaints offices that people affected by racial profiling can turn to for legal advice or referral to psychosocial offices. [15]

Perspectives on Racial Profiling

Despite the ongoing and increasing criticism from human rights organizations and civil society initiatives and organizations, the dominant discourse either completely denies that Racial Profiling exists in Germany, or this practice is viewed as the misconduct of individual security officers. However, this article argues that Racial Profiling is institutionally "enrolled" in security organizations such as the police. The federal government has been affirming for years that Racial Profiling is not carried out by the police of the federal and state governments. [16] Nevertheless, the above-mentioned legal regulations can favor a procedure to carry out police controls according to "external" characteristics such as skin color in particular. If Racial Profiling but if it is legally possible, it can no longer just be the misconduct of individual police officers. Because the laws form the basis for police practice; they are incorporated into the police institution and thus influence the actions of the officers.

Institutional racism

The social science concepts of institutional discrimination and institutional racism refer to the interaction of social and state institutions and authorities, their norms and practices in the production and reproduction of racism. In this perspective, racism is not understood as purely individual misconduct, but as a phenomenon of exclusion, dehumanization, systematic disadvantage and violence as well as the unequal distribution of resources that is reproduced by social structures. Institutional discrimination and racism can be seen, for example, in the housing and labor market as well as in the education, health, training or judicial system. With a view to Racial Profiling It is primarily about legal bases that enable identity checks on the basis of e.g. racial characteristics as well as the social relationship through which certain groups marked as "different" from the as White represented society are excluded and criminalized. The supposedly ethnically homogeneous nation imagined by dominant social discourses plays a functional role through the exclusion of constructed "others". [17] On Racial Profiling Transferred this would mean that the perception of "marginalized groups" as an abstract danger, which must be averted by preventive police measures, can also be viewed in the sense of the preservation and "defense" of a community that is imagined as homogeneous. [18] If the officers of the Federal Police consciously or unconsciously use "external" and thus visible features such as skin color to control unauthorized entries as a selection criterion for selective controls, the question of connecting lines can be asked from a scientific perspective: and to what extent this in (social and subjectivizing) Beliefs from the colonial era and the process of nation-state emergence in the 19th and 20th centuries are rooted in that the emergence of nations and their colonial interdependencies included demarcation from "others". Viewed from this line of connection, racism as a process of exclusion, exploitation and dehumanization thus serves to maintain a community and white political rule that is imagined as homogeneous. [19]

Racial Profiling and preventive policing

The practice of Racial Profilings against the background of preventive police work, which is based on the assumption of "abstract dangers" or "abstract hazard situations", is gaining in importance. In this context, there is also the designation of so-called "dangerous places" where controls independent of suspicion may take place. Civil society initiatives and initial scientific debates show [20] that these are often places where migrant people and People of Color work and / or live. As already mentioned, crime statistics are a basis for the definition of "danger locations". The central question here is how and Which Criminal offenses are included in these statistics and for whom these places are designated as "dangerous". [21] For example, forensic research shows that members of the minority are more likely to be reported to a criminal offense by members of the "majority society" than to perpetrators who are not viewed as "strangers". [22] In addition, increased and selective controls lead to the discovery of more crimes (of certain groups, not because they are inevitably more "criminal", but because, in contrast to other social groups, they are controlled disproportionately), which in turn are reflected in the police crime statistics , while other groups of potential perpetrators are not statistically visible to the same extent.

It should also be borne in mind that police action also has many effects on society. Selective and unreasonable controls of migrant or migrant people and people of color reinforce racist patterns of representation of "criminal migrants". This feeling of insecurity generated individually and socially - also by the crime statistics just mentioned - is in turn often followed by the call for more police and controls in these areas, those with migrants and People of Color be associated. Racial Profiling is therefore in many ways an issue that affects society as a whole. [23]

Intervention options

That Racial Profiling has so far only been marginally examined and discussed scientifically and politically, can itself be viewed as an expression of an understanding of racism that ignores the structural and societal implications of racism. Migrated people, people of color, civil society initiatives and human rights organizations have been referring to the problem of Racial Profilings: they support affected persons, document this practice and contribute to sensitization and thus also to the democratization of society. [24] They also provide important research and intervention contributions that document the lived experiences and knowledge of the persons and groups concerned and derive demands that go beyond the individualized dimension of the phenomenon. In many of the handouts and demands it is made clear that intercultural competence or a diversification of police personnel will not be sufficient to recognize and reduce a structural and institutional problem. Rather, there would be independent complaint bodies, an explicit ban on Racial Profiling, an obligation to document police checks and the ethnic origin of those controlled (as in Great Britain) and further awareness-raising for society as a whole to reduce practices that violate human and fundamental rights in order to counteract this form of institutional racism.


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Websites of the initiatives and organizations


Initiative of Black People in Germany:

Campaign for victims of racist police violence: