Regulating the City: The Social Control Imperatives of Contemporary Policing Practices

Sandra Bass, University of Maryland at College Park

ABSTRACT
Racial profiling has become the term-of-art for discussing race-based police discretionary decisions. Research on and policy responses to racial profiling have primarily focused on developing methods for empirically testing whether police intentially use race in decision-making. However what is often missing from empirical accounts is a broader understanding of the role race has played in the development of American policing and the policing function. This paper will briefly discuss the roots of race-based decision-making in policing functions. This paper will briefly discuss the roots of race-based decision-making in policing and argue that race-based social control has been at the core of American policing since its inception. Focusing narrowly on the intentions of individual police officers, misses the broader institutional factors that affect ordinary police practices and behavior. The paper will then turn to a discussion of current policing practices as contemporary examples of these historically imbedded institutional imperatives.

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Updated 05/20/2006