Prejudice in Police Profiling: Assessing an Overlooked Aspect in Prior Research

George Wilson, Roger Dunham, Geoffrey Alpert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Social science analyses of racial profiling in the context of discretionary police stops and subsequent interrogations have tended to rely on a framework dictated by federal case law, namely, they have focused on disparate impact by race as the basis for deeming profiling discriminatory. Significantly, neglected in profiling studies have been considerations of the role of prejudice. Analogizing to profiling about the sources of prejudice, activators of prejudice, and legitimacy gained from acting on prejudice, among key decision makers in other institutional domains - namely, employers in the workplace and brokers/landlords in the housing market - the authors maintain that prejudice is a source of profiling. In addition, the authors discuss how identifying the prejudicial roots of profiling enhances one's ability to both judge its propriety and understand the scope of racial prejudice in America. The authors offer suggestions for future research that sheds additional light on the link between racial prejudice and profiling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)896-909
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number7
StatePublished - Mar 2004


  • Discrimination
  • Police
  • Prejudice
  • Race
  • Racial profiling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)


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