Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

State Adoptions of Racial Profiling Laws: Exploring Functional, Social, and Political Determinants
by Weld, Dean W., Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2017, 190; 10681126
Abstract (Summary)

In recent decades, racial profiling has been one of the most controversial issues in American policing. Estimates using national survey data reveal that approximately 32 million Americans report being victims of racial profiling. Federal legislation to prohibit racial profiling has been repeatedly introduced in Congress, but has not yet been enacted. In the absence of federal law to prohibit profiling, many states have adopted laws to address concerns about racial profiling within their borders. These laws encompass a variety of approaches to the problem, including prohibiting profiling, collecting data on the race and ethnicity of stopped drivers, and establishing procedures for reviewing profiling complaints. Some states also require racial profiling training for officers, create racial profiling advisory boards, or specify accountability measures for officers who engage in profiling. To date, 32 states have adopted at least one racial profiling law.

A key aim of public policy adoption research is to explore the internal state characteristics associated with the decision to adopt a particular policy. This study contributes to the criminal justice policy adoption literature by exploring the state-level characteristics associated with the adoption of racial profiling laws. Drawing from the racial profiling, racial threat, and public policy adoption literatures, I examine the effects of functional, social, and political determinants on two racial profiling policy outcomes. First, I model the likelihood of adopting any racial profiling law. Second, I model the comprehensiveness of state racial profiling policies. Policy comprehensiveness is measured using a numeric index that reflects the scope and strictness of each state’s racial profiling laws. Creation of this index is a key contribution of the current research.

Results find no support for the influence of functional determinants on racial profiling policy outcomes, and only limited support for the influence of social factors. Several political determinants, however, have large effects on both the likelihood of adopting a racial profiling law and the expected policy comprehensiveness score. States with larger percentages of Democratic legislators and a history of greater overall policy innovativeness are more likely to adopt a racial profiling law and to have more comprehensive profiling policies. When controlling for these factors, however, a measure of Democratic voters has negative effects on both the likelihood of adoption and the expected policy comprehensiveness score. Results also find evidence of a positive relationship between state population size and the comprehensiveness of racial profiling policies.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Messner, Steven F.
Commitee: Worden, Robert E., Yang, Tse-Chuan
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 79/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Law, Sociology, Ethnic studies
Keywords: Criminology, Law, Public policy, Racial profiling
Publication Number: 10681126
ISBN: 9780355493818
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