To further prove that racism and stereotyping is not a thing of the past in the United States, more than 30 federal officers have complained that a security training program implemented in a Boston airport encourages racial profiling. The New York Times notes that through a series of complaints and interviews, officers have affirmed that policies employed at Logan International Airport in Boston encourages stopping people based on specific racial profiles and stereotypes.
One officer told the New York Times, “They just pull aside anyone who they donít like the way they look ó if they are black and have expensive clothes or jewelry, or if they are Hispanic.” The program was supposed to help uncover crime by studying mannerisms of passengers in airports. It was supposed to spread to other airports as a model program that would allow TSA officers to stop anyone with behaviors that seemed suspicious.
Ideally, the program categorized suspicious mannerisms as avoiding eye contact, sweating or acting out of sorts. Many officers estimated that about 80 percent of the people they stopped were racial minorities. The reports also noted that at least two dozen officers focused their attention on detaining racial minorities exclusively in order to increase their numbers.
In this new report, officers complained that the policy quickly devolved into racial profiling after supervisors encouraged a heightened number of stops and criminal referrals in order to improve numbers and to appear as though officers were doing their jobs. One passenger filed an official complaint against the treatment he received at Logan. Kenneth Boatner, a black psychologist traveling through the airport, was stopped for more than half an hour as officers searched through his materials, the Associated Press reports. Boatner told an interviewer that he felt humiliated and that, “I had never been subjected to anything like that.”
While the TSA has no way of tracking the numbers of people stopped based on their appearance, officials have agreed to start an investigation over the charges of corruption. The New York Times notes that the Government Accountability Office has been skeptical about the validity of the entire program over the last two years, long before any accounts of racial profiling surfaced. As the New York Times piece points out, “until the agency is able to better study and document the validity of the science, Congress might consider freezing tens of millions of dollars budgeted for the programís growth.”
While this specific program at Logan International has the potential to reveal racial profiling practices because of the explicit nature of the training and detainment practices, racial profiling continues throughout the United States, and not just in airports. A Phoenix woman was arrested and held in jail for over four months in Arizona this year because she was Latina and officials did not believe she was a citizen of the United States. She undoubtedly was a citizen, with a home, a child, and a job who was illegally detained by law enforcement.
Photo Credit: Disc Cat