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The Color of Crime: The Case Against Race-Based Suspect Descriptions
Columbia Law Review (2003)
  • Bela August Walker, Columbia University
Law enforcement in the United States relies on racial identifiers as a crucial part of suspect descriptions. Unlike racial profiling, this practice is regarded as both an essential tool for law enforcement and as an unproblematic use of race. However, given the racial history of the United States, such descriptors, particularly “Black,” have developed in such a way to create an extremely large and unreliable category. Due to these factors, the use of race as a physical descriptor in suspect decisions is both discriminatory and inefficient. Employing race as an identifying characteristic allows law enforcement officers broad discretionary powers that can be used in a discriminatory manner, while ultimately proving counterproductive to the aims of effective law enforcement. As an alternative to using racial classifications, this Note proposes the development of a universal complexion chart that will allow officers to continue to collect the information necessary to create accurate suspect descriptions while lessening discriminatory impact.
  • race,
  • white,
  • place,
  • criminal justice system,
  • racial classification,
  • polic,
  • suspect
Publication Date
April, 2003
Citation Information
Bela August Walker. "The Color of Crime: The Case Against Race-Based Suspect Descriptions" Columbia Law Review Vol. 103 Iss. 3 (2003)
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