Impact of Racial Bias on the Justice System in Seattle
Racism is, unfortunately, still present in our criminal justice system, even in Seattle. Racial disparities in policing, arrests, and detentions contribute to the mass incarceration of Black people in the city. In fact, people of color across the country are more likely to be arrested and charged with a crime than their white peers.
State and federal governments are aware of these biases and are trying to make changes at the local and state levels. In 2018, Washington enacted the Law Enforcement Training and Community Safety Act. This required training on patrol tactics, implicit and explicit biases, and the intersection of race and policing.
Racial Biases at Traffic Stops
One study found a persistent racial bias in the decisions police make when stopping and searching people at traffic stops. After 95 million stops were evaluated, researchers found that Black and Hispanic drivers were more likely to be searched than white drivers. The standards for searching for Black and Hispanic drivers were lower than for white drivers.
The study also explored how the legalization of recreational cannabis affected the racial disparities in traffic stops. They focused on Colorado and Washington, the first states to legalize cannabis. They discovered that after legalization, the number of searches decreased a lot. The researchers think this might be because officers no longer had the same reason to conduct searches since cannabis was legal. However, even after legalization, Black and Hispanic drivers were still more likely to be searched than white drivers.
Racial Biases Lead to Incarceration and Wrongful Convictions
One study found that Black and Latinx people make up 51 percent of the population in prison, even though they only make up 30 percent of the U.S. population. Black Americans are incarcerated at nearly 5x the rate of white people.
Racial biases can also lead to wrongful convictions. Biased investigations occur when law enforcement officers have preconceived notions about certain racial or ethnic groups. This can lead to a narrow focus on individuals from those groups, often overlooking evidence that could identify the actual perpetrator.
Racial bias can also influence how witnesses perceive and identify suspects, especially if they have limited exposure to people from different racial or ethnic backgrounds. Innocent individuals may be mistakenly identified and wrongly convicted as a result.
Furthermore, racial bias can impact jury selection, leading to juries that lack diversity and may be more prone to racial bias during deliberations. Racial discrimination in jury selection can result in unfair trials and wrongful convictions.
Lastly, systemic inequalities within the criminal justice system play a significant role. These inequalities, rooted in historical and systemic biases, include disparities in legal representation, biased jury instructions, and unequal treatment at various stages of the criminal justice process. Such systemic factors disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority groups, increasing the risk of wrongful convictions.
Addressing racial bias in the criminal justice system is crucial to ensure fairness, equal treatment, and the prevention of wrongful convictions. It requires ongoing efforts to promote unbiased investigations, improve eyewitness identification procedures, combat discriminatory police practices, ensure diverse and representative juries, and rectify systemic inequalities.
Contact Our Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyers
At Lewis & Laws, we are constantly looking out for racial bias and profiling. We work tirelessly to prevent our clients from being discriminated against simply because of their race. From the initial arrest through trial, we work to combat racial bias and protect our client’s futures.
At Lewis & Laws, we offer aggressive legal assistance after an arrest in Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, and throughout Washington state. Contact us today to explore your legal options.