Racial profiling is a term which originated in the United States. The usual context is police stopping and searching citizens on the suspicion that they may have committed a crime. It is controversial because it is usually black citizens who are stopped and searched. In other countries (for example the Middle East) religious and cultural differences may be the basis of police profiling.
In the USA profiling has been tested in the courts a number of times. Terry v. Ohio was the first challenge to racial profiling in the United States in 1968. This case was about African American people who were thought to be stealing. The police officer arrested the three men, searched them and found a gun on two of the three men. One of the men searched was convicted and sentenced to jail. The sentence was challenged on the grounds that the arrest violated the search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment. In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court decided that the police officer acted in a reasonable manner, and with reasonable suspicion, under the Fourth Amendment. The decision in this case allowed the police to have discretion in identifying suspicious or illegal activities.
- "Terry v. Ohio." Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1967/67. Accessed 5 March 2017.