Do you profile people & not realize it?

by todaystrainingblog

And please don’t tell me that you don’t. Just read to the end of this post and I’ll explain why you do.  And I do, even being blind, profile people. And recently there has been a rash of incidents where people have been supposedly profiled. And it comes from every single state in the union we call the United States of America. And usually it’s us as security & law enforcement professionals that get blamed.

But is it fair to single anyone, much less an entire minority group, for the way they look? The unequivocal answer is a resounding yes! Some of you are now wanting to call, or label, me a racist, bigot, or SOB because of one line. Isn’t that profiling me?

I’ve heard of a new software program being used by police in California. It tells the department where the crimes are likely to occur during a certain time of the day. And it also tells them the stats if it’s raining and so on. Since most crimes, of all kinds, will occur in largely black or Hispanic neighborhoods, isn’t that profiling certain neighborhoods and ethnic groups by default?

And the argument that it’s for public safety doesn’t hold water on this. Pulling over an illegal immigrant is profiling, but if a Hispanic was accused of robbing a store and driving off in a similar vehicle… And if a report comes in from the dispatcher that a large black teenager just robbed a store with a hoodie and you stop someone with that description just a few blocks away… Now let me go on to how we, everyone single one of us, will profile people on a daily basis. And some of us will profile people every single minute that we are awake. And it will take a lot to convince us otherwise.

Here are some examples for you to consider of ways we profile someone or a group. And think of your first impression when you read these. Then think about other issues that may cause these actions;

  • The man walking down the street, who may wobble or stumble
  • The brat in the grocery store throwing a tantrum?
  • The employee with red rheumy eyes & can’t seem to concentrate very well
  • The security officer with food stains on their shirt
  • All of those damned ‘rent-a-cops’ who just want to make your job harder
  • The person who rants and raves against anyone, anything, & everything
  • The job applicant who doesn’t wear appropriate clothes
  • The ‘hard-assed’ security officer at the entrance

These are all examples of the way we profile people. There may be good reasons for any and all of these groups doing what they’re doing. But all we do is profile them. And after we profile them, then that profile sticks in our mind, possibly forever. Look at your daily life and see who you profile.

When I was in Loss Prevention, at a large electronics retailer, I was instructed by the manager and other officer how to spot a shoplifter. And even today I have no doubt those LP departments and officers profile people on the same basis I was taught to;

  • Women, usually black, with unusually large shopping purses/bags
  • People with baby carriages
  • People with lots of kids with them
  • Teenagers with hoodies or baggy pants
  • People with hats that could hide CD’s or cassettes

These are the people, along with others were the ones we were instructed to follow with the cameras or encourage other employees to follow around the store and/or constantly barrage with a friendly “Something I can help you with?”

Every single day we make hundreds, possibly thousands, of profiles of people we see. Some of them may be valid and others may not. Some of our profiling will target bad people and unfortunately other profiling will render judgment on good people that isn’t fair.

As security professionals it’s our job to profile people, whether you believe that or not. It may not be fair, but we also instruct our officers to do the same thing to protect the company or client. What’s that you ask? Be suspicious of anyone or anything that just doesn’t seem right. The first thought of profiling.

If we don’t then we’re not doing our job. Do we need, as security professionals, to temper this with common sense and training so we don’t accuse someone recklessly of theft, terrorism, or other hooliganish behavior? Of course WE DO. So therein is the key to profiling and not being sued.

Take a look at the list above and see where we inadvertently profile. Is it possible that they have a medical condition (or are having one i.e. a stroke or diabetic shock) or any other number of issues that is causing it? Then look at the fact that we may be mistaken. All I ask is that next time you begin to accuse someone of profiling, look back and see who YOU have profiled in the past hour or day yourself, and why.

And yes, most profiling is harmless because it doesn’t cause any harm to come to that person. But if that person wearing a turban or burka sets off a bomb… Or that Hispanic robs a store down the street and kills someone and they are illegal… If you saw the first “Spiderman’ movie, then you understand why profiling, or getting involved, is a good idea (the wrestling promoter being robbed, Peter lets him go & then his uncle is killed by the same robber).


Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent nearly 33 years in the security field. Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many, where you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.

I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear