'Stopped for no reason': Calls for police to end 'racial profiling'

A new video shows young Australians speaking out against alleged discriminatory policing, which they say sees them targeted because of the colour of their skin.

Racial profiling

Concerned youth have launched a campaign to end racial profiling in Victoria. Source: Supplied

A group of young people in Victoria are speaking out against alleged racial profiling and discriminatory policing, which they claim sees them targeted by police based on the colour of their skin.

In a new video released on Monday, the group address the impacts of so-called racial profiling on themselves, their friends and communities, and call for urgent action from Victoria Police and the Victorian Parliament to monitor and stamp out the practice.


"I have been stopped by police without being given a reason while en route to work. I am a youth worker, and I work on racial profiling and police accountability," said Sudanese-born youth worker Deng Maleek of the Police Accountability Project.

"Racial profiling has serious impacts on individuals and communities. It's an alienating experience to be repeatedly targeted by police, based on race or skin colour when you are doing nothing wrong," Mr Maleek, who appears in the video, said.

Youth involved in the campaign
Sudanese-born Deng Maleek and Sajda Yakub of Indian Fijian heritage have both experienced what they describe as "racial profiling". Source: SBS - Luke Waters

His experiences are shared by aspiring lawyer Sajda Yakub, who has Indian-Fijian heritage.

"It makes you feel like an outsider - it makes you feel like you're doing something wrong without ever having that intention," she said.  

Youth worker Barry (whose name has been changed to protect his identity) says he has been stopped by police numerous times in recent months, including having his car searched by four police officers while on his way to work.

Barry has also been stopped outside his home.

"Police stopped me when they saw me leave my house in North Melbourne to get into my car. They asked for my ID, and when I asked why, they said it was because my car ‘could be stolen’.  They also checked the ID of my friends in the car, just for sitting there," he said.

"I have been stopped on so many occasions by police, that now I don't really drive."

"I am regularly stopped without reason by police who ask things like 'what I am doing and where I am going'," law student Taj said. "Sometimes they talk about 'matching the description of a suspect’, which really just means being black."

These experiences have led Mr Maleek and Ms Yakub to contribute to the newly-created Peer Advocacy Team, a group aimed at creating awareness and the skills to cope with racial profiling. 

"We're able to provide that connection and emotional support to the young people who share similar experiences," Mr Maleek said.  

While Victoria Police has a policy against racial profiling, there are currently no measures in place to track its occurrence or ensure compliance.

The young people in the video are asking Victoria Police to follow through on a commitment to explore gathering and publishing data on the race of people they are stopping.

"It's not enough for Victoria Police to just say that their members don't racially profile. They must gather and report on race data to show the public what's happening," Mr Maleek said.

Following regular reports from young people about race-based stops by police, the increased groundswell to end racial profiling is gaining traction. 

A coalition of groups including Democracy in Colour, YouthLaw and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service are supporting the calls to monitor and prevent the practice. They have also launched an online action to the Police Chief Commissioner, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, and the Ministers for Youth Affairs, Multiculturalism, Police and Aboriginal Affairs. 

Sociologist and race relations expert Dr Clare Land is another voice calling for change.

“We're asking police to adopt a new habit which is to record the reason for stops the perceived race of those their stopping and also the outcome of the stops,” she said.

Victoria Police released a statement saying it has zero tolerence for racial profiling.

4 min read
Published 23 October 2017 at 10:40am
By Benjamin Cooper