As I prepare to fly out of MSP again today, I dread the new full body scan, which I’ve been through twice. I think I’ve determined that it’s the raising your hands above your head and being watched by scores — maybe hundreds — of people that is what makes it humiliating. In any case, I don’t like it, though I haven’t yet opted for the pat-down.
In the midst of the hubbub surrounding these scanners and a new terrorist threat foiled in Oregon, I’ve been hearing lots about the pros and cons of profiling. I have some experience with profiling. I was a volunteer police chaplain for a suburban police department, and I had several conversations with cops about profiling as I rode along on their shifts.
What they told me, though they’d be reluctant to admit publicly, is this: Of course we profile. Profiling, they’d say, is the only way to police with any kind of efficiency. Being a cop is all about making judgments. One of the most mundane is this: Who’s license plate should I run through the computer in my squad car as I sit at this traffic light? (Yes, when a cop pulls up behind you at a light, s/he is most likely running your license through the state database.)