racial profiling acknowledged/revealed

First some simple reasoning: suppose 10% of all white americans are committing crime while 20% of all blacks are committing crime. As whites make up 80% of all people, this means 8 whites out of every 100 Americans. As blacks make up 14% of all people, this means 3 blacks out of every 100 americans are committing crime. The police would get more criminals if they stopped white people.


1. CONNECTICUT -- Trumbull

A controversial 1993 internal memo (below) written by Trumbull Chief of Police Ambrosini that was leaked by officers in the all-white 68 member department in June not only condones racial profiling, they say, but contains coded references that encourages officers to do it. In the memo, Ambrosini advises officers of a series of armed robberies in town and urges them to take the offensive. (click to read about the DWB harassment of a Black high Connecticut political official received in Trumbull)

Minority leaders dismiss those kinds of denials by law enforcement officials, and say that until police admit the practice exists -- and that it constitutes racial bias -- there is little chance for change.

They say that after years of trying to prove that profiling exists, the Trumbull memo comes as a form of validation, being the first internal police document in the state, perhaps the nation, that proves not only its existence -- but that it is sanctioned by the highest police authorities.

The episode, and others, has even prompted a United States Justice Department review and a full FBI investigation.

Source NAACP

The Trumbull Police memo states "One form of deterrence might to develop a sense of proclivity toward the type of persons and vehicles which are usually involved in these crimes." It concludes "not only is it our obligation to enforce the motor vehicle laws, but in doing so, we are provided with a profile of our community and those who travel within its boundaries." While the chief Ambrosini denied knowing any police officer to racially profile motorists, he has suggested there is nothing wrong with officers keeping an eye out for "strangers" in the community.

2. OREGON: Leaders of the State Police, along with 23 Portland-area police departments and police unions, recently signed a resolution taking a stand against race-based profiling. Portland Police Chief Charles Moose said the resolution was intended to reassure citizens that race-based policing would not be allowed.

  Another chief, Ron Louie, told the Portland Oregonian that in his 25 years as a police officer, he's seen the hurt and resentment in the faces of minority motorists who feel they've been stopped because of their race. And as a Chinese American, he told the newspaper, he understands those feelings.

 "I know what it was like to be with a carload of kids in San Francisco," he said, "and get yanked over by police officers because we all had black hair."

 LeRon Howland, the Oregon State Police superintendent, said the resolution means that "if you have a police officer out there who uses his badge for racially motivated conduct, it will not be tolerated by police agencies or the leadership of the unions."

 Source: The Oregonian

3. SOUTH CAROLINA: La-Prell and Tammie Drumming were driving down a street in January 1999, when they noticed a vehicle closing in on their bumper. Moments later, a man with a baton was smashing 26-year-old La-Prell's car window and dousing her with pepper spray.

"I absolutely feared for my life," said La-Prell, saying she suffered a concussion after being hit by the officer's baton three times. "You expect this kind of thing in Atlanta, but not in a small, quiet town like Aiken."

The police officer, who was off-duty at the time of the incident, was fired by the Aiken Public Safety Department after the incident.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle

4. New York:

  A 77-year-old woman in the mostly white town of about 10,000 said she was attacked by a black man in her home near the SUCO (State University of New York College at Oneonta) campus. She told police she hadn't seen her attacker's face, but knew (by looking at his hands, one of which held a knife) that he was black and (by watching his gait as he crossed her room) young

  The police asked a SUCO administrator for a list of its black male students. The list of some 125 names was handed over, and the police tried to locate and question everyone on it. When that yielded nothing useful, they proceeded to sweep the town, stopping virtually every black man they saw and inspecting their hands for cuts. (The attack victim said she thought her assailant might have cut himself.)

  Black folk in Oneonta and across America were outraged - with the SUCO administrator, Leif Hartmark, for violating their privacy and rendering them up for what they saw as abuse of their rights as citizens, and with the police for relying on a victim's vague description to make every black male resident, student or traveler through the town a criminal suspect.

 And some of those who were stopped sued. They needn't have bothered. The case against Hartmark was dismissed in February 1997 by a three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals sitting in Manhattan. It was unclear whether the rights of the plaintiffs had been violated, the court ruled.

  And then that same 2nd Circuit court dismissed the complaints against the police administrators, saying their tactics did not constitute discriminatory racial profiling because the officers were looking for a suspect in a particular crime on the basis of a description

 Some description. A description that fit virtually every black and sprightly man in the town. Forget about "driving while black," wrote New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. Try "breathing while black," he said. "Trust me, if some poor guy had innocently cut his finger while slicing a tomato for dinner, he would have landed in jail.


The Illinois State Police bucked the trend this month with a frank report claiming blacks and Hispanics are more likely to traffic drugs because they are less-educated and poorer than whites. Illinois State Police veteran Lt. Col. Andre Parker, who is black and has emerged as the top job candidate to become superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.

Lawyers representing the Illinois State Police filed the report in federal court in response to a 1994 lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuit claims -- as has been charged in New Jersey -- that troopers there consistently violate the rights of black and Hispanic motorists in their effort to bust drug traffickers. Illinois is one of eight states, including New Jersey, where the ACLU has launched a lawsuit alleging discriminatory state police practices.

At the center of the American Civil Liberties Union's Illinois lawsuit is the force's highway drug interdiction program called "Operation Valkyrie." ACLU lawyers say troopers in the program, named after a mythical warrior featured in an opera by the German composer Richard Wagner, unfairly target minorities, especially Hispanics, stopping them for "discretionary offenses such as failure to signal a lane change."

Hispanic drivers make up 3 percent of Illinois highway traffic but account for 30 percent of motorists stopped by the drug unit, according to statistics compiled by the ACLU and submitted to the court in April. The lawsuit also claims Valkyrie troopers search Hispanics and blacks for drugs more often than whites. IN APRIL, the New Jersey Attorney General's Office validated similar claims leveled against its state police when it released a landmark report finding that "minority motorists were disproportionately subject to consent searches."

The pending lawsuit in Illinois boosts an argument waged by senators who believe it's unfair to say only an outsider can rid New Jersey's force of racial bias when state police nationwide are coming under fire for racial profiling.

The Illinois report embraces a notion once shared, in part, by the state police here but since shot down by New Jersey's announcement in April that its troopers find drugs on Hispanics and blacks more frequently than on whites because they search the cars of minorities much more often. While Whitman is aware of the ACLU lawsuit in Illinois, McDonough said he had no idea whether Whitman knew of the state police report.

Written in May by Stanford University law professor John J. Donohue, the report says drug trafficking activity in Illinois "happens to correlate with being Hispanic." "Consequently, since blacks and Hispanics have less education, face higher unemployment rates, and are disproportionately working at the lowest paying jobs, the economic pull of the drug trade would be greatest for these two classes of workers," the report says. The report clearly states that Illinois troopers do not target minorities, but when they use "racially blind" drug interdiction tactics, such as targeting rental cars with Texas license plates, the outcome is a higher rate of drug seizures from Hispanics.

Ed Yohnka, director of communications for the ACLU in Chicago, called the report "terribly disturbing" and "insulting" to minorities. Yohnka said he did not know whether the report reflected an overall culture or mindset among troopers in Illinois or whether Parker had read the report. Parker did not return phone calls. Parker, a 20-year force veteran, and other lieutenant colonels in Illinois are aware of the ACLU lawsuit, said Jeremy D. Margolis, a Chicago-based attorney hired by the Illinois State Police. "THEY ARE very well familiar with this case," Margolis said. "They are highly offended that their professionalism has been impugned by a propaganda machine fueled by the statements of known drug dealers." Margolis, a former Illinois State Police director under whom Parker worked from 1987 to 1991, said he doubted Parker has read the report.

The 75-page Donohue report is in direct response to "bogus" ACLU statistics attacking the state police, Margolis said. He accused the ACLU of taking parts of the report out of context and twisting the meaning in a desperate attempt to win its lawsuit. "Donohue wasn't saying that (troopers) stop people because they are Latin," Margolis said. If troopers stop every rental car coming from Texas, the result would be a higher percentage of Hispanics caught with drugs, Margolis said. "That has nothing to do with their race; it has to do with a higher percentage of those people doing those things," Margolis said. "And that's not our fault." Margolis said the ACLU's case is "falling apart" and if its lawyers go to trial, "They are going to lose, be embarrassed and be humbled."

A federal magistrate recently dealt the ACLU a blow when he found that the minority motorists listed as plaintiffs have not shown that troopers violated their rights, according to court documents. The federal court also refused the ACLU's motion to block state police practices. The ACLU will appeal if the trial judge upholds the magistrate's decision, Yohnka said. The ACLU lawsuit names the Illinois State Police, its director, 10 district commanders, eight troopers, the coordinator of the drug interdiction unit and other "unknown" officers. Parker was not named because he did not have any hands-on involvement with drug interdiction tactics when the lawsuit was filed in August 1994, Yohnka said.

Moorestown attorney William Buckman, one of the lawyers in State vs. Soto, the Gloucester County case in which a Superior Court judge in 1996 concluded that troopers patrolling the New Jersey Turnpike's southern end were guilty of racial profiling, said the report and the lawsuit "doesn't speak well" of Parker, especially if he knew the details about the drug interdiction program and was complacent. "I don't have any direct knowledge of (Parker), but it's hard to imagine coming close to the head of an organization without having knowledge of some of these problems," Buckman said.


Dallas police Sgt. Thomas Glover, president of the predominantly black Texas Police Officers Association, said criminal profiling that depends heavily on race does not help law enforcement. He said many officers have developed an inaccurate picture of the "typical" criminal: young, black and male.

"It's very unsafe to have a profile of a particular type of offender," he said. "We can't break the law to enforce the law. That is what racial profiling amounts to."

The line between racist stereotyping and legitimate policing is fine and ill-defined. Problems are even harder to identify because only the officer who makes a stop really knows why he made it, and he's not forced to talk about it. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1996 that pretextual stops are constitutional. That means that a driver can be pulled over legally for any traffic offense, regardless of the officer's actual motivations.

"In practice, the . . . decision has given the police virtually unlimited authority to stop and search any vehicle they want," the American Civil Liberties Union said in a report issued last month.

So despite the protestations of those who say race-based stops violate civil liberties, racial profiling may be legal if done in a certain way. If a police officer hides his real motivations behind a pretextual cover - an illegal lane change or any other minor traffic violation - the Supreme Court has said, the stop is legal under federal law.

Still, most in law enforcement say they do not tolerate traffic stops based solely or primarily on race. But even if the issue of pretextual stops is placed aside, recognizing problem areas or officers is not easy. 


 On February 4, New Jersey state trooper Emblez Longoria filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New Jersey accusing state police of using racial profiles to decide which motorists to stop and search for drugs. Longoria claimed that he was "required to work in an atmosphere where the routine violation of constitutional rights of motorists (and) citizens of color was not only standard practice, but encouraged and required by his supervisors" (Associated Press, "Trooper Accuses State Police of Bias," Home News Tribune, February 6, 1999, p. A3; Jennifer Preston, "Trooper Says State Police in New Jersey Discriminate," New York Times, February 6, 1999).

 Prior to filing the suit, the 12-year veteran of the New Jersey State Police had protested to his co-workers and superiors against the practice of using racial profiles. He refused to patrol the New Jersey Turnpike unless he was driving the car so that he could decide which motorists to pull over. But, Longoria claims his superiors told him he needed to boost his drug-seizure numbers, and that the best way to do that was to stop drivers of color.

 Longoria's attorney, Philip J. Moran, said that troopers used a practice known as "headlighting" to locate and chase minority motorists. According to Moran, headlighting is the practice of pulling underneath an overpass in which there's no background lighting and shining high-beams across the highway so that as cars pass by, police can get a better idea of their drivers' race and ethnicity. Moran said, "You follow minority motorists, particularly young, black ones, on some trumped-up charge. If they don't have anything, you tell them you're giving them a break and let them go." He said that troopers using this tactic do not radio headquarters, even though police are required to call in all stops of automobiles, and do not record the stops in their official activity logs unless drugs are found.

 On April 19, 1999 New Jersey Attorney General Peter G. Verniero announced indictments of two New Jersey State Troopers accused of falsifying reports to make it appear that some of the black motorist they had pulled over were white. Troopers John Hogan and James Kenna, who were involved in the April 23, 1998 shooting of three unarmed men on the New Jersey Turnpike and are facing possible criminal charges, now face 19 misdemeanor charges for falsifying records and conducting illegal searches

(David Kocieniewski, "Trenton Charges 2 Troopers With Falsifying Race of Drivers," New York Times, April 20, 1999).