racial profiling stories

1. As reported when House panel looks into charges of 'racial profiling' by U.S. Customs - 1

WASHINGTON (May 21, 1999) -- In testimony before a House Committee Thursday, witnesses accused the U.S. Customs Service of so-called "racial profiling," a practice of unfairly targeting minorities in the fight against drug trafficking. In testimony before the panel, witnesses told of being detained, forced to drink laxatives and then strip-searched. Columbian-born Amanda Buritica told the panel that she was held against her will, stripped and cavity searched. She said that when she refused to take laxatives, U.S. Customs agents in San Francisco threatened her with jail and force-feeding. "I was so scared and so embarrassed," said an emotional Buritica. "It was the most humiliating, degrading thing that I ever had to go through." (152K wav file) Agents suspected Buritica of smuggling drugs but did not find any. Personal searches are a tool in the Customs Service's fight against illegal drugs. But critics say it is a tactic used disproportionately against minorities.


2. As reported when House panel looks into charges of 'racial profiling' by U.S. Customs - 2

Janneral Denson, a black woman, was six and a half months pregnant when she was detained by agents in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and handcuffed to a bed. There she too was required to drink laxatives. "I was taken to the bathroom by two agents who had me lean against the wall and spread my legs so they could search me. After that they let me go to the bathroom while they watched," Denson said. (128K wav file) Again, no drugs were found on Denson, but she did suffer severe diarrhea, pain and bleeding. And eight days later her baby was born prematurely.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) said, "There are figures showing that 43 percent of the people that are detained -- that are searched -- happen to be black and Hispanic."

3. Michigan - DETROIT

State Rep. Kwame Kilpatrick was accosted by a police officer outside his home in Detroit in May 1998.

Jelani and Jalil Kilpatrick were scared and confused as they watched from their living room window. Outside, a police officer pointed a gun at Daddy's head. The father of the 2-year-old boys, Kwame Kilpatrick, and his friend Derrick Miller had been standing in front of Kilpatrick's home in Detroit's west side Russell Woods neighborhood when a patrol car pulled up.

"Excuse me, sir," the officer said. "Have you seen a brown dog?"

"No," Kilpatrick said, then turned and began to walk away.

Instantly, the officer got out of his car, yanked out his 9mm semiautomatic pistol and ordered Kilpatrick to the ground. Kilpatrick refused.

"With my kids, my wife in the house, there was no way I was getting down on that ground," he said in an interview last month, "especially since I wasn't a criminal."

During that moment on the afternoon of March 22, 1998, Kilpatrick was no longer a role model, no longer a member of the Michigan House of Representatives. He was a suspect, just like thousands of other black men. Yet he understood the perception. At 29, he is young, he is black. He is a target.

4. Massachusetts - BROOKLINE

Yawu Miller, a black reporter with the Bay State Banner, decided to find out how long two black men could drive at night in Brookline, a predominantly white community, before being pulled over by the police.

It happened almost immediately. Three cruisers with flashing blue lights appeared in Miller's rear view mirror. One cruiser drew up along side Miller's car and asked, "Are you lost?"

When Miller replied in the negative, the officer said, "You're from Roxbury. Any reason why you're driving around in circles?"

Source: Bay State Banner

5. Nebraska - OMAHA

  Ron Estes, an African-American firefighter, told of visiting a model home in a west Omaha subdivision. Although the homes were closed, Estes told the Human Relations Board that he spoke to a resident of the subdivision for about 30 minutes while sitting in his Chevrolet Blazer. A few days later, he stopped by his fire station to pick up his gear when he overheard an Omaha police officer asking other firefighters questions about his truck, which had a personalized license plate that read BSICBLK.

  Estes said he later learned that the subdivision resident he had talked with was a police officer who reported his visit as suspicious. Shortly thereafter, Estes bought a new personalized license plate. It reads SUSPECT. "That just lets you know how they look at us, as a threat, as a suspect, without even really knowing us," Estes said of some white police officers.

Source: The Detroit News


6. Minnesota - MINNEAPOLIS

Craig L. Wilkins, architect for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, nodded at a young African-American male entering a downtown Minneapolis' City Center. The young man was then stopped by a security guard. Hearing the young man protest his detainment all the while Wilkins stopped. about 10 to 15 feet away to observe.

Wilkins said:

"The security guard noticed me and asked if he could help me, to which I replied, "no." He then asked me what I was doing, and I said that I was just watching. I was then instructed to move on, and I responded that I was waiting for the young man. I wanted to know if this was indeed racial profiling in action, but this I kept to myself.

The guard told me to wait "over there" pointing to an undetermined spot behind him where I could not observe his actions. I asked why, and at that point, a second security guard became obviously irritated and loudly replied because "I was told to." To this, I replied that I was bothering no one by standing where I was and repeated that I was waiting for the young man. The guard then said that if I didn't move I would be arrested for loitering. When I asked what the difference was between standing over there versus where I was, I was summarily cuffed and taken to a holding cell in the basement security room of City Center.

 After being taken down the service elevator, I was placed in a holding cell, frisked, forced down and cuffed to the wall. After some additional verbal abuse, the arresting security guard returned with my possessions in a plastic bag and my 90-day ban from City Center.

 When I asked why I was being banned, he responded that I was loitering. Demanding that I move up from the wall, he grabbed my arm, to which I protested. At that point, he issued an expletive and said that he'd leave me there while he went to lunch. He did, returning sometime later, violently grabbing my shoulder, manipulating me in several directions, eventually pushing me against the wall, head first. Finally, I was led to an antechamber between the public lobby and the service elevators, where I was given my bag and was told to get out. I was escorted out of City Center approximately at noon."

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune 7/17/1999, Metro Edition .

7. New York - NEW YORK

 The likelihood that if you're African American (or brown-skinned Hispanic American), you'll have a difficult time catching a cab has been a common, and infuriating, "fact of black life" for years. But protests against this kind of "racial profiling" in New York City flared into the open last year when actor Danny Glover said that several cabs had bypassed him, his daughter and a friend of hers, and that one driver who stopped refused him access to the taxi's front seat. Glover is more than six feet tall and has a bad hip, which under taxi industry rules entitles him to stretch out in the roomier front seat.

8. Pennsylvania - PHILADELPHIA

 The ACLU has filed a lawsuit charging that U.S. Customs Service agents used a racial profile to detain and search two Bethlehem, Pa. men when they returned from a vacation in Jamaica ("Two Men Sue Federal Government After N.J. Airport Drug Search," National Report on Substance Abuse, Nov. 25, 1994, p. 1; Nat Hentoff, "'This Shouldn't Be Happening in America,'" Washington Post, Dec. 17, 1994, p. A27).

 The suit, filed Nov. 1 in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, alleges that James Garcia and Evaristo Vazquez were stopped by agents in Newark, New Jersey's International Airport on Feb. 3, 1994 and had their luggage searched. According to the suit, the agents then subjected the two to strip searches. When the searches did not produce any drugs, the agents handcuffed the travellers and took them to a local hospital for X-rays. The men were told that they were suspected of smuggling drugs in their stomachs or intestines.

 After the X-rays, the agents released Garcia. Vazquez was told that his X-rays revealed a balloon in his stomach that contained drugs. The man was then given laxatives and handcuffed to his bed until he moved his bowels. No drugs were found.

 Philadelphia ACLU Legal Director Stefan Presser said that the two men were treated in the manner described in the suit "simply because of their ethnic and national origin."