David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
Two exploding scandals on the racial profiling issue are detailed in this week's issue of The Week Online. New Jersey's former Attorney General, Peter Verniero, is under pressure to resign his position as a justice of the state's Supreme Court for failure to forthrightly provide information during his confirmation process on what he knew about racial profiling during his term as AG. In Arizona, police and perhaps prosecutors conspired to destroy a large quantity of traffic stop records to prevent them from being aired in a pending criminal case.
DRCNet today joins the call for Justice Verniero to resign. In doing so, we are acting far less radical than we like to be: Several major newspapers, every member of the state Senate's Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee, and now the Governor, all have already done so.
Though Verniero's actions are not excusable, it is easy to see why he might feel unfairly singled out. Reasonable observers have known fully well for decades that racial profiling is an endemic feature of the criminal justice system; New Jersey's situation is nothing unusual. In fact, while the civil rights division of the US Dept. of Justice has targeted New Jersey police forces in its racial profiling investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the Dept. of Justice has conducted a systematic, nationwide training program explicitly instructing police to use racial profiles.
In short, the prevalence of racial profiling has in reality been very widely known and understood. Any official involved in high levels of governments who claims to be surprised about the racial profiling information now, was either unacceptably disingenuous, unreasonably in denial or hopelessly uninformed and naive before. That includes the very same state senators who rammed his Supreme Court appointment through before but are calling loudly for his resignation now; it includes the former governor, Christine Todd Whitman, now a member of the president's Cabinet; and it includes New Jersey's current governor. Should they not resign in disgrace or at least embarrassment as well?
Were the same spotlight shined on racial profiling in New Jersey to illuminate the drug war throughout our entire nation, it is likely that more attorneys general, governors, judges, police chiefs and many others would fall under its bright beams. That truth is difficult and painful to contemplate, especially for those like Verniero whose identities have for much of their lives been inextricably woven with the prosecution of the drug war. Perhaps that is how a state's top law enforcer could justify to himself the misleading of his legislative overseers in his capacity as Attorney General and again as a nominee for the Supreme Court.
Perhaps by shining this spotlight on the police and prosecutors of state after state, perhaps after 10 or 20 or 50 more such resignations, the wholesale corrupting of our institutions by the drug war will finally be widely revealed and understood.
This chapter is just the first.