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Racial Profiling: Latest Illinois Report Prompts Civil Rights Groups to Call for End to Consent Searches

The Illinois Department of Transportation earlier this month issued its annual report on race and traffic stops. The results showed that police were much more likely to ask minority drivers to consent to searches without probable cause, but that they were much less likely to actually find drugs, guns, or other contraband in consent searches directed at minority drivers.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/car-search.jpg
car search
The results are consistent with the first three years of results under the state's traffic stop racial profiling monitoring program. That program went into effect in 2004 after the state legislature passed legislation authored by then state Sen. Barack Obama (D) enacting it.

The results prompted a coalition of civil rights groups to last week call on Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) to end the practice of consent searches. In a letter to Blagojevich, the ACLU of Illinois, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, the Rainbow/Push Coalition and several other civil rights groups called consent searches an "invidious device" that results in "condition of inequality imposed on minority citizens on our roadways."

The groups specifically asked Blagojevich to end consent searches by the Illinois State Patrol, which had even worse results than law enforcement at large. According to the statewide data, police agencies searched blacks three times more often and Hispanics more than twice as often as whites. But police discovered illicit goods roughly twice as often when whites agreed to searches. State troopers similarly singled out minority drivers, but their "hit rate" for discovering contraband during consent searches was even more racially skewed. Troopers were twice as likely to discover contraband in consent searches of whites than blacks, and eight times more often than in vehicles driven by Hispanics.

"Now we have the proof in the pudding and that is that not only are these searches occurring with greater frequency among minority drivers, but that they are occurring with dramatically less effectiveness," Harvey Grossman, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune.

"Officers are more trusting of whites than they are of blacks, and they are particularly suspicious of Hispanics," Grossman said of state police. "It's clear from the data that officers require less certainty when they ask Latinos to be searched than they do whites, there are more stringent standards for whites."

The Tribune also reported that Blagojevich, who has been critical of racial profiling in the past, issued a statement saying he opposed "any unjustified differential treatment of any group," but did not address the request to stop the searches. "I look forward to working with the coalition to further our shared goals," Blagojevich said.

The Link Between Sagging Pants Laws and the Drug War

Radley Balko points out that police in Flint, MI have started going after people whose pants sag below their boxer shorts:



Leaving aside the absurdity of telling people how to wear their pants, just contemplate the ironic path that brought us here. The style itself is an artifact of prison culture, where inmates' belts and shoelaces are confiscated and the standard-issue clothes never fit right. The style made its way back onto the streets where it entered popular culture. Now, in 2008, you can go to jail for 93 days to a year just for dressing like an inmate.

In an urban landscape already ravaged by decades of racial profiling and drug war demolition tactics, police have codified their own authority to stop and frisk people whose style of dress is already stigmatized by presumed criminality. The number of things young people in America can't get arrested for approaches zero at an exponential rate.

Don Imus: Critic of Racial Profiling?

Yesterday, everyone at our office was talking about what a jackass Don Imus was for making yet another racially charged remark. But his excuse is an interesting one:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. radio personality Don Imus on Tuesday defended linking a football player's race to brushes with the police as Imus tried to dampen a brewing race controversy over remarks he made one day earlier.

During his breakfast show on Monday on Citadel Broadcasting Corp's ABC Radio Networks, Imus discussed Adam "Pacman" Jones, who was suspended by the National Football League in April 2007 because of his link to a Las Vegas triple shooting.

A colleague of Imus commented on how many times Jones had been arrested since he had been drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2005, and Imus asked what color he was. Told that Jones is black, Imus responded: "Well, there you go. Now we know."

But on Tuesday Imus said during his show: "Obviously I already knew what color he was. The point was to make a sarcastic point.

"What people should be outraged about is they arrest blacks for no reason," he said. "There's no reason to arrest this kid six times, maybe he did something once, but I mean everybody does something once."

I just don't know what to make of this, I really don't. If Imus was honestly trying to make point about racial profiling, it would be a real shame to see him get raked over the coals for it. We don't want this to have a chilling effect on others in the entertainment industry raising the issue.

On the other hand, if he seriously just lost his cool and let loose with what everyone initially assumed he meant, then that's unforgivable. He's offended enough people already, and to say something like that is just nasty. Moreover, I can’t stand the thought of Imus successfully covering his ass for a genuinely racist comment by playing on our sympathies for the victims of racial profiling. How shrewd and cynical that would be.

I haven't followed this that closely, so maybe there's some contextual evidence I've missed. I lean towards assuming that he's just an ass, but the thought that he was actually trying to make a point about racial profiling would be mitigating if true. What do you think?

Racial Profiling and Driving While Black: An Evening with the CBC

Please join us for "An Evening with the Congressional Black Caucus," a briefing and Q on A on racial profiling and driving while black. Panelists include: Gregory Carr, PhD, Howard University Alexander Williams, Judge, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland Garrine Laney, Analyst, Congressional Research Service Wilmer Leon, PhD, Talk Show Host on XM Satellite Radio Moderated by: Lorenzo Morris, PhD, Chair, Department of Political Science, Howard University For more information, please contact: [email protected].
Data: 
Wed, 02/06/2008 - 5:00pm - 7:30pm
Localização: 
Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2154
Washington, DC
United States

Racial Profiling: Kansas Police Agencies Honor Reporting Law Mostly in the Breach

Only one out of three Kansas law enforcement agencies are reporting racial profiling information to the state attorney general's office, the Kansas City Star reported Saturday. This despite a law signed two years ago by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) requiring them to do so in a bid to end police stops based solely on skin color.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/njturnpike.jpg
enter at peril of profiling
The law requires departments to make annual reports listing complaints of racial profiling, but it has no enforcement mechanism. "We don't have any enforcement ability" over those agencies that don't report, said Ashley Anstaett, spokeswoman for Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison. "There's no penalty if they don't report."

"There's no hammer behind the law. No teeth in it," said state Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City), who was an original sponsor of the bill. "It became the proverbial toothless paper tiger."

So toothless that 284 of Kansas' 431 law enforcement entities -- that's 66% -- didn't bother to comply. It doesn't have to be that way. Next door in Missouri, there is a 97% compliance rate, not least because departments that don't comply stand to lose funds. In 2005, the Missouri Department of Public Safety withheld more than $7,000 from 17 non-complying agencies.

Nor is that the only problem with the Kansas racial profiling law. It also called for a 15-member Governor's Task Force on Racial Profiling, which was supposed to quantify the problem and make recommendations for abolishing the practice. But some of the task force's members apparently can't be bothered to actually show up for monthly meetings, leaving it without a quorum at its last one.

Among the critics is the task force's co-chairman. "Up until this point there's been a lot of dialogue, but the truth is, people are looking for action," said the Rev. Allen Smith of Salina. "We're expecting some real results," said Smith, pastor of St. John's Missionary Baptist Church in Salina. "I don't think the issue is going away."

Sen. Donald Betts (D-Wichita), another sponsor of the legislation, said the task force's role was even more critical because of the lack of teeth in the data collection part of the law. He said he would call for the replacement of task force members if something doesn't happen. "It does not take forever and a day to come up with recommendations of data collection," he said. "It's time to stop talking about it and time to be about it. It's time to move… If the task force doesn't do something, I intend to hold the task force accountable."

Racial profiling was identified as a problem in Kansas after a study released in 2003 showed that state troopers were three times as likely to stop black and Hispanic motorists than white ones. Police in some Kansas cities were also found to be twice as likely to stop black or brown motorists.

The 2005 bill was supposed to address that problem, but without the cooperation of law enforcement it will not. As for the task force, it has until 2009 to complete its work. But it may not get that long, especially if the police don't step up and start handing in their numbers.

Hillary Clinton: Drug Policy Reformer?

This is a week old now, but I think Hillary Clinton's comments at the recent Democratic Presidential debate are worth discussing here:

MR. [DeWayne] WICKHAM: Okay. Okay, please stay with me on this one.

According to FBI data, blacks were roughly 29 percent of persons arrested in this country between 1996 and 2005. Whites were 70 percent of people arrested during this period. Yet at the end of this 10-year period, whites were 40 percent of those who were inmates in this country, and blacks were approximately 38 percent. What does this data suggest to you?

...

SEN. CLINTON: In order to tackle this problem, we have to do all of these things.

Number one, we do have to go after racial profiling. I’ve supported legislation to try to tackle that.

Number two, we have to go after mandatory minimums. You know, mandatory sentences for certain violent crimes may be appropriate, but it has been too widely used. And it is using now a discriminatory impact.

Three, we need diversion, like drug courts. Non-violent offenders should not be serving hard time in our prisons. They need to be diverted from our prison system. (Applause.)

We need to make sure that we do deal with the distinction between crack and powder cocaine. And ultimately we need an attorney general and a system of justice that truly does treat people equally, and that has not happened under this administration. (Applause.) [New York Times]

Of course, if Clinton truly believes that "non-violent offenders shouldn’t be serving hard time in our prisons," she'll have to look further than diversion programs and repealing mandatory minimums. Still, it's refreshing to hear a democratic front-runner sounding rehearsed on drug policy and criminal justice reform.

Frankly, the principle that non-violent drug offenders shouldn't be doing hard time stands in stark contrast to the drug war status quo. This is a powerful idea, and while Clinton attaches it to politically-safe policy proposals at this point, she sounds ready to have a realistic discussion about the impact of the drug war on communities of color.

Between Mike Gravel's aggressive anti-drug war stance and a near consensus among the other candidates about reforming sentencing practices and prioritizing public health programs, we're seeing rational ideas about drug policy creep slowly into mainstream politics.

I know quite a few pessimistic reformers, and far more that are just impatient. Everyday more people are arrested, jailed, killed, or otherwise stripped of their humanity by this great and unnecessary civil war, and it's depressing as hell to watch these things continue. But moments like this provide a barometer for our progress – slow though it may be – and I don't understand how anyone can look at the last 10 years of drug policy reform and say we're not moving forward.

I don't think our movement needs to change. I think it needs to grow, and indeed it is growing. When Hillary Clinton says "non-violent offenders should not be serving hard time in our prisons," she becomes part of this movement, whether she likes it or not.

(This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

 

Localização: 
United States

"End Racial Profiling Act" coming to Congress soon...

I chatted briefly with the ACLU's Jesselyn McCurdy Thursday night at the Crime Policy Summit hosted by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). Coincidentally she had an article on the Huffington Post blog that night, "Racial Profiling: ''Wrong in America,''" in which she reports that Sen. Feingold (D-WI) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) are preparing to introduce an important bill:
In the coming weeks, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Representative John Conyers (D-MI) are expected to introduce the End Racial Profiling Act of 2007 (ERPA), which will prohibit federal law enforcement agencies from engaging in racial profiling and encourage states to adopt the same type of ban on the practice. The legislation will also permit victims of racial profiling to take legal action and requires states to establish procedures for victims to file complaints against police officers who racially profile. In addition, the bill provides data collection demonstration and best practice incentive grants to state and local law enforcement agencies.
With Conyers chairing the House Judiciary Committee now, after the Democratic takeover, I'd say it has a real chance. I spoke with Conyers there too, by the way; after 40+ years in Congress he obviously is not a young man anymore, but he's not tired of it at all and is thrilled to be in a position to get some things done. Other members of Congress attending parts of the Summit Thursday included Bobby Scott (there for most of it), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Melvin Watt (D-NC) and Keith Ellison (D-MN). Sadly I couldn't make it to the Friday portion, had to edit the Chronicle. Anyway, there's today's brief report from Washington...
Localização: 
United States

Interview with Hearne, Texas, drug war victim Regina Kelly

Radley Balko has posted a Flash-video interview he recorded with drug war victim Regina Kelly, one of the 27 black residents of Hearne, Texas, who were arrested in a Tulia-like incident involving an "informant" of the most scurrilous variety. Kelly, like most of the victims, was later exonerated. Balko and Kelly were both speakers at an ACLU conference in Seattle last weekend.

Seattle is a beautiful city -- with great drug reformers -- as I commented two weekends ago while the NORML Legal Seminar was convening in Aspen, "wish I were there..."

Localização: 
United States

Racial Profiling: It's Getting Worse in Missouri

Black drivers are nearly 50% more likely than whites to be stopped by Missouri police and twice as likely to be searched, even though police are less likely to find contraband than with white drivers, according to the state's annual report on racial profiling. Released May 31, the report also found that the problem is getting worse.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/njturnpike.jpg
enter at peril of profiling
The report showed that blacks were pulled over at rates 49% greater than their presence in the driving age population. The numbers were 34% in 2004 and 42% in 2005.

"As I have said in previous years, the disparity index for African-American and Hispanic drivers continues to be of concern," Attorney General Jay Nixon said in his written analysis of the report. "Law-abiding drivers have the right to travel throughout Missouri without the fear that they will be stopped based solely on their race or ethnicity."

White drivers were stopped at a rate slightly below their percentage of the population, while Hispanic drivers were stopped at a right slightly above it. Asians, American Indians, and people of mixed race were all stopped at rates well below what would be expected.

Blacks and Hispanics were twice as likely to be searched as whites, even though police were most likely to find contraband in searches of vehicles driven by white drivers. Police found contraband in 14.4% of searches of Hispanic drivers, 18.7% of black drivers, and 22.2% of white drivers.

Despite lower levels of successful searches among black and Hispanic drivers, they were still twice as likely to be arrested during a traffic stop than white drivers. Five percent of white drivers pulled over ended up going to jail, while slightly more than 10% of black and Hispanic drivers did.

The report was based on an analysis of more than 1.6 million traffic stops, 128,000 searches, and 94,000 arrests made by state and local police in Missouri in 2006.

Profiting from profiling: The nice life of a female dealer

Localização: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
San Francisco Chronicle
URL: 
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/g/a/2007/05/29/onthejob.DTL

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