2000 — the year in review:
Facing up to an unflattering profile
Racial profiling remained a problem in 2000, with few if any states last year failing to take at least some steps to address the problem bedeviling law enforcement agencies. The scope of the problem can be discerned from the following coast-to-coast sampling of actions taken by lawmakers, police administrators and other officials, ranging from mandatory data collection to sensitivity training.
ALABAMA — Some state legislators say in June that they will push for repeal of a seat belt law, after a provision requiring law enforcement to keep racial statistics on violators found a disproportionate number of blacks in major cities being ticketed. In Montgomery, where blacks make up 42 percent of the city population, they received 64 percent of all tickets between Jan. 1 and May 25.
ARIZONA — More than 100 Arizona police chiefs sign a declaration in December stating that racial profiling will not be tolerated by their agencies. A state task force will produce a model policy and procedure for Arizona’s other police departments.
CALIFORNIA — Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks rejects calls in March for a study to see if his officers are using racial profiling to pull over motorists. In May, the City Council orders Parks to prepare a report on how statistics may be kept of the race and ethnicity of all motorists pulled over by officers.
In April, Gov. Gray Davis comes out in support of a bill that would formally outlaw racial profiling, require all police to attend an expanded “diversity training program” and hand out business cards with complaint number to all motorists they stop. The legislation is a compromise reached after Davis vetoed a bill that would have required law enforcement to collect data on the ethnicity of each driver stopped. In September, Davis signs the compromise measure, which, while not requiring law enforcement agencies to collect statistics on how often minority motorists are pulled over, still mandates an analysis of the data that some 60 percent of the state’s police department’s already collect voluntarily. Davis also pledges $5 million in state grants to departments that want to begin data collection, with an additional $7 million set aside for that purpose in the next year’s budget.
More than 500 motorists are classified according to race and age during the first two weeks of April as part of an effort by the Riverside Police Department to determine whether officers engage in profiling. In December, the department says it will continue to collect the data for at least three more years.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April rules that police must have a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is engaged in an illegal act before they can stop an individual in a car or on the street.
Data collected by San Diego police officers from 91,552 traffic stops during the first six months of 2000 show that blacks and Hispanics have a 14-percent chance of being stopped, compared with an 8-percent chance if the driver is white or Asian. The study, the first of its kind by a major-city police agency, was ordered by Chief David Bejarano after complaints that members of minority groups were being pulled over for infractions that would have been overlooked had the offenders been white.
California Highway Patrol Commissioner D.O. “Spike” Helmick says that despite a report by his agency in October that found blacks and Latinos arrested at slightly higher rates than whites, bias could not be inferred because minorities were not overrepresented in traffic stops. During a nine-month period ending in April, blacks, who make up 6.8 percent of the state population, accounted for 7.6 percent of stops and 9.2 percent of arrests. Latinos, who accounted for 30.4 percent of California’s population in 1999, made up 26.1 percent of stops and 34.7 percent of arrests.
COLORADO — Police agencies in Denver, Aurora, Littleton and Colorado Springs, responding in March to a survey by The Denver Post, say they had not begun tracking the ethnicity of motorists during traffic stops and had no immediate plans to do so. The Colorado State Patrol, which had been evaluating the issue since October 1999, said it too would not be implementing any new procedures since it had not found any significant problems in the state
An executive order issued by Gov. Bill Owens in September prohibits any state official from singling out members of minority groups as a pretext for investigating violations, and calls for all state-certified law enforcement officers to receive anti-bias training. In November, the Colorado Progressive Coalition calls for Governor Owens to support mandatory data collection by the Colorado State Patrol to determine the extent of racial profiling by the agency.
Funds left over from the settlement of a class-action suit will be used by the state to present 50 training sessions for law enforcement over the next eight years and to provide legal representation for the indigent, Attorney General Ken Salazar announces in November. The suit stemmed from a program organized and funded by the Drug Enforcement Administration during the 1980s, which taught sheriff’s deputies to stop suspects — primarily black and Hispanic — who looked as though they were transporting drugs in their cars. Although Eagle County agreed to pay $800,000 in April 1996, only 35 plaintiffs could be located, with just 24 of those qualifying for damages totaling $90,000.
CONNECTICUT — The City of Stamford in January becomes the first municipality in the state to formally ban
FLORIDA — The Miami-Dade County Commission votes unanimously in October to make race-based traffic stops illegal, and orders a $375,000 survey to be conducted by an outside firm in neighborhoods where residents have complained of racial profiling. Under new guidelines proposed by Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler, police will document all encounters with motorists and some pedestrians, even if no ticket is issued.
No evidence of racial profiling was found during the first month that the Florida Highway Patrol began collecting data on traffic stops, the agency reports in April. A review of January’s 47,357 encounters with motorists found that about 83 percent of drivers stopped were either white or Hispanic, two groups that make up a combined 83 percent of the state’s population.
GEORGIA — The state Senate in March rejects a House version of a bill that would have prohibited race from being used as the sole factor in pulling over motorists. Lawmakers express concerns that the bill would hinder law enforcement officers when they have a general description of an undefined suspect.
ILLINOIS — One month after a $900,000 settlement was approved between the city of Mount Prospect and three officers who claimed in job-discrimination lawsuits that the police department encouraged them to target Hispanic motorists, City Council members in May approve a measure that would require the department to begin recording racial and ethnic information on anyone pulled over in a traffic stop. In January, a federal jury had awarded one terminated officer $1.2 million in damages, and U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo said he was so disturbed by testimony alleging racial profiling that he called for an investigation into the department’s practices. The following month, U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar opens a preliminary inquiry, and city officials hire outside investigators to examine whether discrimination is present in the department. In October, a federal judge upholds a class-action lawsuit naming Mount Prospect Police Chief Ronald Pavlock and several individual officers as defendants.
Racial profiling is not the policy of the Highland Park Police Department, and few incidents of such targeting have occurred in the past decade, according to a report by former U.S. Attorney Thomas P. Sullivan, who was hired by the village after five former and current police officers charged that Police Chief Daniel J. Dahlberg and his top administrators condoned the practice. The report does note that Dahlberg and his command staff allowed racial slurs and jokes to be directed at Hispanics and blacks at police headquarters in the 1980s.
KANSAS — A law that took effect in June authorizes a study to determine whether law enforcement agencies in Kansas practice racial profiling.
The police chiefs of Olathe and Overland Park in July announce the creation of Operation Vanguard, a program which will help weed out decisions made by police officers to single out minority motorists. The program requires officers to gather information on race, gender, ethnicity and other factors, and radio it in to a dispatcher. The data collected will be reviewed monthly to see if patterns of racial targeting emerge.
Police chiefs in four Kansas City suburbs — Prairie Village, Mission Hills, Leawood and Grandview, Mo. — reject the results of an ACLU survey released in November which found non-white drivers more likely to be ticketed by police than their white counterparts. The study found that minority motorists are four times more likely to be ticketed by police in Prairie Village and Mission Hills than white drivers, and twice as likely in the other two jurisdictions.
The Wichita City Council in November approves the purchase of $100,000 in computer equipment which will scan information from forms police will begin using in 2001 to record the race, age group, gender and ethnicity from every person pulled over, as well as the reason for the stop. A newspaper study published in September found black residents received traffic tickets at a 58-percent higher rate than did white drivers from 1997 through May 2000.
KENTUCKY — New police procedures, including a policy that forbids racial profiling and a form to be used by officers to gather data at all traffic stops, are implemented in Louisville in December, two months after a study reported that 44 percent of drivers stopped in the city during a 12-month period in 1999-2000 were black. The city’s driving-age population of African Americans is estimated to be 27 percent.
LOUISIANA — State Police in May deny using a training film that encourages officers to stop cars driven by “males of foreign nationalities.” The accusation was made in a report released by the Leadership Council on Civil Rights.
MARYLAND — Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris announces in November that beginning in 2001, officers will record the race of drivers they pull over. Police will also record the driver’s name, the officer’s name and the reason for the stop. Drivers will receive a receipt indicating why they were pulled over. A summary of the reports will be released, along with a pamphlet describing what to do when stopped by police.
The Montgomery County Police Department on Sept. 1 begins to enter demographic information on each person stopped into a data base. In January, the agency had agreed with the Justice Department to prohibit officers from considering race when making stops unless it is part of the description of a criminal suspect. It also agreed to issue twice-yearly public reports on traffic-stop statistics; hire an expert to improve training and teach racial sensitivity; speed the processing of civilian complaints; and review computerized reports on race and traffic stops, taking corrective action against officers who discriminate.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening announces in July that he planned to add to his 2001 legislative package a bill to curb race-based traffic stops.
MASSACHUSETTS — On the heels of a vote in June by the state police chiefs’ association to add an anti-racial profiling component to the police academy curriculum, the Massachusetts State Police says it will join the Boston Police Department in collecting data on traffic stops. Col. John DiFava says the agency would begin collecting data as soon as it found an academic partner to perform analyses.
MICHIGAN — The Grand Rapids Police Department on Aug. 1 begins collecting data on race and ethnicity at each traffic stop. The year-long project will generate quarterly reports describing where motorists are pulled over and why, in addition to the demographic data. Chief Harry Dolan said that after a year he would decide whether to continue the program.
MINNESOTA — Police in St. Paul and Minneapolis begin collecting data in April and May, respectively, for a six-month study of whether the practice of racial profiling exists in those agencies. The timing of the move is meant to coincide with a Nov. 1 report by a state task force, which was expected to recommend how to study whether race plays a role in traffic stops.
MISSOURI — The state’s racial profiling law, which requires police to keep data on motorists pulled over in traffic stops, goes into effect Aug. 28. Under the law, the governor may withhold money from agencies that fail to comply. An 18-member task force will oversee the implementation of the law.
The St. Louis County Police Board in February adds a provision to the police manual forbidding racial profiling.
NEBRASKA — A resolution against racial profiling and discrimination, backed by 2,000 of the state’s law enforcement officers, is criticized by the state’s ACLU in October for being mere window dressing. The group suggests that a law be passed requiring all police departments to keep data on motorists pulled over in traffic stops. Nebraska’s Fraternal Order of Police refused to sign the resolution, calling it unnecessary and ineffective.
NEW YORK — A review of hundreds of thousands of stop-and-frisk reports by New York City police officers indicates a pattern of racial profiling by the NYPD’s Street Crime Unit, according to federal prosecutors, who announce their findings in October. The statistical analysis was initiated after the fatal shooting in 1999 of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in May issues a report concluding that the New York City Police Department targets minorities for stop-and-frisks. In reviewing the NYPD’s tactics, the report finds that blacks and Hispanics are stopped far beyond their representation in a given community. In Staten Island, for example, 51 percent of those stopped were black, while African Americans make up only 9 percent of the borough’s population.
NORTH CAROLINA — In May, state Senator Frank Ballance calls for an expansion of a 1999 requirement that troopers record the race of each motorist stopped, to include the site where the stop occurred and the trooper’s identity. While racial data collected in January show no disproportion between the number of minorities pulled over and their representation in the state, the figures do not show where the stops were made.
University researchers release a report in November which finds that African Americans between the ages of 23 and 49 were 23 percent more likely to be ticketed than whites of the same age group. The study, which examined state Highway Patrol reports from 1998, also finds that black men 50 and older were 70 percent more likely to be ticketed than whites of that age. Overall, black males were 64 percent more likely than white males to have their cars searched. Black men between the ages of 16 and 23, however, were 28 percent less likely to be ticketed than were white men of the same age.
OHIO — Cleveland police statistics taken from 80,000 drivers ticketed from November 1999 to the end of June give no clear indication of whether or not officers practice racial profiling, officials report in August. Fifty-seven percent of drivers ticketed in the city were black, 37 percent white and 3 percent Hispanic. Cleveland’s racial makeup is 49 percent white, 46.5 percent black, and 4.5 percent Hispanic and other groups. One critic, University of Toledo law professor David Harris, said the police department did not collect enough detailed information to make a case either way.
The state’s top law-enforcement officials in February sign a pledge stating that racial profiling would not be tolerated. In addition, a $50,000 grant is awarded by the state Highway Patrol and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police to be used for diversity training.
The Justice Department in June adds a racial-profiling complaint to its lawsuit accusing the Columbus Police Department of discriminatory conduct. According to the federal complaint, blacks from 1994 to 1999 were nearly three times as likely to be subject to traffic stops in the city than were whites. In October, a citizen survey conducted by the City of Columbus finds that black motorists stopped by police are nearly twice as likely to be unhappy about their treatment by police as whites.
OKLAHOMA — A black Tulsa police officer in October becomes the first person to file a complaint under a state anti-racial profiling law that took effect July 1. Officer Keenan Meadors, a 15-year veteran, charges that a state trooper harassed and threatened him during a traffic stop on Aug. 25.
OREGON — The first police department in the state to launch a traffic-stop monitoring program in 2000, Hillsboro expands its pilot project in October from just five officers to the entire patrol force of 54. Officers record the sex, age and race of any driver pulled over, as well as the reason for the stop and, if there was a search, whether uncovered contraband was found. The monitoring effort was begun in May.
Although deputies oppose the project, the Washington County Sheriff’s Department says in November it will begin collecting data on traffic stops using the Hillsboro Police Department’s model.
Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker announces in November that he would act on an 18-member community panel’s recommendation to begin collecting racial data at traffic stops. The panel will meet quarterly to review, analyze and share information with the public.
PENNSYLVANIA — A report on all 23 of Philadelphia’s police districts by the ACLU in December concludes that although blacks make up 42 percent of the city’s population, they account for 60 percent of all stops. Police officials say the ACLU based its conclusions on old data.
The city of Johnstown in April says it will begin tracking the race of all motorists stopped by police to ensure that racial profiling is not being practiced. Johnstown is believed to be the first police department in the state to undertake the task voluntarily.
RHODE ISLAND — Legislation requiring all law enforcement agencies in the state to study whether racial profiling is being practiced during traffic stops is enacted on July 25. The study will begin in January 2001 and will run for two years. All officers will be required to record the sex, race and age of anyone they pull over. The analysis of the reports will be coordinated by the state attorney general’s office, assisted by a 13-member advisory committee.
SOUTH CAROLINA — The Spartanburg Police Department in April says it will begin tracking who is stopped and issued a citation. Officers who stop a car will be required to tell dispatchers the location, the year, color and make of the car, its license plate number, and the race and gender of occupants. Officers must also document whether they made an arrest, issued a ticket or conducted a search.
Charleston Police Chief Ruben Greenberg asserts during a forum at the University of Richmond in October that racial profiling can be attributed to the overwhelming number of African American perpetrators, victims and inmates. In 1998, he notes, 54 percent of the nation’s homicide victims were black, and 98 percent of the time, so were their assailants. Furthermore, Greenberg says, police need to learn how to disengage from a suspect when it becomes apparent that a mistake has been made.
SOUTH DAKOTA — Rejecting complaints received by the ACLU, officials in Charles Mix County say in May that they believe an increase in the number of Indians pulled over on traffic stops during the spring was due to a change in the jurisdiction over bench warrants. Racial profiling complaints increased, they say, when a 1995 injunction barring anyone other than tribal police or federal agents from making criminal arrests on the Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation was lifted in December 1999.
TENNESSEE — Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga are among 36 law enforcement agencies in the state that sign up in September to be part of a year-long, voluntary survey to determine whether police are discriminating against minority motorists.
TEXAS — Members of four local civil rights groups meet in October with San Antonio Police Chief Al Phillipus to urge that he join Arlington, Austin and Houston in maintaining statistics on pedestrian and automobile traffic stops.
While white drivers are more likely to be pulled over by Texas state troopers, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to have their vehicles searched, according to a five-month study that the Department of Public Safety releases in October.
A statistical analysis of traffic stops by The Dallas Morning News finds that in 1999, black drivers were more likely to be ticketed in the state’s 28 rural counties than were whites. In its review of 894,702 tickets issued by DPS troopers, blacks were found statewide to have received the same proportion of tickets as their statewide driving-age population — about 10 percent. But in 28 mostly rural counties, the newspaper said, blacks received at least double the number expected.
The Austin Police Department says in September it would begin keeping data on the races of those stopped by police.
UTAH — A Utah Highway Patrol study of tickets issued in Salt Lake City and Weber Counties during May is presented by the agency as proof that troopers do not engage in racial profiling. According to the study, 83 percent of citations were issued to whites and 13 percent to Hispanics. Motorists from other racial and ethnic groups, including blacks, accounted for less than 2 percent of tickets.
WASHINGTON — Two studies released in the summer find that blacks received a disproportionate amount of traffic tickets by Seattle police officers. In June, a statistical analysis by The Seattle Times of some 324,000 citations issued between June 1995 and May 2000 shows that while blacks make up 9 percent of the city’s population, they accounted for 18.6 percent of tickets given during that time.
Under a new plan unveiled in August, Seattle police will record the race and ethnicity of virtually anyone stopped, even if an arrest is not made. The data will be used to determine whether racial profiling exists or whether the disproportion of tickets issued to blacks can be explained by other factors.
The City of Seattle and its police department are the targets of a $100-million lawsuit in August, alleging racial profiling of blacks and other minorities, negligent hiring and training of officers and inadequate discipline.
A 97-1 vote by the state’s House of Representatives in March endorses a voluntary data-collection system initiated by the State Patrol in 1999. The bill would require the agency to record gender, race and ethnicity at traffic stops.
Deputies with the Yakima County Sheriff’s Department will not participate in a voluntary racial profiling study, Sheriff Doug Blair says in June. Blair, a past president of the state chiefs and sheriffs association, tells the state Senate Judiciary Committee that efforts to log the race of drivers could lead to roadside conflicts and will not show why a stop was made.
The King County Sheriff’s Department will not practice racial profiling, but will continue to use “legitimate” profiling to single out suspicious people, an agency spokesman says in August. Defense attorneys for a Seattle man charged in a drug case found records suggesting that at least one deputy was praised for finding “dirtbags” driving “beater cars” and then searching them by using minor infractions as a basis for the stop.
Far from finding that State Patrol troopers single out black drivers for stops, a five-month study released in May finds that both African Americans and whites are pulled over more often than either American Indians or Asian Americans. According to the report, whites, who make up 88.8 percent of the state’s population, account for 92.2 percent of all stops. Blacks, who constitute 3.4 percent of the population, make up 4 percent of stops. While Asian Americans are 5.9 percent of Washington’s population, they are stopped just 2.9 percent of the time, and Indians, 1.9 percent of the population, account for only .9 percent of stops. Hispanic and black drivers, however, are arrested or ticketed more frequently at stops than white drivers.
WISCONSIN — Milwaukee Police Chief Arthur Jones says in June that the department’s zero-tolerance policy toward quality-of-life crimes, and not racial profiling, is responsible for minorities being ticketed at a rate two to three times that for whites. From October 1998 to October 1999, minorities received 70 percent of all traffic tickets and 75 percent of municipal non-traffic tickets. Blacks accounted for 58 percent all traffic tickets and 58 percent of all non-traffic tickets in the downtown area, and 65 percent of all municipal non-traffic tickets.