2003, the year in review:
¶ The Bush administration sets forth a new policy that imposes strict limitations for employees of 70 federal law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the Secret Service, the DEA and units of the Department of Homeland Security, on when racial profiling may be used in police work. The policy also includes somewhat looser restrictions on the use of profiling as it applies to security inquiries. Racial and ethnic characteristics may be used in police investigations when it occurs as demographic information, as it applies to specific suspects, or a particular time frame or locality linking an individual of a certain race to an event. In terrorism cases, investigators who receive reliable information about a plot by members of a foreign insurgent group can focus on members of that group who may be living in the United States.
¶ The nationwide expansion of primary seat-belt laws, which allow police to stop motorists solely on the grounds of not buckling up, is being thwarted by fears of racial profiling. A radio talk-show host in Massachusetts won two repeals of such a law in that state on the grounds that it infringed on civil liberties, despite the fact that Massachusetts is only second to Rhode Island in the percentage of drivers who die without seat belts fastened. In Virginia, black lawmakers voted against a primary seat-belt law in 2003.
¶ A study finds that while blacks make up only 11.24 percent of the population of Tacoma, Wash., they accounted for more than 20 percent of traffic stops during 2002…. Racial profiling is formally banned by Alabama Public Safety Director Mike Coppage and new procedures for reviewing motorists’ complaints are initiated…. New legislation is requested by the Nevada state Senate minority leader after a committee rejects a proposal that would have made racial profiling a misdemeanor.
¶ Col. Robert Garrison, chief of the Iowa State Patrol, rejects a report issued by the state Department of Public Safety which found that non-white motorists are twice as likely to be searched as whites, although they are not pulled over with any more frequency. The report, he said, did not provide statistically significant or clear evidence of racial profiling.
¶ A study of 65 Minnesota police agencies finds that black, Hispanic and American Indian drivers were more likely than whites to be stopped and searched in 2002, but less likely to possess contraband…. Massachusetts Public Safety Secretary Edward Flynn appoints a task force to assess whether police agencies are engaged in racial profiling, while Gov. Mitt Romney proposes restoring more than $800,000 for a study that would track the race and gender of drivers issued warnings.
¶ Mount Prospect, Ill., police will provide complaint forms to motorists who object to an officer’s conduct during a traffic stop, as part of an agreement to end a three-year federal probe into alleged racial profiling.
¶ The California Highway Patrol breaks new ground when it agrees to extend its ban on consent searches until 2006, to discontinue using minor infractions as a pretext for conducting searches, and to begin collecting data on every traffic stop. The concessions bring an end to a three-year-old class action suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three Latino motorists who claimed they were stopped on the basis of their ethnicity.
¶ Reports by The Boston Globe and The Seattle Times find that minority drivers are searched at least twice as often as whites, although they are less likely to be carrying anything illegal. In Massachusetts, 45 communities are found to ticket black residents at four times their proportion of the census. And in Washington, an analysis of 1.7 million traffic stops made by state police over a 27-month period finds that while whites and minorities were pulled over in equal numbers, non-whites were searched at twice the rate. In some areas, such as Yakima, minorities were searched at five times the rate of whites.