Racial Profiling

ACLU Statement on Racial Profiling

“Racial profiling is a longstanding and deeply troubling national problem despite claims that the United States has entered a “post-racial era.” It occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country, when law enforcement and private security target people of color for humiliating and often frightening detentions, interrogations, and searches without evidence of criminal activity and based on perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion. Racial profiling is patently illegal, violating the U.S. Constitution’s core promises of equal protection under the law to all and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. Just as importantly, racial profiling is ineffective. It alienates communities from law enforcement, hinders community policing efforts, and causes law enforcement to lose credibility and trust among the people they are sworn to protect and serve.

We rely on the police to protect us from harm and promote fairness and justice in our communities. But racial profiling has led countless people to live in fear, casting entire communities as suspect simply because of what they look like, where they come from, or what religion they adhere to.

Racial profiling affects a wide array of communities of color. More than 240 years of slavery and 90 years of legalized racial segregation have led to systemic profiling of blacks in traffic and pedestrian stops. Since September 11, 2001, members of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities have been profiled by airline personnel, federal law enforcement, and local police.

The federal government’s encouragement of unprecedented raids on immigrant communities and workplaces by local law enforcement in cooperation with federal agencies has targeted Latino communities in particular. These policies have unjustly expanded the purview of and undermined basic trust in local law enforcement, alienated immigrant communities, and created an atmosphere of fear. Anti-immigrant rhetoric has led to a dramatic increase in hate crimes against and racial profiling of Latinos.

The ACLU’s work on racial profiling encompasses major initiatives in litigation, public education, and advocacy, including lobbying for passage of data collection and anti-profiling legislation and litigating on behalf of individuals who have been victims of racial profiling by airlines, police, and government agencies.”

Racial Profiling in Baltimore and Chicago

Racial Profiling SignIn 2016, two major reports were issued documenting egregious patterns of racial profiling by police forces in Baltimore and Chicago.  The Department of Justice Investigation of the Baltimore City Police report examined hundreds of thousands of pedestrian stops from January 2010–May 2015.  Under reporting makes it impossible to refine the total count.  The report found:

“Approximately 44 percent of pedestrian stops occurred in two small, predominantly African-American districts that contain only 11 percent of the City’s population. Consequently, hundreds of individuals—nearly all of them African American—were stopped on at least 10 separate occasions from 2010– 2015. Indeed, seven African-American men were stopped more than 30 times during this period.

Only 3.7 percent of pedestrian stops resulted in officers issuing a citation or making an arrest. From 2010–2015, supervisors at Baltimore’s Central Booking and local prosecutors rejected over 11,000 charges made by Baltimore police officers because they lacked probable cause or otherwise did not merit prosecution.

The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) disproportionately stops African-American pedestrians. Citywide, BPD stopped African-American residents three times as often as white residents after controlling for the population of the area in which the stops occurred.

BPD searched African Americans more frequently during pedestrian and vehicle stops, even though searches of African Americans were less likely to discover contraband. Indeed, BPD officers found contraband twice as often when searching white individuals compared to African Americans during vehicle stops and 50 percent more often during pedestrian stops.”

The Police Accountability Task Force in Chicago issued similar findings:

“In the summer of 2014, the Chicago Police Department stopped more than 250,000 people—93.6 for every 10,000 City residents—in encounters not leading to arrests. The racial breakdown of those stopped was as follows:

  • 72% African American;
  • 17% Hispanic;
  • 9% White
  • 1% Asian

Moreover, black and Hispanic drivers were searched approximately four times as often as white drivers, yet Chicago Police Department’s own data show that contraband was found on white drivers twice as often as black and Hispanic drivers.

A 2015 survey of 1,200 Chicago residents, ages 16 and older, also found significant racial disparities in the number of police-initiated stops and the perception of abusive police behavior.  The survey found that almost 70% of young African-American males reported being stopped by police in the past 12 months.

The survey found that most people stopped by Chicago police were not ticketed, arrested or taken to a police station.  Compared to whites, all other groups were at least twice as likely to have been subjected to some form of force before being released.”

These two big city police departments have attracted national attention with their troubled histories.  They have been subject to both national scrutiny and reform initiatives.

It is impossible to know the extent to which these patterns of racial profiling are reflected in the work of the fifty plus police departments in Delaware because no process has been established for data gathering and analysis.  The primary focus of proposed legislation is establishing that process and monitoring potential racial bias by Delaware Police Departments.

Synopsis of Proposed Legislation

 The proposed bill establishes safeguards against racial and ethnic profiling in order to truly ensure that all citizens are treated equally. First, the bill outlaws racial and ethnic profiling, and requires police departments to take corrective action if racial and ethnic profiling occurs among officers.  Secondly, it mandates the establishment of fair procedures for filing complaints in regard to racial and ethnic profiling, or initiating legal action. Thirdly, it requires the collection of data on traffic and pedestrian stops by law enforcement, in order to monitor potential racial bias. Taken together, these measures will enable Delaware to show that it is serious about preventing, detecting, and taking action in response to racial and ethnic profiling.