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"Driving While Black" in Maryland

Last Update: February 2, 2010

What's at Stake

ACLU Lawsuits Against the Maryland State Police

The ACLU has been waged in a battle to eliminate the racial profiling practices of the Maryland State Police since the early 1990s.

In 1993, the ACLU brought a class-action lawsuit against MSP on behalf of Robert L. Wilkins, an African American attorney who was stopped, detained and searched by the MSP for no apparent reason. Documents showed that MSP illegally targeted African-American motorists for stops and searches along Maryland’s highways. In 1995, the parties entered into a settlement under which MSP, among other things, agreed to collect data on traffic stops and searches and take measures to prevent racial profiling. Two years later, the federal court overseeing the case ruled that MSP was continuing to target non-white motorists for traffic stops and searches, in violation of the Wilkins agreement.

In 1998, based on accumulated evidence showing a continuing pattern and practice of discrimination by MSP troopers, the ACLU, on behalf of the Maryland NAACP and several individual plaintiffs, filed another lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland charging that MSP troopers were continuing to engage in racial profiling. The parties ultimately agreed to resolve some of the litigation by entering into a consent decree that obligates MSP to take a number of steps to address concerns raised in the lawsuit, including providing the Maryland NAACP with quarterly reports containing detailed information on the number, nature, location and disposition of racial profiling complaints. This lawsuit was finally settled in April 2008.

In a related, but separate action, in February 2007, the Maryland NAACP submitted a request to MSP under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) to inspect and copy all documents pertaining to twelve categories of records in MSP’s possession, custody and/or control. The request was designed to determine whether MSP had complied, and was continuing to comply, with its obligations under the consent decree. MSP has not complied with this request, necessitating the filing of another lawsuit against MSP in September 2007. The latest lawsuit, on behalf of the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, charges MSP with violations of the MPIA, and was filed in order to force MSP to produce the pertinent information and documents.

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