ACLU Applauds Louisville's New Racial Profiling Policy, Urges Additional Measures

Affiliate: ACLU of Kentucky
December 5, 2000 12:00 am

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LOUISVILLE, KY– After two months of meetings with community representatives, the Louisville Division of Police announced today a policy and data collection plan to end racial profiling of motorists.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, while applauding this decision, today urged the counties to take additional measures.

“Today’s announcement by the Louisville Division of Police is a major victory for the community,” said Jeff Vessels, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kentucky. “While there is still room for improvement, this is a clear signal that our work to end race-based traffic stops has begun to pay off.”

Police Chief Greg Smith announced at a news conference today that all Louisville police officers will document the race, gender, and age of all stopped motorists beginning January 1, 2001 for a three-month pilot period.

Officers will document other data consistent with similar efforts in other communities around the country. There has been no clear commitment to ongoing data collection.

Chief Smith also announced a policy, which becomes effective today, forbidding profiling based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, or disability.

Today’s announcement by the City of Louisville comes on the heels of a Jefferson County government announcement late last week that County officers would immediately begin collecting information on all stops. However, the County has not passed policy forbidding profiling.

The County officials announcement was a reversal from just a few weeks ago, when they said they would not collect data because of doubts that racial profiling exists.

“While the announcements of the past few days are remarkable step forward, we will urge the city and the county to continue building on these achievements,” said Vessels. “We ask that the county pass a comprehensive policy, and that both the city and county collect information on the race of passengers of stopped vehicles.”

Failure to collect passenger data puts the city and county out of compliance with state agency data collection ordered by Governor Patton. Patton issued an Executive Order in April which forbids state law enforcement agencies from profiling and requires them to collect data on all traffic stops.

Governor Patton also urged local law enforcement agencies to do the same, with 25 such agencies agreeing to participate immediately. Officials in Louisville and Jefferson County, which together contain about 40 percent of the state’s African-American population, decided not to participate at that time.

In October, an investigation by the Louisville Courier-Journal revealed a strong likelihood that African-American motorists in Louisville are at least twice as likely as Caucasian motorists to be stopped by police. One of the studies found that, while only 7.6 percent of drivers on one busy Louisville street were African American, they made up 22 percent of the motorists stopped by the police.

This new Louisville policy is based in large part on a similar, more comprehensive policy enacted in September by the Lexington Fayette Urban County Division of Police.

Police agencies in about half of the 50 largest communities in the United States have committed to collect traffic stop data. Hundreds of others agencies in communities of all sizes are doing the same. Eight states have passed racial profiling legislation, and another 26 states are considering legislation.

The ACLU has filed more than a dozen racial profiling lawsuits across the country. The lead racial profiling attorney from the ACLU national office, Reginald Shuford, visited Kentucky in November to meet with advocates and citizens concerned about profiling.

To read more about the ACLU’s efforts to end racial profiling, go to the ACLU “Arrest the Racism” page at

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