ACLU, Civil Rights Groups in Texas Urge Lawmakers to Pass a Statewide Ban on Racial Profiling

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
March 5, 2001 12:00 am

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AUSTIN, TX–The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and a host of other civil liberties organizations in the state announced today that two state representatives have agreed to sponsor bills that would prohibit racial profiling by police officers.

“There is huge public support for this,” said William Harrell, Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas. “There’s a new awareness out there that this is a serious problem.. Even former Governor George Bush stated to Congress and to the world last week that racial profiling ‘is wrong and we must end it’.”

The measures are being championed by Representative Senfronia Thompson of Texas House District 141 and Senator Royce West of Texas Senate District 23

“We respect the fact that police agencies have come to the table with the civil rights community for the past month to discuss this situation and measures to stop it. And we applaud Senator West and Representative Thompson for taking leadership on this critically important issue,” Harrell said.

In addition to prohibiting racial profiling, the bills will require law enforcement agencies to compile and report traffic stop statistics, as well as promulgate policies to sanction officers who engage in racial profiling. It will also require all officers to undergo training regarding racial profiling.

Recently released statistics by the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed what the ACLU has known for quite some time, Harrell said: that Latinos and African Americans are more than twice as likely to be searched if they’re stopped than are white people.

“This is immensely important to the Latino community,” said Joseph Berra, Staff Attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, “which now makes up approximately 30 percent of the Texas population. While it may take more to root out the practice of racial profiling, this bill is a healthy first step and will help build minority trust and confidence in their police.”

The ACLU said it expects more than 200 people from the Texas Criminal Justice Reform Coalition to lobby for the bills today after an afternoon rally in front of the State Supreme Court.

“It is time for us to come together as a nation,” said Gary Bledsoe, President of the Texas NAACP, “and ensure that liberties and protections afforded by our Constitution apply to all Americans despite race, color, or national origin.”

Joining the ACLU in supporting the legislation are the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, La Raza, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

If you have been a victim of racial profiling and would like to report it, please call the ACLU Racial Profiling Hotline at 1-877-6-PROFILE.

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