ACLU of New Jersey Calls for "Early Warning System" to Discourage Racial Profiling by State Troopers

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
March 1, 1999 12:00 am

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ACLU of New Jersey Calls for “Early Warning System” to Discourage Racial Profiling by State Troopers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEWARK, NJ — At a press conference today, he American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey called on state officials to record racial demographics in highway traffic stops and establish an “early warning system” database to flag problem police officers.

The ACLU’s call came in response to the dismissal of New Jersey’s Superintendent of State Police for confirming to news reporters that race is a factor in police stops and searches of motorists.

According to news reports, Col. Carl A. Williams said that certain crimes were associated with certain racial and ethnic groups. “If you are looking at heroin and stuff like that, your involvement there is more or less Jamaican,” he said.

“Colonel Williams was fired for telling the truth about policing in New Jersey,” said Kevin Keenan, Acting Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “But firing Williams will not change the State Police culture and standard operating procedure of targeting minorities on the roads of New Jersey.”

The ACLU said that firing Williams amounts to nothing more than “spin control,” and is calling on Governor Christine Todd Whitman to collect racial data on all stops by the state police and to make the data available to the public.

In addition, the ACLU is calling on Governor Whitman to establish an “early warning system” database to red-flag officers with psychological or other problems.

“The State Troopers’ policy of targeting people of color for traffic stops is discriminatory and unacceptable,” said Lenora Lapidus, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “Although the State denied having such a policy, Col. Williams’ statements make clear that racial profiling has been used by state troopers for a long time.”

In an effort to end racial profiling, the ACLU of New Jersey has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all individuals who have been stopped on the Turnpike. The ACLU is asking people who believe they have been stopped for this reason to contact them.

“Williams’s statement is a vindication of the facts that we have known for over a decade now, that race is a major component of New Jersey State Police thinking,” said Lapidus. “In 1994 and 1995, the court heard extensive evidence that the state police concentrate on race in making stops along the turnpike. And the court found that a policy of racial profiling existed and was condoned by the state police.”

But despite this finding, the ACLU said, the governor and the attorney general have appealed the court’s ruling and continue to deny the evidence of racial profiling — even evidence from its own police force.

“Sadly,” Lapidus added, “the Governor has chosen to seek a course of spin control in firing Williams, rather than address the problem and make a commitment to end race-based traffic stops once and for all.”

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