ACLU of Rhode Island Responds to City's "Action Plan" On Racial Profiling

November 25, 2003 12:00 am

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Rhode Island ACLU
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PROVIDENCE, RI – In response to the City of Providence’s release of an “action plan” to address racial profiling, the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island said today that it planned to work with legislators on the introduction of comprehensive legislation to address the issue of racial profiling statewide.

Steven Brown, Executive Director of the ACLU of Rhode Island, called the city’s action plan “long on rhetoric, but short on specifics.” The plan calls for a public relations program to educate the community about the duties of the police and for improved education and training of the police. Brown said the problem is not one of public relations, but “the documented reality that city police are engaged in widespread discrimination in enforcing traffic laws.”

“Only one month ago, experts at Northeastern University issued a report documenting that the Providence Police Department engages in widespread racial profiling, worse than any other police department in the state. Yet the city’s action plan begins by stating that ‘the individual biases of community members towards the police’ must be dealt with to successfully address racial profiling. In blaming the victims, rather than acknowledging the police department’s egregious record of racial profiling, the city does a disservice to the community,” Brown said.

Many recommendations in the report focus on education and training for the city’s police. “Yet the plan fails to explain how education and training to halt racial profiling will work when the police could not even be trained to collect traffic stop data correctly,” Brown said, referring to monthly studies of racial profiling by Northeastern University over the past year.

Finally, Brown noted, the plan contains no timelines for implementing any of the recommendations. In addition, while it mentions the use of a monitoring system, the plan clearly does not envision anything approaching the utility of Northeastern’s data collection and analysis procedures.

“We do not doubt that the Mayor is truly interested in eliminating racial profiling,” Brown concluded. “But after the issuance of an irrefutable report documenting the pervasive nature of racial profiling in the city, public relations and feel-good measures are no solution to this entrenched problem.”

A news release about the Northeastern University report and a related ACLU lawsuit is online at

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