ACLU Says Stealth Racial Profiling Report Shows Need for Federal Legislation

August 30, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union and several other prominent civil rights groups today called upon Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to investigate the apparent attempt by the Justice Department to bury an unfavorable government report on racial profiling.

“”Suppressing this report won’t make discriminatory profiling go away: it’s a fact of life for millions of Americans,”” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “”If we want to eliminate discrimination in law enforcement, it is vital that lawmakers and the public have this information. We urge Attorney General Gonzales to look into this matter immediately.””

At issue is a survey of police conduct, compiled by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. Earlier this year, as the report was near completion, Lawrence A. Greenfeld, director of the agency, submitted for review a news release to announce the findings. Greenfeld was told to delete language that highlighted findings that black and Hispanic drivers were subjected to searches, arrests and use of force more often than white drivers. After Greenfeld refused, no release was issued, and the survey was posted without announcement to the Justice Department’s Web site. Greenfield was later removed from his position as director of the agency.

The ACLU noted that the action surrounding the Greenfeld demotion follows an alarming trend by the administration to conceal or dismiss information – often critical of government actions – that is collected by independent agencies or review boards.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics is a small agency within the Department of Justice. It produces dozens of reports annually – such as the congressionally mandated one on police conduct – on a wide range of law enforcement issues. The agency, physically separate from the department, works independently to ensure that its work is not politically influenced.

The report found that blacks and Hispanics were roughly three times more likely to “”experience police threat or use of force”” during interaction with the police, almost three times more likely to be arrested, and three times more likely to have their person or their vehicle searched. However, the report did not review the issue of whether race was the reason for the search – information that could be collected under legislation that several members of Congress are considering introducing.

“”Despite the fact that profiling is an inefficient and ineffective law enforcement tool, it remains a prevalent police practice,”” said Jesselyn McCurdy, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “”Lawmakers should not only look into the suppression of this latest report, but also enact legislation that would end the disparities it cites. If President Bush is sincere about ending racial profiling as he told Congress years ago, the administration will support this legislation.””

To read the sign-on letter sent to Attorney General Gonzales, go to:

To read the DOJ report, go to:

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