California Highway Patrol Bans Consent Searches Following Review of Data Collection Showing Discriminatory Pattern

April 19, 2001 12:00 am

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SAN FRANCISCO - The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the California Highway Patrol (CHP) decision to issue an order mandating a six-month moratorium on consent searches. The mandate came in response to a review of a data collection process that revealed racially discriminatory search rates.

""We applaud the highway patrol's decision to issue a moratorium on consent searches as a positive first step in ending discriminatory police practices,"" said Michelle Alexander, Director of the ACLU of Northern California's Racial Justice Project. ""Innocent people, particularly motorists of color, are routinely intimidated into giving consent to search their vehicles when they have done nothing wrong. Banning consent searches for six months is good, but getting rid of them permanently would be even better.""

In November 1999, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit in federal district court in San Jose on behalf of the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and three victims of racial profiling, challenging the CHP's discriminatory drug interdiction program then known as Operation Pipeline.

Data obtained through discovery in the case, Rodriguez v. CHP, revealed that Latinos were approximately three times as likely to be searched by drug interdiction officers than whites in the Central and Coastal Divisions, and African Americans were approximately twice as likely to be searched by drug interdiction officers in those divisions. In addition, the highway patrol drafted a report in July 2000 showing that Latinos were the most likely racial or ethnic group to be searched when innocent and released with a verbal warning.

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