Civil Rights Groups Launch Statewide Campaign To Combat Racial Profiling
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEATTLE, WA — At a news conference today at the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, the ACLU and several civil rights groups announced the launch of a statewide campaign to combat racial profiling by police.
The action comes in the wake of the enactment of legislation to tackle the problem of racial profiling – the practice by some police of stopping motorists based on their race or ethnicity.
“Racial profiling undermines the principle of equal treatment under the law — the foundation of our system of justice. said Kathleen Taylor, Executive Director of the ACLU of Washington. “It also undermines public confidence in law enforcement, especially in communities of color. The ACLU and other civil rights groups are urging local police agencies around the state to take action to end racial profiling.”
In addition to the ACLU of Washington, groups working on the campaign include the Washington Commission on African American Affairs, the Washington Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, the Washington Commission on Hispanic Affairs, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Urban League.
On March 24, Governor Gary Locke signed into law a measure with three key provisions”
- The Washington State Patrol (which is responsible for 700,000 of the state’s 1.7 million annual traffic stops) will collect data on race, ethnicity, gender, and age of people stopped and will make a report to the Legislature on December 1.
- The State Patrol, the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) will develop criteria for this kind of data collection, as well as develop training materials for use by local law enforcement agencies.
- WASPC is directed to encourage its members to collect this data voluntarily and to report to the Legislature by December 1 on how many of its member-agencies have agreed to do so.
Civil rights groups will work together to urge local police agencies in Washington to follow the state’s lead by agreeing to collect data on traffic stops and to take other steps to curb racial profiling. Initial meetings with law enforcement officials have been held in Spokane and in Kitsap County. The civil rights groups plan to mobilize people to testify at hearings on racial profiling to be held by the State Senate’s Judiciary Committee in Tacoma in May and in Seattle in June.
To raise public awareness about racial profiling, the ACLU of Washington is placing large ads on the issue in the Thursday, April 20 editions of the Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Tacoma’s News Tribune, and the Yakima Herald-Republic. Numerous public officials and civil rights leaders have lent their names to the ads.
The Washington campaign is part of a growing nationwide effort to address racial profiling. In the past six months, the number of local law enforcement agencies that have stepped forward to voluntarily collect statistics on traffic stops has risen dramatically to almost 200 nationwide.
Police departments compiling such information now include those in San Diego, San Jose, Houston, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Ann Arbor, MI, Oakland, and Richmond, VA, as well as state police agencies for nine states. Ninety-one police departments in the state of Connecticut alone are collecting data under legislation passed there over a year ago.
A Gallup Poll conducted in December, 1999 indicated that 59 percent of the American public believed racial profiling is widespread, and 81 percent disapproved of its use. Last year, President Clinton ordered federal law enforcement agencies to document the race and ethnic origin of people they question, search, or arrest.
The ACLU of Washington is urging people to report incidents of racial profiling via a form on the organization’s Web site (www.aclu-wa.org). More detailed information about the campaign against racial profiling is available on the Web site.
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.