Court Approves Settlement of ACLU Lawsuit to End Racial Profiling on Arizona Highways

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
August 3, 2006 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


PHOENIX, AZ – U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence O. Anderson today approved a settlement agreement between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Arizona Department of Public Safety to prevent racial profiling by patrol officers along Arizona’s highways and streets.

“We are pleased that the government has agreed to stop using skin color as a basis to stop and search Black and Latino motorists along our highways,” said Flagstaff attorney Lee Phillips, who is the lead counsel in this case. “We commend the Department of Public Safety for their commitment to adopt concrete measures to help identify and address this discriminatory practice.”

The agreement resolves a 2001 class action lawsuit brought on behalf of eleven motorists by the ACLU, which charged that law enforcement officials engaged in a continuing pattern and practice of race-based traffic stops, detentions and searches of non-white motorists throughout Arizona.

In today’s settlement, the Department of Public Safety agreed to collect and review statistical data relating to traffic stops and vehicle searches statewide. The data will be analyzed by external consultants on an annual basis to determine why, how and where motorists are stopped, detained and searched. The ACLU said that the information will help identify possible racial profiling by patrol officers.

“I am pleased that these discriminatory acts against African American and Latino motorists should now end,” said ACLU of Arizona cooperating attorney Daniel Pochoda, who is serving as co-counsel on this case. “Now we can begin the process of collecting statistical data to identify just how widespread this problem is in Arizona.”

Under the settlement, Governor Janet Napolitano also agreed to create a nine-member citizens’ advisory board to review the Department of Public Safety’s practices and policies relating to racial profiling and traffic stop data and to make recommendations based on that review. Appointments to the board will be made by the governor, with input from the ACLU of Arizona, and will include members of the governor’s African American and Latino advisory committees.
The terms of the settlement also address the following:

  • Amending agency policies to prohibit officers from pulling over motorists on the basis of race or skin color;
  • Training officers to comply with anti-racial profiling policies;
  • Working toward the goal of having vehicle-based video systems in all department vehicles throughout the state to tape all traffic stops, detentions and searches; and,
  • Requiring patrol officers to use a bi-lingual written consent form whenever a search is requested during a traffic stop.

The agreement will be enforced by the ACLU who will monitor the data collection program and report on the Department’s compliance with the agreement.

“Racial profiling has been a long-standing problem in this country and we hope that this agreement will serve as a model for other communities as well as a deterrent to the humiliating practice of racial profiling,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona.

The state will pay attorneys’ fees and costs to the volunteer attorneys and the ACLU for the work leading up to the settlement in today’s case.

A copy of the settlement agreement is available at:

For more information on racial profiling, go to:

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.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release