Houston Joins Battle Against Racial Profiling

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
August 12, 1999 12:00 am

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HOUSTON — Police officers who stop people because of their skin color may find themselves out of a job under a new city initiative, the Associated Press reported today.

Joining a national push to end racial profiling (/profiling), Mayor Lee Brown and Police Chief C.O. Bradford unveiled a plan this week to study whether any of the city’s 5,000 police officers are stopping drivers because of their race or ethnicity.

“I never want to hear any of our citizens say they were stopped solely because of driving while black,” Brown, the city’s first black mayor, told the AP. “What we’re announcing is a proactive step, a safeguard to find out if racial profiling is occurring here.”

Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, is just of one several metropolitan cities — including San Diego and San Jose, Calif. — to attack racial profiling, which has gained national attention in the past year, the AP said.

In June, President Clinton issued an executive order calling for federal law-enforcement agencies to collect race and gender data in all stops and arrests. State lawmakers around the nation have scrambled to pass similar legislation, but so far only North Carolina has enacted laws.

According to the news wire, Houston’s new program, which will begin immediately, requires officers to enter information on the race, age and gender of all people they stop or arrest into their patrol car computers.

The reports will be placed in a database for review by Bradford, police managers and the department’s Internal Affairs Division. Any confirmed incidents of racial profiling could result in a guilty officer’s dismissal or even criminal charges, Bradford told the AP.

Several patrolmen’s associations and civil rights groups applauded the new policies.

“I’m delighted to hear it,” Jay Jacobson, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas told the AP. “That’s a good beginning and a good example in the nation’s fourth-largest city. Maybe it will catch on.”

Lawyer Johnnie Cochran, speaking at the National Urban League’s annual conference in Houston, said racial profiling is pervasive in American society.

“It’s walking while black, jogging while black … indeed, it’s living while black,” he said.

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