Ohio "Driving While Black" Researcher Authors National Study for ACLU

June 2, 1999 12:00 am

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Wednesday, June 2, 1999

CLEVELAND–A national report on “driving while black” written for the American Civil Liberties Union by a University of Toledo law professor who did the first statewide research into racial profiling in Ohio, finds patterns of racial bias in traffic stops all over the country and recommends steps to address the problem comprehensively, the ACLU of Ohio said today.

“This is a national problem for law enforcement agencies everywhere,” said David A. Harris, professor of law at the University of Toledo College of Law. “African Americans, Hispanics, and others have said for years that they are stopped, questioned, and sometimes searched in disproportionate numbers when they drive. The data are confirming this, and we need to begin to search for ways to eliminate race from police decision-making.”

In his research in Ohio, Harris found that blacks in four Ohio cities are roughly twice as likely to be ticketed as all other citizens. Figuring in other considerations, like the fact that 21 percent of all black households don’t even own a vehicle, makes the numbers rise even higher. These statistics are consistent with numbers from other states, which also show that blacks and Hispanics stopped at rates much higher than their presence on the road would suggest.

“There’s no question that these stops anger and alienate the individual law abiding citizens who get treated like suspects,” Harris said. “But it’s important to understand that ‘driving while black’ is really just one example of the many difficult issues we face at the intersection of race and criminal justice.”

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