Research Shows Racial Profiling Persists in Rhode Island Traffic Enforcement; ACLU Plans Response

March 31, 2005 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
Rhode Island ACLU
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


PROVIDENCE, RI-The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island today expressed concern over a Northeastern University study released this week showing that African American and Hispanic drivers in Rhode Island continue to be subjected to disparate treatment by law enforcement. The study suggests that little has changed since a 2003 report by the same researchers found widespread racial disparities in Rhode Island traffic enforcement.

“The preliminary study results released this week fail to show a reduction in the incidence of race-based policing,” said Steven Brown, Executive Director of the ACLU of Rhode Island. “It is troubling that statistics do not appear to have improved since 2003, when a previous study helped to open Rhode Islanders’ eyes to the problem of racial profiling.”

The ACLU said today that it is preparing a response to the report that will include recommendations on how to fix the significant problems highlighted by the study.

The ongoing study, which was performed in accordance with a state law drafted by the ACLU and enacted by the General Assembly last year, analyzed traffic stop data for October through December 2004 of every local police department. The report found that blacks and Hispanics pulled over by the police were more than twice as likely as whites to be searched or frisked, even though whites were more likely to be found with contraband when searched. The results come despite a state law enacted last year that prohibits the practice of racial profiling, and despite assurances from police officials that departments have been working to address the problem.

In addition, according to the researchers, there was roughly a 10 percent error rate for traffic stop data, because police forms were missing necessary data. The ACLU’s Brown called this fact “particularly disturbing” in light of a state law passed last year that requires supervisory police personnel to review the forms on a weekly basis to ensure accuracy.

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