Rhode Island Police Settle ACLU Racial Profiling Lawsuit

February 3, 2005 12:00 am

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

Contact: media@aclu.org

PROVIDENCE–The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island today announced the settlement of its racial profiling lawsuit against the Scituate Police Department, which charged that an officer unlawfully stopped, questioned and ticketed a man of Cape Verdean descent because of his race.

The lawsuit, filed in 2003 by ACLU volunteer attorney Thomas G. Briody, argued that Pawtucket resident Jean Philippe Barros’ rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and to equal protection of the laws were violated when he was pulled over by Scituate police officer Kevin Pendergast for an alleged driving violation.

“I am pleased that the town has partially compensated Mr. Barros for the indignity that he suffered during the disputed traffic stop,” said Briody. “We believe this lawsuit has had a positive impact on the police department and its practices.”

According to the ACLU’s lawsuit, Pendergast followed Barros in his car for over a mile and a half before eventually pulling him over for not having a Rhode Island inspection sticker. The car, which belonged to Barros’ sister, actually had Missouri license plates. The officer demanded to see Barros’ license, registration and proof of insurance, even though state law limits any demand for insurance papers specifically to Rhode Island-registered vehicles. Barros immediately produced his license but had to call his sister to locate the registration and insurance. Although he was able to find both documents while the officer was still there, Pendergast still gave Barros a ticket for driving without registration or proof of insurance. Both of the charges were later dismissed in court.

Under today’s settlement, Scituate officials agreed to pay $10,500 to Barros for damages he suffered as a result of the traffic stop and subsequent lawsuit.

“I am relieved that I have gotten some vindication, and that the police chief has acknowledged that steps have been taken to address racial profiling issues by the department,” Barros said.

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