Spokane Police Address Racial Profiling Concerns with Review of Stops

Affiliate: ACLU of Washington
June 22, 2000 12:00 am

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

SPOKANE, WA – According to the Associated Press today, Spokane police say they will try to determine whether there is a pattern of racial profiling in local traffic stops.

The AP reported that police officials previously denied charges of racial profiling from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, but Chief Roger Bragdon said the department is reviewing traffic stops made last year.

“I’m doing it solely to gain the trust of everyone in our community, minority or not,” Bragdon said. If there is a pattern that indicates profiling, he said, other areas of police work also will be examined. He hopes to have some results by the end of next month.

Racial profiling – targeting ethnic groups based on stereotypes – has become a hot issue nationwide. Washington State Patrol troopers are required to gather specific information, including race, from motorists they contact. (More information is available at: http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w030200a.html.) Seattle police are studying the racial makeup of people who receive citations, and the state Senate Judiciary Committee has held hearings on racial profiling. (More information is available at: http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w061600a.html.)

In April, the ACLU and other civil rights groups in Washington announced they were launching a campaign to fight racial profiling throughout the state. (More information is available at: http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/n041900b.html and http://www.aclu-wa.org/ISSUES/police/DWB-Index.html.) The Spokane study initially covers when and where drivers were pulled over. Bragdon also wants to know whether black motorists were stopped more often than whites for minor offenses, such as faulty taillights or failing to signal.

“If a higher percentage of minorities are stopped for nonhazardous violations, it would kind of make you wonder,” Bragdon said. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Spokane County’s population was 1.6 percent black as of 1996. Bragdon said 900 tickets out of 29,000 – about 3 percent – were given to black drivers last year. If initial traffic numbers show signs of racial profiling, the probe could expand, he said.

Information on selected other law enforcement programs around the country to address racial profiling concerns through review of traffic stop data is available at: http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w052500a.html (Sacramento), http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w041400d.html (Minneapolis/St.Paul) http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w032500a.html (Milwaukee), http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w022700a.html (Salt Lake City), http://archive.aclu.org/news/1999/w081299a.html (Houston), http://archive.aclu.org/news/1999/w032599a.html (San Jose), (San Diego),http://archive.aclu.org/news/1999/w020599d.html (Richmond, Virginia), http://archive.aclu.org/news/1999/w121099c.html (Michigan State Police), http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w061400b.html (Massachusetts State Police), http://archive.aclu.org/news/1999/w092499a.html (Washington State Patrol), http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w021000a.html (Florida agencies), http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w060300b.html (Texas Department of Public Safety), http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w032000b.html (St. George, Utah), http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w021200b.html (Palo Alto), http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w020800a.html (Ann Arbor) , http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w033100c.html (Spartanburg, South Carolina), http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w060900b.html (Western Pennsylvania agencies), and http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w032300a.html (Stockton).

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.

The Latest in Smart Justice

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About Smart Justice

Smart Justice issue image

The ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice is an unprecedented, multiyear effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50% and to challenge racism in the criminal legal system.