Racial Profiling

Racial Profiling

The ACLU's Campaign Against Racial Profiling fights law enforcement and private security practices that disproportionately target people of color for investigation and enforcement. We represent individuals who have been victims of racial profiling by airlines, police, and government agencies. We investigate and advocate against racially-biased police practices, including stop-and-frisk. Our work also encompasses major initiatives in public education and advocacy, including the creation of essential resources, lobbying for the passage of data collection and anti-profiling legislation, and litigation of airline and highway profiling cases.

Racial profiling is a longstanding and deeply troubling national problem despite claims that the United States has entered a "post-racial era." It occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country, when law enforcement and private security target people of color for humiliating and often frightening detentions, interrogations, and searches without evidence of criminal activity and based on perceived race, ethnicity, national origin or religion. Racial profiling is patently illegal, violating the Constitution's core promises of equal protection under the law to all and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. Just as importantly, racial profiling is ineffective. It alienates communities from law enforcement, hinders community policing efforts, and causes law enforcement to lose credibility and trust among the people they are sworn to protect and serve.

We rely on the police to protect us from harm and to promote fairness and justice in our communities. But racial profiling has led countless people to live in fear, casting entire communities as suspect simply because of what they look like, where they come from, or what religion they adhere to.

Racial profiling affects a wide array of communities of color. More than 240 years of slavery and 90 years of legalized racial segregation have led to systemic profiling of Blacks in traffic and pedestrian stops. Since September 11, 2001, members of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities have been profiled by airline personnel, federal law enforcement, and local police.

The federal government's encouragement of unprecedented raids of immigrant communities and work places by local law enforcement in cooperation with federal agencies has targeted Latino communities in particular. These policies have unjustly expanded the purview of and undermined basic trust in local law enforcement, alienated immigrant communities, and created an atmosphere of fear anti-immigrant rhetoric has led to a dramatic increase in hate crimes against and racial profiling of Latinos.

The ACLU's work on racial profiling encompasses major initiatives in litigation, public education, and advocacy, including lobbying for passage of data collection and anti-profiling legislation, and litigation on behalf of individuals who have been victims of the practice by airlines, police and government agencies.


Boston Police Racially-Biased "Stop and Frisk" Practices

In October 2014, the ACLU Racial Justice Program and the ACLU of Massachusetts released a report, "Black, Brown and Targeted," which describes powerful new evidence of racially-biased policing in Boston from a preliminary analysis of more than 200,000 reports of police-civilian encounters from 2007-2010. The analysis shows that Boston police engaged in racially biased police-civilian encounters, including stops and frisks, including by targeting both black neighborhoods and black people disproportionately in ways that are not explained by efforts to target crime.
Read the report here: www.aclum.org/stopandfrisk »

The ACLU Response to Ferguson

The shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., is a grim reminder that there are two kinds of policing in America today: one to serve and protect the white community and one to criminalize and control the black community. To serve and protect is not a suggestion. It is a mandate that law enforcement must apply equally to all communities. Otherwise, there will only be more Fergusons. The ACLU and the ACLU of Missouri and allies across the country have urged local, state, and national legislators and law enforcement officials to take a number of actions and institute reforms.
Read more here »

Hebshi v. United States

Shoshana Hebshi, an Ohio mother of two, is challenging Frontier Airlines, Detroit Metro Airport officials and federal authorities for her unlawful arrest, detention and strip-search. Hebshi was racially profiled and targeted because of her ethnicity. The ACLU and ACLU of Michigan represent her in a federal lawsuit. On March 31, 2014 and July 18, 2014 the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan issued decisions allowing Shoshana's racial profiling claims to go forward.
Read more here »

In the News

Black and Blue: The All-Too-Often Toxic Relationship Between Communities of Color and Law Enforcement (2014 Blog)
On the Ground in Ferguson: #BlackLivesMatter (2014 Blog)
Movement for Racial Justice Runs Wide and Deep (2014 Blog)

Additional Resources

A Taxicab Confession for a Post-Ferguson America (2014)
After Ferguson, U.N. Calls on U.S. to Get Its Act Together on Race Discrimination (2014)
For Eric Holder, While He's on the Front Lines in Ferguson (2014)
Ferguson is Everytown, U.S.A.  (2014)
Ferguson Police's PR Stunt Poisons Independent and Impartial Investigation (2014)
Know Your Rights, Ferguson, Missouri (2014)
Making Flying While Brown Safe Again (2014)
The Perversity of Profiling (2014)
Two And A Half Years After Being Racially Profiled, A First Victory (2014)
An Open Letter to the President on Race (2014)

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