3-00 New Development in Oklahoma Racial Profiling Case Opens Door to Systemic Changes, ACLU Says

Affiliate: ACLU of Oklahoma
August 23, 2000 12:00 am

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — Ruling in a racial profiling case against state police, a federal judge has granted a request by the American Civil Liberties Union to add the NAACP and its members to the lawsuit, which may clear the way for systemic changes should the ACLU prevail at trial.

“The ACLU is seeking justice not only for its clients, but for all people of color in Oklahoma who have been victims of racial profiling by the state highway patrol,” said lead attorney Reginald Shuford of the national ACLU, which filed the case with the ACLU of Oklahoma.

Shuford said that the August 16 ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge David L. Russell may clear the way for the ACLU to seek changes requiring state troopers to stop racial profiling and to establish legal safeguards, including a traffic stops reporting system, to prevent future incidents.

Richard Allen, president of the Oklahoma state NAACP, called on members to contact his organization or the ACLU if they believe they have been singled out by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol because of the color of their skin.

In May 1999, the ACLU sued the state highway patrol on behalf of Master Sergeant Rossano V. Gerald and his son, claiming violations of federal civil rights law and of the Geralds’ constitutional rights to equal treatment and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

During a two-and-a-half hour traffic stop on Interstate 40 in 1998, state troopers dismantled the car of the Army veteran, terrorized his 12-year-old son with a police dog and turned off the patrol car’s video evidence camera halfway through the ordeal.

In March of this year, Master Sgt. Gerald described his ordeal in testimony before a U.S. Senate panel that is considering federal legislation to address the shameful practice of racial profiling, also known as “DWB,” or “Driving While Black or Brown.”

As part of a national campaign to end “DWB,” the ACLU has established a toll-free hotline, 1-877-6-PROFILE. In addition, the ACLU is currently conducting a radio and television public service announcement campaign in more than 30 states, including Oklahoma, urging victims of “DWB” to report incidents.

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