ACLU Calls for Congressional Action on Racial Profiling
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 14, 1999
WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union is pleased to join Congressman Conyers and Senators Feingold and Lautenberg today to announce introduction of the “Traffic Stops Statistics Act.” The ACLU has been fighting the so-called offense that has come to be derisively known as “driving while black (or brown)” since the late 1980’s. This year we have made the issue one of our highest priorities.
Today as we call for passage of this federal legislation, our California affiliate is holding a news conference calling for passage of a similar state measure. The ACLU will soon file its ninth lawsuit on behalf of drivers who are victims of racial profiling. So far we have filed lawsuits in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, Illinois and Indiana. Also, in just a few weeks we will launch a national campaign of public service announcements that will provide radio listeners with a toll free hotline to call and report their complaints.
Racial profiling is a national problem that is corroding trust in the very people who are supposed to protect us. Daily fear and humiliation is visited upon people of color who simply wish to do without a second thought what most Americans – drive their cars to work, to the grocery store and to visit families and loved ones.
While the harm racial profiling inflicts on black and brown communities cannot be overstated, we must not forget that racial profiling hurts all Americans. That is why the Chiefs of Police in San Diego and San Jose decided not to wait for legislation – as we speak they are voluntarily working to implement a data collection process similar to the one this bill encourages all police departments to undertake.
San Diego Police Chief Jerry Sanders said he feared that a deep distrust of the police threatened the success of his department’s community policing efforts. San Jose Police Chief Bill Lansdowne said that the perception of racial bias by police nationwide had tainted the reputation of his department. The police chiefs who deny that racial profiling is a problem should seize this opportunity to clear their departments’ names and voluntarily begin to collect data.
Our country cannot long remain a world leader in justice, freedom and democracy when entire segments of its population are identified as criminal simply because of skin color. We cannot afford to sweep the problem of racial profiling under the rug any longer. It is time to pass Representative Conyer’s bill and take this first modest step toward righting a serious wrong.
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