Black Police Executives Tackle Racial Profiling

December 4, 1999 12:00 am


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OAKLAND, CA – The Oakland Tribune reported today that the collection of racial data from traffic stops should be part of any strategy for improving police-community relations according to panelists at a conference on Friday of black law enforcement leaders.

The “Racial Profiling and Discrimination” discussion was held during the opening of a two-day western regional conference of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) convened at the Oakland Airport Hilton Hotel.

According to the Tribune, dozens of Bay Area police officials were joined by peers from as far away as Riverside, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Many said they, too, had been victimized by unfair police stops, including one by a neighbor. The conference addressed a flurry of “driving while black” complaints from minorities who claim they were stopped unfairly by police.

Panelists who talked about racial profiling included Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris; John Crew of the American Civil Liberties Union¹s Campaign Against Racial Profiling; former Director of the U.S. Justice Department¹s Office of Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) Joseph Brann; Berkeley Police Chief Daschel Butler; San Jose Police Chief William Lansdowne; NOBLE national president Wesley Mitchell and Clancy Faria, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California.

“This is not about rogue officers but rogue tactics,” the ACLU¹s Crew said. Minorities are too often stopped on highways by police looking for drugs, questioned in mostly white suburbs or targeted in big cities. For example, in Maryland, along one highway, blacks comprised 14 percent of drivers but 75 percent of persons stopped, even though the rates of persons found with drugs was equal among whites and blacks, Crew said.

NOBLE¹s Mitchell warned that many civil disturbances have been sparked by traffic stops. “We need to raise the bar on training, citizen engagement, counseling by supervisors,” said Mitchell. Los Angeles is making progress by finding young people to serve on advisory boards to improve police-community relations and understanding, he said.

“We should not allow probable cause to be replaced by racial profiling,” added Burris, even when it involves the war on drugs. Burris, author of “Blue Versus Black,” a book about police and black community relations, said too often whites don’t see a problem. “They aren’t stopped as much … and being stopped is hurtful to your psyche.”

The newspaper said nationwide, 50 law enforcement agencies – including Berkeley, San Jose and 33 others in California – voluntarily collect traffic stop data. Oakland will start in January. Legislators in 19 states are considering bills and four states have passed measures.

San Jose¹s Lansdowne, who is white, recalled being stopped when he went to Washington, D.C., to discuss racial profiling and found himself lost early one morning in a black neighborhood. “The officer thought a white guy in a suit was looking for drugs or women …” he said.

Today, San Jose works with the local NAACP and urges youths to cooperate with police but also report officers who may have made racial stops.

Speakers also urged officials not to see numerical monitoring as fodder for lawsuits but as signals for reforms.

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