CLU Calls State's Reversal in Racial Profiling Case "Too Little, Too Late"

April 20, 1999 12:00 am

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Tuesday, April 20, 1999

NEWARK, NJ — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey said today that the state’s decision to dismiss it’s appeal of a racial profiling case is too little too late, and that the Governor must do much more to address the widespread problems of policing in the state.

“It is about time that the Attorney General acknowledged that a problem exists,” said Lenora Lapidus, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “Evidence that the state police use race as a basis for making stops along the New Jersey Turnpike was presented to the court five years ago. Despite this evidence, and despite the Judge’s ruling that this discriminatory practice exists, the state repeatedly denied the truth.”

In a motion filed with the appeals court today, Attorney General Peter Verniero said that the State was withdrawing the appeal as a result of its ongoing investigation of racial profiling.

“The State’s decision to withdraw the appeal does not begin to address the problem of racial profiling,” stated William Buckman, one of the attorneys representing the defendants in the case. “The Governor and the Attorney General must make a sincere commitment to root out the problem, including massive retraining of police officers.”

Evidence presented in 1994 and 1995 at trial in State v. Soto showed that although African Americans comprised only 13.5% of the drivers — and 15% of the vehicles speeding — along a stretch of the Turnpike in South Jersey, they comprised 46.2% of the people stopped by the State Police in that area.

Superior Court Judge Robert Francis agreed that a policy of racial profiling was in operation on the New Jersey Turnpike. In its March 1996, ruling, the court also found an “utter failure by the State Police hierarchy to monitor and control . . . or investigate the many claims of institutional discrimination.” The State’s appeal in State v. Soto, Docket No. A-5534-95T3, was scheduled for oral argument before the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division on April 28.

The ACLU of New Jersey said it will release a report later this week showing that problems of policing in New Jersey run much deeper than racial profiling by State Troopers along the New Jersey Turnpike.

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