New Poll Shows Public Overwhelmingly Disapproves of Racial Profiling

December 9, 1999 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — A Gallup poll released today revealed that the majority of Americans — both black and white — believe that racial profiling is both widespread and unfair. The American Civil Liberties Union, which has long fought racial profiling by police at the local, state and national level, called the poll a resounding wake up call for public officials who deny that a problem exists.

“The Gallup poll makes it clear that it is time for public officials to take their heads out of the sand,” said John Crew, coordinator of the national ACLU’s Campaign Against Racial Profiling. “Law enforcement officers and politicians can not simply wish this issue away. Racial profiling is deeply corrosive to the American tradition of fairness, and there is a growing national consensus that it must be stopped.”

The Gallup poll (available at indicates that 59 percent of the American public believes that racial profiling is widespread; an overwhelming 81 percent disapproves of its use by police.

The ACLU recently launched a national campaign on the problem of racial profiling, also sometimes known as “DWB, driving while black or brown.” Earlier this year the ACLU released a major public policy report on the problem, launched a national hotline 1-877-6-PROFILE for people who feel that they have been targets of racial profiling, promoted anti-profiling legislation at the federal level and approximately 20 states, pushed law enforcement agencies to voluntarily collect traffic stop data to measure the scope of racial profiling, and litigated several racial profiling cases around the country. More information on the campaign and a web-based reporting form can be found at: /profiling

“This poll simply confirms what the ACLU has been saying for years: racial profiling is a national problem and is rejected by an overwhelming number of Americans as unfair,” said Rachel King, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “It is time for elected officials to catch up with the voters and pass legislation to address this problem.”

King said that the House and Senate refused to act on a bill this year that would address the national problem. Legislation that called upon the Attorney General to conduct a study on the issue was passed by the House on an overwhelming bi-partisan basis in 1998, only to die in the Senate.

“While we are pleased that in just the last few months a number of law enforcement officials and organizations have finally begun to consider reforms to address racial profiling, far too many police officials and politicians continue to remain in denial about the scope of the problem,” Crew said. “With the Gallup survey showing African Americans three times more likely than whites to view police unfavorably or as being unfair, it is clear that racial profiling has created a crisis in confidence in communities of color. Addressing this crisis will take more than rhetoric. It requires much more action from federal, state and local officials than we have seen so far.”

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