Washington, DC (December 22, 2000) -- The Justice Department in the new Bush administration should take immediate action to expunge all remnants of racial profiling from law enforcement training materials, in light of recent testimony and documents revealed in New Jersey which establish a pattern of race-based instruction by federal agencies in training state and local police officers, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
"The new Attorney General should make eradication of this poisonous and unlawful practice a first-order priority in office," said Edward Mallett, a criminal defense lawyer from Houston who currently serves as NACDL's president.
"Congress, too, needs to conduct a no-holds-barred oversight investigation into the deep-seated racial orientation of law enforcement training throughout America," said Mallett. "Every Republican and Democratic candidate agreed during this fall's campaign that racial profiling is wrong and that we should make sure that it is terminated, and deleted from the ''conventional wisdom'' of law enforcement."
"Some 80 percent of the population agrees that they're right," said Mallett, citing a Gallup poll from 1999. "It seems like this would be a perfect chance for President-elect Bush and the new Congress to move forward in the spirit of bipartisanship they've talked about, and to right a wrong that leaves an intolerable blemish on the integrity of law enforcement today."
Mallett's call for reform comes in the face of more than 90,000 pages of documents recently released, some indicating that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) systematically taught racial profiling to state and federal law enforcement officers.
"These materials show clearly that racial profiling is, at the core, a federal issue," said William H. Buckman, an NACDL board member from New Jersey who, since 1990, has documented systematic profiling along the New Jersey Turnpike and elsewhere in the state.
NACDL News Release: Eliminate racial profiling
December 21, 2000
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In fact, New Jersey officials recently argued that the reason racial profiling is a national issue is that it was initiated and encouraged by the federal government's war on drugs (see New York Times, Nov. 29, 2000).
Buckman is currently sorting through the 90,000 pages of documents and posting on his Web site (www.whbuckman.com) as he finds them, those which suggest the teaching of racial profiling by federal agencies. The entire set of documents is online at www.stopthedrugwar.org, the Web site of the Drug Reform Coordination Network.
"The state turned over the documents ''voluntarily,'' when it was clear that the judge would eventually force them to do it," said Buckman. "Unfortunately, they turned them over to us in a format that is not searchable by word and phrase, so the work involved is prodigious."
To date, however, examination of the documents reveals numerous references to racial characteristics associated with drug dealers, implying that officers should single out minorities for arbitrary stops and searches.
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While the DEA denies ever having taught or encouraged profiling, just five years ago the agency stopped distributing training videos where all the drug suspects have Spanish surnames, thereby indicating some awareness that their training materials were at least suggestive as to profiling. And as recently as 1999, the DEA released a "Heroin Trends" report highlighted by ethnic and racial references. It stated that "[p]redominant wholesale traffickers are Columbian, followed by Dominicans, Chinese, West African/Nigerian, Pakistani, Hispanic, and Indian" and that "[m]idlevels are dominated by Dominicans, Colombians, Puerto Ricans, African-Americans, and Nigerians."
Eleven states have passed laws on their own addressing racial profiling, but some have considerably more teeth than others. All of the laws prohibit traffic stops based on profiling, but California and Oregon do not require the reporting of arrest statistics. Connecticut, Kansas, and Missouri withhold funding from local law enforcement entities which do not comply with reporting requirements; Rhode Island provides for a civil cause of action for noncompliance; and Oklahoma makes noncompliance a misdemeanor. The remaining states --North Carolina, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Washington-- require reporting but do not have enforcement provisions.
NACDL Communications Department
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.