The great era of civil rights started in the 1960s, with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s stirring “I have a Dream” speech at the historic march on Washington in August of 1963. At the same time Birmingham Police Commissioner “Bull” Connor used powerful fire hoses and vicious police attack dogs against nonviolent black civil rights activists. Although these years proved to be the highlight and downfall of civil rights in America, even with the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act being passed, time has repeated these tumultuous events again in the present.
Racial profiling has been one of many civil rights issues concerning the unnecessary stopping and arresting of people based on race, color, ethnicity and gender. Skin-color has become evidence of the propensity to commit crime, and police use this “evidence” against minority drivers on the road all the time. This practice is so common that the minority community has given it the derisive term, “Driving While Black or Brown” – a play on the real offense of “driving while intoxicated”. Although many law enforcement officers defend themselves by saying they are fighting against the “War on Drugs” by arresting these law offenders, recent trials and reports show that no basis of arrest have been found against these minorities. Official skin-color prejudice is still reflected throughout the criminal justice system. Today, skin-color makes you a suspect in America. It makes you more likely to be stopped by a law enforcement officer, more likely to be searched, and more likely to be arrested and imprisoned. Tens of thousands of innocent motorists on highways across the country are victims of racial profiling, and these discriminatory police stops have reached epidemic proportions in recent years. Fueled by the “War on Drugs”, this fight has given police a pretext to target people who they think fit a “drug courier” or “gang member” profile.
At many times, these minorities have been stopped and arrested for illegal offenses, however we are not sure if these stories have been filed truthfully by law enforcement officers. Many police departments face issues concerning racist law enforcement officers who cause the problems of racial profiling. One such example comes from the Hillside Police Department, where several racial bias charges have been made against them. Racial slurs have become common in the Hillside district, where even the department supervisor does background checks on minorities IN the squad, even to kick them off the squad. In this department, only two officers are Hispanic and one is of African decent. The officers, many of whom are white, are encouraged to target minorities first to fill their ticket quotas for the month. Hillside officers defend themselves saying that Hillside is 40 percent black and 20 percent Hispanic. However, the actions taken by Hillside officer, such as targeting to fill quotas and background checking, seem disconcerting. The Reverend Jesse Jackson even needed to call for federal protection for whistleblowing police officers. Because of the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act, passed this year, other officials who witness this discriminating act are protected. It says, “The identity of a law enforcement officer who complains in food faith to a government agency or department about the unlawful practices of a law enforcement agency shall remain confidential and shall not be disclosed by any person except upon the knowing written consent of the law enforcement officer. This section shall not preempt any right of confrontation protected by the Constitution of by Federal, State or tribal law.”
In many cases, we can not determine whether the racial profiling comes from the individual law enforcer, or the department itself. Many policies have been suggested to either report these discriminatory acts, or to record the ethnicity, race, or gender of the person being stopped. However, without the correct supervision of these officers, we can not truthfully tell whether these policies will be followed. There have been bills proposed to even make the slightest positive effect on racial profiling, yet many have been overlooked. Former California Governor Pete Wilson served as best he could to fight key civil rights issues such as affirmative action and immigrant rights, however Governor Gray Davis has had a disappointing civil rights record. Although he has helped establish new civil rights gains for the lesbian and gay communities, he has also vetoed a number of bills aimed at reducing discrimination against communities of color and immigrants. SB 44, a bill sponsored by Senator Richard Polanco, encourages state and local governments to conduct outreach programs. SB 44 had bipartisan support and was previously endorsed by former Attorney General Dan Lungren. Governor Davis vetoed the bill claiming that outreach toward minorities and women would violate Proposition 209, a position contrary to recent court decisions. Davis also vetoes what has been colloquially referred to as the “Driving While Black or Brown” bill (SB 78.) The bill was proposed to combat racial profiling – law enforcement actions taken simply because of the race of the driver – by requiring police officers to file reports on all motorists they stop. Although President Clinton has recently ordered federal law enforcement agencies to begin collecting this data, and a number of Bay Area police departments have similar plans, Davis saw little need to collect this information. However, the “Driving While Black or Brown” bill makes much sense to part of the solution I will propose to help decrease or even end the crime of racial profiling.
Although there have been many ideas brought up to solve racial profiling in American, there still isn’t one dynamic and problem solving solution. Many bills have been passed to help and protect minorities, who can bring their cases all the way to court, however, sometimes the officers being accused are not found. All though my proposed solution is not the most money conserving idea, it will cover almost all the faulty lines, the bills and the policies have forgotten to mention.
A committee should be established within the United States Government in which the committee shall oversee each county and district and department for any racial profiling. These members should be made up of civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and the ACLU. Also, there should be advising law enforcement officers and people appointed from each civil rights division in the government. Within districts, officials shall be appointed to oversee the actions of the departments, and report to higher authorities in the committee. A committee similar to this has been formed because of the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act of 2000, called the Task Force on Law Enforcement Oversight. Each department should first make an independent audit. There have been many policies made and almost approved to make these audits mandatory for all police departments. Each person should record the following: race, color, ethnicity, gender, and the reason for being stopped. Every 4 months or so, the committee shall evaluate each district and their statistics on what kinds of people are being stopped and determine which city has higher minority stopping, based on population of the area and racial crime in the area. Because Americans are segregated into communities, as in the Greater Los Angeles Area, more minorities will be stopped in certain areas than others will. Because of this problem, the committee will evaluate the area, and observe data written by law enforcement officers, to see if plausible reasons have caused the stopping of a minority.
Once all data has been evaluated, the districts with the highest racial profiling rating shall complete a full audit report for the following months. Also, individual law enforcement shall be evaluated as well, to see if it is only one individual who increases the rating, rather that the whole department. If the racial profiling is targeted and found, the committee shall be the one who files complaints to the Attorney General, and that certain department or law enforcer will be detained to consequences can be established. To be able to bring these racial profilers to trial, people should not only file a complaint to the department itself, fear of the complaint being “lost”, but to the committee as well so the complaint can be used as evidence.
This solution can only work if districts, departments, and law enforcement officers can truthfully carry out these procedures. No matter how hard the outside world tries to find the culprit, the officer can easily protect or defend themselves because of their high position as a law protector. Many minorities are arrested with valid reason by law enforcement officers, just as white people are. But these officers can also be the targets of accusation of racial profiling.
Racial profiling has been a long and disconcerting problem in the United States. It will be a long time before minorities will not serve as the targets to law enforcers. The blame is almost easier to put on the minorities because of their difference to the “American Culture”, as almost to say that minorities are not part of the American Culture.