By: Jay Patel
Blog Category: Racial Profiling & Traffic Stops
Putting the Red Light on Racially Motivated Traffic Stops
In the late 1990’s the State of New Jersey entered into a consent decree with the United States Department of Justice. The basis: New Jersey State Troopers were using race as a means of discriminating among drivers stopped for traffic infractions. The consent decree underscored a stark reality; police officers across the country were using race as a pretext to stop, and in many cases, harass minorities. The question then becomes: How can we curb these flagrant abuses?
Several commentators have proposed suggestions which could be easily implemented and maintained. The first proposal would establish internal police policies which would set forth standardized procedures that an officer would have to follow when conducting a traffic stop. To ensure that these policies are followed, the author suggests financial awards or fines based on departmental adherence. Another commentator has suggested that by either restricting or barring consent based searches race-centric stops will cease. He would apply the Terry standard of reasonable suspicion for a stop and frisk as a prong to any motorist consent. In short, law enforcement officers would need both the motorist’s consent and reasonable suspicion that illegal contraband was present before conducting a search. The other plausible scenario would render ineffective a citizen’s consent to search and effectively bar the police from searching a motor vehicle.
Ideally we would like to reside in a society where racial profiling does not exist; however, that is not the reality. Therefore, it is important that we consider one or many of the proffered solutions as a means to end racial profiling.
 Noah Kupferberg, TRANSPARENCY: A NEW ROLE FOR POLICE CONSENT DECREES, 42 Colum. J. L. & Soc. Probs. 129,139 (2008).
 Id. at 134 (detailing the United State Department of Justice’s investigation and subsequent consent decree with the City of Los Angeles); See also David A. Harris, ESSAY: “DRIVING WHILE BLACK” AND ALL OTHER TRAFFIC OFFENSES: THE SUPREME COURT AND PRETEXTUAL TRAFFIC STOPS, 87 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 544, 561-69 (1997) (detailing several disturbing race-based traffic stops).
 Id. at 576-79; See also, Timothy P. O’Neil, Article: Vagrants in Volvos: Ending Pretextual Traffic Stops and Consent Searches of Vehicles in Illinois, 40 Loy. U. Chi. L.J. 745, 772-779. (2009).
 Harris, supra, note 3 at 576-79.
 Id. at 579.
 O’Neil, supra, note 4 at 774-75.
 Id. at 773.
 Id. at 778-79.
 Id. at 778.