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Posts Tagged ‘racial profiling’

Freedom of Religion? Not if You are a Practicing Muslim and Live in Newark, New Jersey

September 8th, 2014 No comments

By: Marcia Leach

Blog Category: Religion & Race

Hassan v. City of New York, filed on June 6, 2012 in federal court in New Jersey, was brought on behalf of several New Jersey plaintiffs who were targeted and surveilled by the New York Police Department (NYPD) solely because of their religious affiliation.  Among the eleven Plaintiffs are a decorated Iraq war veteran, current and former Rutgers University students, the parent organization of the Muslim Student Associations of Rutgers University (Newark and New Brunswick campuses), a coalition of New Jersey mosques, and the owners and proprietors of a grade-school for Muslim girls.  The plaintiffs share just one characteristic: their Muslim affiliation.  That fact alone led the NYPD to target and surveil them in clear violation of U.S. constitutional principles.

On Febuary 20, 2014, U.S. District Judge William Martini held that plaintiffs in Hassan v. City of New York lacked standing because they alleged no injury in fact, which “requires more than a subjective chill, and even if the plaintiffs had met that element, they had not shown causation.”  Martini found that the stigma, career damage and other harms alleged did not flow from the surveillance itself but from the Associated Press’s unauthorized disclosure of the spying program.  Further, Martini held, the plaintiffs failed to state a religious discrimination claim because “the more likely explanation for the surveillance was a desire to locate budding terrorist conspiracies.”

Martini reasoned that because the Sept. 11 attacks were perpetrated by 19 Muslims, who were members of al Qaeda “[t]he police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.  While this surveillance Program may have had adverse effects upon the Muslim community after the Associated Press published its articles; the motive for the Program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims.”  Additionally, Martini pointed to the fact that the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office announced in May 2012 that a fact-finding review of intelligence-gathering in New Jersey by New York police revealed no evidence that it broke any of the state’s civil or criminal laws.

The New Jersey Muslims will continue to fight for the right of Religious Freedom by appealing the dismissal of their federal court suit.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

Source:

Hassan v. City of New York, 2014 WL 654604 (D.N.J. 2014).
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Untangling True Racial Profiling From Other Factors

September 9th, 2013 No comments

By: Jason Gibson

Blog Category: Racial Profiling & Traffic Stops

A study done in Cincinnati found that minority drivers experienced longer stops and higher search rates than white drivers.  Looking at this study in a vacuum it could be used to support an argument that these drivers were victims of racial profiling.  However, when researchers compared the data against white drivers who were stopped at the same time, place, and for the same reasons, the differences disappeared.

Identifying the disparity in treatment by police is the easy part.  The difficulty lies in separating the numerous other factors involved in a traffic stop from true racial discrimination.   If there are more police on patrol in a neighborhood with a higher minority population, then logically more minority drivers will be stopped.  Is the higher police presence a result of discrimination or is it in response to increased crime in a certain area?  Studies have shown that seatbelt usage is chronically lower among minority drivers.  When are officers being aggressive in enforcing these types of violations, and when is it due to racial bias?

The use of racial profiling in traffic stops, or any other area of law enforcement, is a disgrace.  It is a tool used by a few officers that tarnishes the reputation of entire departments.  No one talks about the specific officers who attacked Rodney King, they talk about the L.A.P.D.  By creating better methods designed to isolate true racial profiling, law enforcements agencies will be able to focus on identifying the offending officers more quickly and reduce the incidents of racial profiling.   This is why some researchers support creating benchmarks for individual officers to identify the offending officers before more incidents can occur.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

Source:

Racial Profiling and Traffic Stops, National Institute of Justice, available at http://www.nij.gov/nij/topics/law-enforcement/legitimacy/traffic-stops.htm.

Putting the Red Light on Racially Motivated Traffic Stops

June 17th, 2013 No comments

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.[1] The basis: New Jersey State Troopers were using race as a means of discriminating among drivers stopped for traffic infractions.[2] 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.[3] The question then becomes: How can we curb these flagrant abuses?

Several commentators have proposed suggestions which could be easily implemented and maintained.[4] 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.[5] To ensure that these policies are followed, the author suggests financial awards or fines based on departmental adherence.[6] Another commentator has suggested that by either restricting or barring consent based searches race-centric stops will cease.[7] He would apply the Terry standard of reasonable suspicion for a stop and frisk as a prong to any motorist consent.[8] In short, law enforcement officers would need both the motorist’s consent and reasonable suspicion that illegal contraband was present before conducting a search.[9] The other plausible scenario would render ineffective a citizen’s consent to search and effectively bar the police from searching a motor vehicle.[10]

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.


[1]  Noah Kupferberg, TRANSPARENCY: A NEW ROLE FOR POLICE CONSENT DECREES, 42 Colum. J. L. & Soc. Probs. 129,139 (2008).

[2]  Id.

[3] 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).

[4]  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).

[5] Harris, supra, note 3 at 576-79.

[6] Id. at 579.

[7]  O’Neil, supra, note 4 at 774-75.

[8]  Id. at 773.

[9]  Id. at 778-79.

[10]  Id. at 778.

Whether or not racial profiling in traffic stops is a thing of the past

May 27th, 2013 No comments

By: *Marthe Ngwashi

Blog Topic: Racial Profiling & Traffic Stops

Whether or not racial profiling in traffic stops is a thing of the past.

 

Could racial profiling in traffic stops be an issue of the past? While difficult to determine whether discrimination or other factors dictate a traffic stop, people of color, as research indicates, continue to be stopped more often than whites.[1] For a traffic stop, the purpose of profiling based on race remains unsubstantiated, while the length and search rate for stops between a person of color and a similarly situated white driver may be no different at all.[2] In fact, one study noted that a higher level of discrimination on an officer’s part, does not even take place prior to a stop.[3] Analytically though, something likely more important than the stop itself is the character of each stop and the subsequent treatment of the individual(s) detained.[4]

All things considered, research verifies that subjectivity plays a role in an officer’s decision to make a stop.[5] As such, any attempts to discontinue a practice involving racial bias will require commitment and persistence on a police chief’s part and patience from the public. It is unknown whether the bias stems from the culture within a police department or merely a small group of problem officers.[6] As a result, it is evident that racial profiling in traffic stops is not an issue of the past.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

 


*Marthe Ngwashi is a staff member on Widener’s Journal of Law, Economics & Race. To learn more about Marthe, click here to view her page.

[1] Racial Profiling and Traffic Stops, National Institute of Justice (Jan 10, 2013), http://www.nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/legitimacy/traffic-stops.htm#noteReferrer1

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

Driving While Intoxicated and Driving While Black

May 6th, 2013 No comments

By: *Bruce Owens

Blog Topic: Racial Profiling and Traffic Stops

Driving While Intoxicated and Driving While Black: Analyzing the Inconsistency in Police Traffic Stops and the Proposal of House Bill 2661

Racial Profiling during traffic stops has been notorious in America for many years.  Take the state of Oregon, for example, where Representative Lew Frederick (D-Portland), an African-American male, who is the spokesperson for Portland’s Public Schools, has been stopped three times by the police near his own home.  Oregon’s minority population has been growing since the year 2000 where the population for Hispanics “rose from 8 percent in 2000 to 11.7 percent in 2010,” while African-Americans grew from a substantially small percentage of 1.6 to a miniscule 1.8 percent.  According to an Oregon State Police study in the year 2001-02, it was reported that minorities were “no more likely to be stopped than whites.”  However, they received arrests and citations, rather than warnings, “at greater rates than whites after being stopped.” This has become a huge issue, especially in areas of Oregon where the amount of minority drivers is substantially outweighed by drivers that are white.

It is not always easy to determine, from an outsider’s perspective, whether traffic stops of all or most minorities are actually the result of some illegal activity or being at the wrong place at the wrong time due to heightened suspicions of officers at night or in being in an urban area.  However, a recent attempt by Rep. Frederick is aimed at requiring the collection of data on these type of statistics to help determine what the core issue is when police are making these types of decisions.  The Bill proposed by Rep. Frederick, House Bill 2661, would require a study by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to collect data on police stops of minorities.  Frederick states, “It’s clear we have racial disparities in stops, arrests and other law enforcement actions.”  “What we do not have is the data to show where it is happening and how often it is happening.”

The Bill will specifically collect data on the following:
1)    Disparities in the racial or economic status of people that are stopped or “subjected to the use of force by police officers;”
2)   The effect racial and economic status “on interactions not related to crime between police officers and members of the public;” AND
3)   “Recruitment and retention of minorities by law enforcement agencies, district attorney offices,” and other facilities.

On paper, this seems like a progressive way of targeting the issue of racial profiling by the police, specifically in traffic stops.  However, the question, as it always will be with legislative bills, is how effective will this study actually be?

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

_____________________________

*Bruce Owens is a staff member on Widener’s Journal of Law, Economics & Race. To learn more about Bruce, Click here to visit his page.

To learn more about this topic see:

Peter Wong, Bill Would Gather Data On Police Stops of Minorities, Statesmen Journal (Mar. 15, 2013), http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20130312/NEWS/303120016/Bill-would-gather-data-police-stops-minorities.

Hannah Hoffman, Bill Would Require More Collection of Crime Data On Minorities, Statesmen Journal (Mar. 15, 2013), http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20130306/UPDATE/130305058/Bill-would-require-more-collection-crime-data-minorities.