Sunday, September 22, 2019


Article Index

V. Community and Organization Initiatives

A. Community Initiative Response

In addition to campaigning for state and local laws to collect data on traffic stops, community organizations and local enforcement agencies can begin to address the issue of racial profiling by working together to identify solutions. Community groups can lobby for state and federal laws prohibiting racial profiling of motorists. This may entail organizing an advisory council, a community relations commission, and other boards to specifically address how to end racial profiling. Enacting various state laws and local ordinances cannot eliminate many centuries of conflicts between law enforcement and the African-American community, particularly African-American males and the police. In order to remedy such conflicts, there must be an on-going and meaningful dialogue on racial profiling between various racial and ethnic groups and the police.

Where city officials and law enforcement agencies fail to adequately address racial issues facing the African-American community, organizations have engaged in boycotts against white businesses. This occurred in Cincinnati when the Black United Front (BUF) contacted groups who had planned to have their conventions in Cincinnati. BUF asked the groups to move their convention to another city because of the unresolved racial issues in the city, especially racial profiling. The use of boycotting white businesses is not a new approach to pressing political leaders to end patterns and practices of racial discrimination. However, leaders of such boycotts may face litigation if they pursue this method of attacking racial profiling.

*757 B. Civil Rights Organizations

Civil rights organizations have historically fought in and out of court for the civil rights of minorities. In particular, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have led the fight to end racial profiling. Courts have held that such organizations have standing to bring litigation to protect minorities from racial profiling by law enforcement agencies. The NAACP has been successful in pursuing class action suits against municipalities who engage in racially discriminatory stops, as well as implementing negotiation agreements to prohibit racial profiling.

The ACLU has taken a national and aggressive position in combating racial profiling. The ACLU has pursued a number of cases in federal court against municipalities, which have resulted in large monetary awards and settlements. The ACLU Chapter in California has also established a telephone hot-line to gather data from individuals who are routinely stopped by law enforcement officers.

*758 Along with the ACLU and the NAACP, a number of other civil rights organizations in California formed the Racial Justice Coalition to promote the passage of a bill requiring law enforcement agencies to collect data on the race and ethnicity of motorists stopped by officers. Civil rights organizations around the country should join forces to promote laws to collect similar data in their respective cities and states. Once data is collected and it appears that law enforcement officials have engaged in racial profiling, civil rights organizations should begin to campaign for city and state officials to take corrective action.

Additionally, civil rights organizations may need to provide financial assistance for individuals to bring civil suits against local enforcement agencies. Without financial support, African-Americans may not be able to vindicate violations of their civil rights.

The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) has been instrumental in providing training for law enforcement agencies on recognizing and preventing racial profiling. In addition, *759 NOBLE has conducted a national study on collecting and analyzing racial profiling data.

C. State and Local Bar Association Initiatives

State and local bar associations, as well as other legal associations, can play a major role in addressing the issue of racial profiling in their locales. Indeed, state and local organizations can use its membership to leverage state legislatures into enacting statutes outlawing such conduct. For example in 1999, the Columbus Bar Association, in Ohio, appointed a Racial Profiling Task Force to examine the issue of racial profiling in central Ohio. The Task Force made the following recommendations to law enforcement agencies:

[1] Voluntarily institute a system of data collection and analysis of all traffic stops; [2] install video and audio equipment on all police cruisers; [3] establish sensitivity training for all police officers regarding racial profiling concerns; [4] simplify the process by which citizens may file complaints of racial profiling; and [5] strengthen community outreach to publicize the rejection of racial profiling tactics and avenues available for filing complaints.

Other bar associations such as Delaware have implemented a variety of initiatives to combat racial profiling in their state. In addition, the American Bar Association has expressed support of federal legislation prohibiting racial profiling.

D. Local Enforcement Organizations

In the midst of allegations of racism, lawsuits, and pending legislation, local police departments must develop and implement internal policies and programs to end the practice of racial profiling. Recently, the Police *760 Commissioner of New York City issued an order entitled Department Policy Regarding Racial Profiling. The policy defines racial profiling, prohibits such conduct, and mandates that officers have a legitimate reason for stopping and searching motorists. Similarly, the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners adopted language in their police manual prohibiting the use of racial profiling in stopping motorists. Likewise, police departments across the country have committed to ending racial profiling by issuing directives, collecting data, and conducting studies on traffic stops and arrests.

Often, African-American motorists who are stopped by law enforcement officers are treated in a disrespectful manner and with a lack of cultural sensitivity, which results in the perception that they were stopped because of racial profiling. Law enforcement officers who have little or no contact with African-Americans and other minorities may fail to understand how to effectively communicate with individuals from different backgrounds and cultures. To address this issue, law enforcement agencies should include sensitivity and respectfulconduct in their training program. For example, the Floridian Police Chief's Association issued a Sample Professional Traffic Stops Policy and Procedure which outlines, in part, procedures for greeting motorists in a professional manner and how to defuse tension during the stops. The sample also includes a complaint processing system for handling racial profiling complaints in a timely manner. Every law enforcement agency should have a complaint processing system which permits motorists *761 to file a complaint when they believe they were stopped because of their race. The investigation and resolution of the complaint may avoid protracted litigation. Similar processes have been developed by other law enforcement organizations to prevent incidents of racial profiling.

In a joint effort to end racial profiling in Ohio, top law enforcement agencies signed a pledge to prohibit any form of racial profiling by their respective organizations. Even though such pledges have no enforcement provisions, this constitutes a good faith effort to recognize the commitment to eliminating racial profiling. Clearly, future efforts and enforcement mechanics will be needed by each agency to fully eradicate the continued use of racial profiling.


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Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law