Justice Department Should Reward, Not Demote Official

On August 24th, The NAACP today said the Justice Department should support, not demote, the Bureau of Justice Statistics director who refused to downplay data that confirms racial profiling of African American and Latino drivers.

"Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez should investigate and intervene in this case," said NAACP President & CEO Bruce S. Gordon. "Here is a public official who attempted to shed light on important statistics that support earlier NAACP findings which show black and Latino drivers are searched by law enforcement nearly four times as often as white drivers."

The Justice Department study was ordered by Congress, but its findings seem to be buried. According to a newspaper report, Lawrence A. Greenfeld, former director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, was demoted after he refused to delete data that showed racial profiling in traffic stops, according to 80,000 interviews conducted in 2002.

The NAACP has called on Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act of 2005 to be introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr., (D., Mich.) and Senators Russell D. Feingold (D., Wis.); Arlen Specter (R., Pa.); Hillary Clinton (D., NY) and Jon Corzine (D., NJ).

The Act would prohibit racial profiling; provide funding for the retraining of police officers and hold law enforcement agencies that continue to use racial profiling accountable.

"This legislation is needed to stop this insidious practice and to help begin to restore the confidence of communities of color in law enforcement," said Gordon.

The April study by the Justice Department showed that white, black and Latino drivers were stopped at about the same rate, nearly nine percent. What happened once they were stopped was dramatically different depending on race and ethnicity.

Police searched black drivers or their vehicles 10.2 percent of the time; they searched Latino drivers or their vehicles 11.4 percent of the time compared to 3.5 percent for white drivers. In addition, drivers of color were much more likely to face the threat of force and to be issued tickets, rather than simply a warning, the study found.

The NAACP uncovered evidence of racial profiling during several studies and public hearings around the country over the past few years. One study found that approximately 72 percent of all routine traffic stops on a Northeast interstate highway occurred with African American drivers even though they only made up about 17 percent of the driving population.

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