Posted March 3, 2005 -- If you’re Black and driving through Texas, police are almost twice as likely to pull you over and search your car than if you were White, a new study shows.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) this week called for congressional hearings to examine just how bad racial profiling is across the nation.
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Statewide, Blacks are 1.6 times as likely to be stopped by police than their White counterparts, according to the study, conducted by the Steward Research Group, which surveyed more than 400 Texas law enforcement agencies. Latinos are about 1.4 times more likely to undergo such treatment, it shows.
“I think the study confirms what we already knew…racial profiling is way too prevalent in this city and state, and in general. Searches are ineffective; they're not producing any desirable results,” said Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder. “We oppose all consensual searches.”
Once the study was released, the Austin NAACP complained to the local police department and held workshops to educate citizens about their rights to refuse unauthorized searches. Linder said that community members should know their rights and hold police accountable.
Several civil rights organizations, including the Texas NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the ACLU, requested the study in response to a Texas law passed in 2001. That law requires that law enforcement agencies document a driver’s ethnicity or race, whether a vehicle is searched, whether the search is consensual and whether there are any arrests.
The study, which was released in early February, also urges police departments to start a standard reporting format for filing racial profiling matters, requiring extra information be submitted to police agencies, banning consent searches, and establishing a statewide office to file all reports.
But Texas is not alone.
In 2001 and 2002, researchers in Kansas City found that even though Blacks were far more likely than Whites to be pulled over, they were more than half as likely to be caught with illegal goods. Thirteen percent of White drivers were found with guns and drugs, while fewer than 6 percent of Blacks had illegal items, the study found.
In 2002, Minneapolis had only 67 consent searches. Among those, 26 percent of White drivers carried illegal items, compared with 5 percent of Blacks who did.
In 2001, San Diego consent searches concluded that 35 percent of White drivers had illegal goods, compared with 27 percent Blacks who did.
What else can be done to end racial profiling? Should a national movement be launched?