Terror becomes Arizona policy

"Higher search rates for minorities were not justified by higher rates of transporting contraband. In fact, on average, whites were more likely to be carrying contraband than Native Americans, Middle Easterners, Hispanics, and Asians on all major Arizona highways. African Americans were at least twice as likely as whites to be searched on all six interstate segments, despite the fact that the rate of contraband seizures for African Americans and whites was similar."

Keep in mind that these stops occurred after the state cops knew their behavior was under court-ordered scrutiny. A federal court order mandated that racial profiling be studied, and the troopers continued pulling over minorities and searching them as if Bull Connor were their chief.

Arizona's highway patrolmen were not isolated bad actors when it came to racial profiling.

National studies — seven in recent years — have documented repeatedly that while minorities transport contraband at significantly lower rates than whites, minorities are, nonetheless, stopped and searched at dramatically higher rates than whites.

A Justice Department analysis in 2002 found that more than 8 percent of blacks stopped were searched, and of those searched, 3.3 percent were found to be holding.

Whites were stopped and searched only 2.5 percent of the time, a fraction as often blacks. Yet whites were found in possession of drugs in 14.5 percent of their searches, or nearly 400 percent more often than blacks.

Not only are minorities stopped more frequently, they are searched at alarming rates.

As noted in the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona's conclusion of its 2008 report: "An analysis from 1999, conducted by the Attorney General of New Jersey, determined that discretionary consent searches of cars on the turnpike were even more racially disparate than initial stops: 77.2 [percent] of all 'consent searches' were of African Americans and other minorities.

"An extensive study of 175,000 pedestrian stops by the New York City Police Department found a highly disproportionate rate of minority stops. The Office of the Attorney General of New York State, which conducted the research, determined that: (1) African Americans were stopped six times more frequently than whites; (2) African Americans were stopped at a rate more than 10 times their percentage of the population; and (3) stops of African Americans were less likely to result in arrests than stops of whites."

In other words, while whites committed the crimes, it was blacks who were hassled.

Although the DPS's report in 2007 mostly agreed with the ACLU's findings that emerged from the lawsuit's settlement research, the Highway Patrol denied there was a problem.

According to the state's expert witness, Dr. Robin S. Engel, racial disparities in enforcement "may be explained by legitimate factors unmeasured by these data."

She went on to list a severity of traffic offenses, motorist attitudes, and socio-economic factors as possible influences left unmeasured. "Until I can get into the mind of an officer," said Engel, "I cannot determine whether he or she is making stops based on race."

But, with the passage of Senate Bill 1070, it will no longer be necessary to get into the mind of an officer. Law enforcement is now instructed to pull over any brown-skinned motorist if there is reasonable suspicion he or she is in Arizona illegally.

As a result of the judicial settlement in the ACLU lawsuit against the DPS, there is an unprecedented record of racial profiling by state troopers.

While such documentation does not exist with other law enforcement agencies in Arizona, grounds for concern are, nonetheless, ample.

Four days after Brewer signed SB 1070, the city of Phoenix announced the establishment of a citizen commission to review allegations of "race-related civil rights abuses" by Phoenix police.

Despite concrete efforts by the Phoenix Police Department to improve relations within minority neighborhoods, the impression remains that city cops brutalize blacks and Latinos. This sense was aggravated in March when black city Councilman Michael Johnson was handcuffed and arrested in a predawn fight with a white cop. Johnson, a former PPD homicide detective, said he was assaulted while investigating an early-morning fire at a neighbor's home.

Councilman Johnson claims that complaints of minority constituents regarding aggressive policing often go uninvestigated. In the South Mountain Precinct, 82 percent of the complaints come from black and Hispanic residents.

If concerns about the Phoenix Police Department's relations with the city's blacks and Hispanics raise questions about their coming implementation of SB 1070, there is little ambiguity when it comes to Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies.

One week after Brewer signed the controversial legislation, Arpaio conducted his 15th roundup of undocumented Hispanics.

Arpaio has explained clearly how he and his deputies determine which individuals are brown Mexicans and which are brown Americans.

"If you look like you came from Mexico," Arpaio told listeners of KPHO radio, that will get you searched.

On national television, Glenn Beck was informed by Arpaio of his standard: "If local law enforcement comes across some people that have erratic, or scared, or whatever, you know, they're worried.... And if they have, their speech, whatever they look like, if they just look like they came from another country, we can take care of that situation."

Last year, Arpaio informed GQ magazine that Mexicans are contagious.

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