Race, Racism and the Law 
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Discrimination by Law Enforcement

United States Report on Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
  Initial Country Report (Sept, 2000). 

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 Discrimination by Law Enforcement. The U.S. Constitution and federal statutes prohibit racially discriminatory actions by law enforcement agencies. The Department of Justice has authority under 42 U.S.C. section 14141 to investigate allegations that a law enforcement agency is engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers, including racial discrimination, that deprives persons of their federal constitutional or statutory rights. If the law enforcement agency at issue receives funding from the Federal government, which most agencies do, the Department of Justice can also investigate such allegations under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, 42 U.S.C. 3789d, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d. If the investigation supports the allegations of illegal racial discrimination, the Department negotiates with the law enforcement agency in an effort to achieve an agreement that the agency will eradicate the discriminatory policies and practices. If no agreement can be reached, the Department of Justice has authority to bring a lawsuit in federal court under each of the statutes listed above. Relief in such a suit can include a judicially enforceable order that requires the agency to change its practices or policies to come into compliance with constitutional protections.

Since 1994, the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice has conducted more than fifteen investigations into allegations of a pattern or practice of law enforcement misconduct. Several of these civil investigations have involved "racial profiling," i.e., allegations of discriminatory highway traffic stops and discriminatory stops of persons traveling in urban areas.

The Civil Rights Division investigation of discriminatory traffic enforcement by the New Jersey state police led to a lawsuit resolved through a December 1999 consent decree that emphasizes non-discrimination in policy and practices as well as improved data collection, training, supervision, and monitoring of officers. The Department of Justice reached a similar agreement with the Montgomery County, Maryland Police Department. The Civil Rights Division also has a handful of ongoing investigations into alleged practices of discriminatory traffics stops and searches.

To help ensure that federal law enforcement officers act in accordance with policies against racial profiling, in June 1999 President Clinton issued an Executive Memorandum to federal agencies to gather data to determine whether racial profiling is occurring. Pursuant to the President's directive, the Departments of Justice, Treasury and Interior have started to collect data on the race, ethnicity, and gender of individuals stopped or inspected by federal law enforcement officers. This data will provide the Federal government with the information necessary to combat this problem.

In the meantime, the Deputy Attorney General is leading a working group to examine any changes and reforms in federal law enforcement practice or policy that could be undertaken immediately.

In addition to the above, there are several ongoing lawsuits in which private litigants have sued law enforcement agencies based on allegations of racially discriminatory police activities. See, e.g., National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights v. City of New York (Oct. 20, 1999, S.D.N.Y.); Farm Labor Organizing Committee v. Ohio State Highway Patrol, 184 F.R.D. 583 (N.D. Ohio 1998).

The Department of Justice currently provides training to state and local law enforcement regarding the use of traffic stops in drug interdiction, emphasizing that enforcement must be carried out in a nondiscriminatory manner. The Department of Justice is also in the process of expanding the training it provides with regard to this issue.

Discrimination by Law Enforcement. The U.S. Constitution and federal statutes prohibit racially discriminatory actions by law enforcement agencies. The Department of Justice has authority under 42 U.S.C. section 14141 to investigate allegations that a law enforcement agency is engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers, including racial discrimination, that deprives persons of their federal constitutional or statutory rights. If the law enforcement agency at issue receives funding from the Federal government, which most agencies do, the Department of Justice can also investigate such allegations under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, 42 U.S.C. 3789d, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d. If the investigation supports the allegations of illegal racial discrimination, the Department negotiates with the law enforcement agency in an effort to achieve an agreement that the agency will eradicate the discriminatory policies and practices. If no agreement can be reached, the Department of Justice has authority to bring a lawsuit in federal court under each of the statutes listed above. Relief in such a suit can include a judicially enforceable order that requires the agency to change its practices or policies to come into compliance with constitutional protections.

Since 1994, the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice has conducted more than fifteen investigations into allegations of a pattern or practice of law enforcement misconduct. Several of these civil investigations have involved "racial profiling," i.e., allegations of discriminatory highway traffic stops and discriminatory stops of persons traveling in urban areas.

The Civil Rights Division investigation of discriminatory traffic enforcement by the New Jersey state police led to a lawsuit resolved through a December 1999 consent decree that emphasizes non-discrimination in policy and practices as well as improved data collection, training, supervision, and monitoring of officers. The Department of Justice reached a similar agreement with the Montgomery County, Maryland Police Department. The Civil Rights Division also has a handful of ongoing investigations into alleged practices of discriminatory traffics stops and searches.

To help ensure that federal law enforcement officers act in accordance with policies against racial profiling, in June 1999 President Clinton issued an Executive Memorandum to federal agencies to gather data to determine whether racial profiling is occurring. Pursuant to the President's directive, the Departments of Justice, Treasury and Interior have started to collect data on the race, ethnicity, and gender of individuals stopped or inspected by federal law enforcement officers. This data will provide the Federal government with the information necessary to combat this problem.

In the meantime, the Deputy Attorney General is leading a working group to examine any changes and reforms in federal law enforcement practice or policy that could be undertaken immediately.

In addition to the above, there are several ongoing lawsuits in which private litigants have sued law enforcement agencies based on allegations of racially discriminatory police activities. See, e.g., National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights v. City of New York (Oct. 20, 1999, S.D.N.Y.); Farm Labor Organizing Committee v. Ohio State Highway Patrol, 184 F.R.D. 583 (N.D. Ohio 1998).

The Department of Justice currently provides training to state and local law enforcement regarding the use of traffic stops in drug interdiction, emphasizing that enforcement must be carried out in a nondiscriminatory manner. The Department of Justice is also in the process of expanding the training it provides with regard to this issue.

 

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Equality Before Tribunals ] [ Discrimination by Law Enforcement ] Overrepresentation in the criminal justice system ] Disparities in Sentencing ] Capital Punishment ] Prisons ] Article 5(b) Security of Person ] Article 5(c) Political Rights ] Article 5(d) Other Civil Rights ] Article 5(e) Economic Social and Cultural Rights ] Article 5(f) Access to Public Accommodations ]
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Parent Level:
Introduction ] General Report ] Legal Prohibition ] U.S. Reservations, Understandings and Declarations ] Compliance with Specific Articles ] Article 1 - Racial Discrimination ] Article 2 ] Art 3 Condemn Racial Segregation and Apartheid ] Article 4 Eliminate Incitements or Acts of Discrimination ] Article 5 Equality Under the Law ] Article 6 Assure Effective Protection and Remedies ] Article 7 Adopt Measures ] Conclusion ]
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[Race and Racial Groups] [Citizenship Rights]  [Justice and Race] [Patterns of Basic Needs] [Intersectionality Issues] [Human Rights]
 

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Thanks to Derrick Bell and his pioneer work: 
Race, Racism and American Law
(1993).