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ACLU Says War On Drugs has increased racial profiling
Jun 3, 1999
AP Newswire
NEW YORK (AP) -- The war on drugs has resulted in a sharp increase in the incidence of racial profiling by law officers patrolling highways across the country, civil rights activists say.

"Skin color has become a substitute for evidence in a way that really resembles Jim Crow justice on the nation's highways," Ira Glasser, head of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Wednesday as the group released its report on the controversial practice.

The Drug Enforcement Administration's "Operation Pipeline" has trained at least 27,000 law enforcers to use race as a factor in spotting potential drug couriers, Glasser said.

The practice is so common that the minority community has given it the derisive term DWB -- "driving while black or brown," or stopping minorities for no reason other than their skin color.

DEA officials in Washington did not immediately return calls for comment on "Operation Pipeline," launched in 1986.

The ACLU's report is largely a collection of case studies from 23 states and not a statistical analysis.

"By laying out the facts in such detail in this report, we hope that we can now get beyond 'Is there really a problem?' to 'What are we as a nation going to do about it?"' said David Harris, a University of Toledo law professor and author of the report.

"We don't suggest that this will be easy, only that it is necessary if we are to call ourselves a democratic nation."

The ACLU is calling on police departments to voluntarily begin documenting incidents of racial profiling. Some already have, including the forces in San Diego and San Jose, California.

In April, North Carolina became the first state to pass a law requiring data collection on all traffic stops. Similar bills have been introduced in Congress and in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia.

"If you're a young black man there's three things you can count on in your lifetime: death, taxes and police harassment," said ACLU lawyer Reginald Shuford.

The ACLU has pending lawsuits in Maryland, Illinois, New Jersey and Oklahoma regarding racial profiling.

Copyright 1999 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Used without permission.