Complaints of racial profiling by law enforcement agencies following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, are again at the forefront of concerns for our communities and, certainly, law enforcement agencies. Many police departments have implemented policies, procedures and training to minimize race-based profiling tactics. Litigation has continued in this area in recent years. In fact, my Office has represented the Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) in a lawsuit alleging racial profiling. As a result of that litigation, I have learned how expensive and time-consuming such litigation can be. Also, that these are complicated and difficult issues. Nonetheless, I am pleased with the settlement of the litigation which provides for policies and procedures to be established by DPS that should be beneficial for residents and law enforcement alike.
Among other items, the settlement provides for data collection by the DPS. Data collection at all police stops is crucial, as victims of racial profiling are often stopped, detained, and searched without being ticketed or arrested. Currently it is difficult for law enforcement agencies to defend themselves against charges of racial profiling because the relevant data and records may not be kept in a manner that can be reviewed and audited.
Effective law enforcement depends on mutual trust between individuals and police officers. All individuals involved in contacts with police, whether a traffic stop or investigation interview, must be assured that they will be treated fairly and appropriately.
The Attorney General’s Office has prepared a brief overview of the significant settlement terms from the DPS litigation and offers this guidance to law enforcement agencies in developing or revising their internal racial profiling policies and procedures. This guidance is also intended to assist the community in ensuring that incidents of racial profiling are appropriated addressed and resolved.