(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) – The California Highway Patrol has ordered its officers to stop making “consent searches,” in which a trooper without probable cause to examine a vehicle asks the driver for permission.
Commissioner Dwight O. Helmick’s order follows the release of studies that show minority drivers are far more likely to be pulled over and to be the subjects of consent searches. The documents were released Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed a federal lawsuit against the highway patrol.
The ACLU claims that blacks and Hispanics were far more likely to be targeted by troopers as part of Operation Pipeline, an effort to find drugs transported north on California highways. The CHP’s internal documents showed that Hispanic drivers were disproportionately stopped and then sent on their way with a verbal warning -- an indication that troopers were pulling them over without evidence of crimes or motor vehicle violations.
Allegations of racial profiling have been made in a number of states, especially those like California, New Jersey and Maryland with interstates that are known to be drug conduits. In New Jersey, the state attorney general recently testified that minorities are more likely to be searched than white drivers, while drugs are more likely to be found on those whites whose cars are searched.