ACLU, citizens group discuss allegations of racial profiling in Louisville

(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- Only the continued outcry of victims will end the practice of racial profiling - arbitrarily singling out minorities for scrutiny - an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer told a Louisville audience last night.

It boils down ''to continuing to speak out,'' Reginald Shuford said during the forum, which was sponsored by the ACLU and Citizens Against Police Abuse at the Chestnut Street YMCA.

''It's been frustrating, longstanding and a difficult issue to deal with, so a lot of people don't say anything. But to say nothing ensures it will have a longer life than if people do something about it,'' he said.

About 30 people attended the forum, including Officer David James of the Louisville police department, who is also vice president of the city Fraternal Order of Police lodge.

The meeting came on the heels of a Courier-Journal study indicating that African American motorists were pulled over and checked for arrest warrants at twice the rate of white motorists.

In more than 1,600 traffic stops on 30 randomly selected days, African- American drivers accounted for 44 percent of those stops - representing one in every 75 in Louisville of estimated driving age.

The rate for white motorists was one in every 163, the study found.

Louisville police Chief Greg Smith, who did not attend last night's forum, called the study flawed.

James, who didn't speak during the forum, said in an interview afterward that he thinks that ''the Louisville police takes racial profiling seriously - and takes complaints about racial profiling very seriously.''

He said he heard few complaints of profiling during the forum, amid general complaints about the department.

Profiling ''is a matter of perception. I can see their position,'' James, an African American, said of people who complain about it.

''But as a police officer, I can put myself on that side, see what the officer is thinking and why he does what he does.''

The newspaper study was mentioned several times in the question-and-answer session with Shuford.

That Smith dismissed the study instead of admitting its implications is a sign of the department's lack of concern, said Shelby Lanier Jr., a retired Louisville police officer who attended the meeting.

Lanier said the police need to take a hard line against profiling, up to and including dismissal of officers. He also mentioned the need for a civilian oversight board to scrutinize citizen complaints.

''Racial profiling is nothing they (police) teach. It's something they do. They don't teach violence. It's something they do,'' Lanier said. ''You have to eliminate the bad officers we have.''

Shuford said little about Louisville specifically, saying profiling is pervasive to the point that young Latinos and African Americans have three certainties in their lives - ''death, taxes and police harassment.''

Racial profiling extends to every walk of life, Shuford said.

''I talk about walking around while black,'' Shuford said, ''driving while black, flying while black, shopping while black - the newest and most inclusive way to describe it is breathing while black.''

Reginald Shuford of the American Civil Liberties Union said ''to say nothing (about racial profiling) ensures it will have a longer life than if people do something about it.''

(iSyndicate; The Courier-Journal; Nov. 15, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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