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ACLU Responds to Providence “Action Plan” on Racial Profiling

Posted: November 25, 2003|Category: Discrimination Category: Racial/Ethnic Discrimination Category: Police Practices

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ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown issued the following statement today in response to City of Providence’s release of an “action plan” to address racial profiling:

“While the ACLU applauds efforts by any person to address racial profiling in a comprehensive manner, the City of Providence’s action plan ultimately is long on rhetoric, but short on specifics. By pretending that the police department’s significant non-compliance with the state’s data collection law for two-and-a-half years never occurred, and by placing some of the blame for racial profiling on people in the community themselves, the City’s action plan does a disservice to the community.

“Only one month ago, experts at Northeastern University issued a report documenting that the Providence Police Department engages in widespread racial profiling, worse than any other police department in the state. Yet the very first sentence of the City’s action plan turns the tables by equally blaming the victims, stating that ‘the individual biases of community members towards the police’ must be dealt with to successfully address racial profiling. The action plan’s symbolism in first spending two pages addressing what the community needs to do – not what the police need to do – cannot be ignored.

“As for the recommendations aimed at the police, many focus on education and training. Yet the plan fails to explain how education and training to halt racial profiling will work when the police could not even be trained to collect traffic stops data correctly. In fact, Northeastern’s reports show that the last few months of data collection, which took place during the current Mayoral administration, were actually worse than when the police department was held in contempt of court last October. To our knowledge, despite those monthly reports documenting numerous inaccuracies in the data, we are not aware of one officer being disciplined for non-compliance with that law.

“We further note that the plan contains no timelines for implementing any of the recommendations. In addition, while it mentions the use of a monitoring system, the plan clearly does not envision anything approaching the utility of Northeastern’s data collection and analysis procedures.

“We do not doubt that the Mayor is truly interested in eliminating racial profiling. But after the issuance of an irrefutable report documenting the pervasive nature of racial profiling in the City, public relations and feel good measures are no solution to this entrenched problem.” Brown said the ACLU planned to work with legislators on the introduction of comprehensive legislation to try to address the issue statewide in a more systematic and concrete way.

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