Community and Civil Rights Initiatives
These anecdotes are provided to help understand, based on the perceptions of those who feel they have been profiled, some of the effects of racial profiling. These stories have been taken from several sources, which are cited immediately following the story.
- Testimonial One - Michael
- Testimonial Two - Georgia
- Testimonial Three - Sergeant Gerald
- Testimonial Four - Robert Wilkins
Testimonial One - Michael
"Michael, 41, is tall, attractive, and well-spoken. He is the top executive in an important public institution and has been stopped by the police many times. One afternoon, Michael was driving to a local high school to work out. As he approached the parking lot, he saw a parked police cruiser, so he drove with extra caution. 'As I pulled up and put it in park and turned the key off, this police car comes screeching up behind me - the lights flashing, the whole deal,' Michael says. The squad car blocked him in to the parking space, so he could not leave. But when the officer walked up to the window, he immediately noticed Michael's official identification. Without offering any explanation for why he had treated Michael as if he were a dangerous criminal, the officer 'just backed away and he was gone. Just disappeared.'
Michael was angry and frustrated at being treated this way, but it was not the first time it had happened. As he has done many times before, he distanced himself from the experience as a kind of emotional self-defense.
You've gotta learn to play through it. Even though you haven't done anything wrong, the worst thing you can do in a situation like that is to become emotionally engaged when they do that to you.... Because if you do something, maybe they're going to do something else to you for no reason at all, because they have the power. They have the power and they can do whatever they want to do to you for that period of time. . . . It doesn't make a difference who you are. You're never beyond this, because of the color of your skin."
Testimonial Two - Georgia
"It is early in the morning, and the well-dressed young African-American man driving his Ford Explorer on I-75 sees the blue lights of the Georgia State Patrol car behind him. The officer pulls behind the sport utility vehicle and the young man's heart begins to sink.
He is on his way to Atlanta for a job interview. The stop, ostensibly for speeding, should not take long, he reasons, as the highway patrol officer walks cautiously toward the Explorer. But instead of simply asking for a driver's license and writing a speeding ticket, the trooper calls for backup. Another trooper soon arrives, his blue lights flashing as well.
The young man is told to leave his vehicle, as the troopers announce their intention to search it. 'Hey, where did you get the money for something like this?' one trooper asks mockingly while he starts the process of going through every inch of the Explorer. Soon, an officer pulls off an inside door panel. More dismantling of the vehicle follows. They say they are looking for drugs, but in the end find nothing. After ticketing the driver for speeding, the two officers casually drive off. Sitting in his now-trashed SUV, the young man weeps in his anger and humiliation."
Testimonial Three - Sergeant Gerald
"On a summer afternoon in August 1998, U.S. Army Sergeant Rossano Gerald and his young son Gregory were driving across Oklahoma. A career soldier and highly decorated veteran of Desert Storm, Gerald, a black man, was stopped twice within thirty minutes. As a report on the incident noted, '[d]uring the second stop, which lasted two-and-half hours, the troopers terrorized [Sergeant] Gerald's 12-year-old son with a police dog, placed both father and son in a closed car with the air conditioning off and fans blowing hot air, and warned that the dog would attack if they attempted to escape.'
As the district court described the allegations:
Over the course of the two hour detention the troopers repeatedly searched the car, turning up nothing. Despite this, Trooper Perry removed parts of the headliner, floorboards, carpet, and other areas, causing $1089.21 in damage to the car. Perry removed the passenger side floorboard, claiming the bolts looked funny, like military bolts. According to the body shop that repaired the car, the bolts were the factory-installed bolts. Throughout the search Perry and the second trooper accused Sergeant Gerald of running drugs and laundering money. Sergeant Gerald denied the allegations and informed the troopers that his vehicle had recently passed inspection and had received military clearance. He also informed the troopers that due to the nature of his assignment he is subject to random urinalysis and did not use drugs.
At approximately 3:45 p.m., the troopers ceased their detention and prepared to let Plaintiffs leave with nothing but a warning ticket. When Sergeant Gerald complained his car and luggage were a mess, Perry informed him 'We ain't good at repacking.' [Gerald v. Oklahoma Dep't of Pub. Safety, CIV-99-676-R, slip op. at 6 (W.D. Okla. Dec. 21, 1999).]"
Testimonial Four - Robert Wilkins
In May 1992, Robert Wilkins, a Harvard Law School graduate and a public defender in Washington, D.C., went to a family funeral in Ohio. "On the return trip, he and his aunt, uncle, and 29-year-old cousin rented a Cadillac for the trip home. His cousin was stopped for speeding in western Maryland while driving 60 miles per hour in a 55-mile-per-hour zone of the interstate. The group was forced to stand on the side of the interstate in the rain for an extended period while officers and drug-sniffing dogs searched their car. Nothing was found. Wilkins, represented by the ACLU, filed suit and received a settlement from the state of Maryland. [Wilkins v. Maryland State Police, Civil Action No. CCB93483, Maryland Federal District Court (1993)]."
Deborah Ramirez, Jack McDevitt, and Amy Farrell, A Resource Guide on Racial Profiling Data Collection Systems: Promising Practices and Lessons Learned (Washington, D.C.: Department of Justice, November 2000).