DETROIT — As the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and as vice-chair of ALPACT, Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust, a coalition of civil rights organizations, national, state and local law enforcement agencies, and community organizations that has been meeting for over two years on this issue, I applaud the introduction of Representative Buzz Thomas' legislation that will hopefully be the beginning of the end of racial profiling.
This legislation is a crucial first step in dealing with a problem that pervades the criminal justice system. But the ACLU is not new to the issue of racial justice. Our involvement reaches far beyond "driving while Black" which is just the tip of the iceberg. We recently filed a case against the Eastpoint police on behalf of more than 20 young Detroit men who were "bicycling while black." And last summer, we represented six young African American youth who were "swimming while black."
In 1999, we published a seminal report written by University of Toledo professor, David Harris, a leading expert in this area. In 2000, we began an award-winning public service announcement campaign on radio and TV. We are the only organization that provides a national hotline to report dwb complaints. We have distributed thousands of "dwb survival kits" and we have been involved in groundbreaking litigation all over the country.
Just three months ago, the Michigan ACLU hired an attorney to coordinate a new Racial Justice Project to address the problem of racial profiling by working to organize communities and create the groundwork for on going dialogue between communities and the local police agencies. We are also creating effective educational and training programs specifically for law enforcement agencies, lawyers, judges, magistrates, and prosecutors. The color of one's skin doesn't make a criminal and it's time that we stop asking African Americans to surrender their freedom as a result of this practice. Projects like ours and the legislation introduced today are the first steps in ending the practice of racial profiling. They can't be the last.
Click Here to read more about the ACLU's efforts to end racial profiling.