The People Behind the Profile: Stories of Racial Profiling

The People Behind the Profile: Stories of Racial Profiling


Vol. 24, No. 3-4, 2002 p. 8

The Campaign Against Racial Profiling is a project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a nationwide non-partisan organization of 300,000 members dedicated to preserving and defending the principles set forth in the Bill of Rights. Started in 1999, the Campaign Against Racial Profiling has been instrumental in raising the issue of racial profiling and making the term “DWB, “or “Driving While Black,” a household word. Through litigation, legislation, education, outreach, and media awareness, CARP addresses racial profiling in all its forms and against all racial and ethnic groups, including Latinos, Asians, and native Americans, and, post-9/11, the targeting of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians by federal and state enforcement agencies. Following is a selection of stories of racial profiling in the South compiled by the ACLU.

Florida – In 1997, Aaron Campbell was pulled over by Orange County sheriff’s deputies while driving on the Florida Turnpike. He was wrestled to the ground, hit with pepper spray, and arrested. It turned out that Campbell was a major in the Metro-Dade Police Department and had identified himself as such when he was pulled over for an illegal lane change and having an obscured license tag. Said Campbell, “The majority of people they are searching and humiliating are black people. That’s why I was so angry. I went from being an ordinary citizen and decorated officer to a criminal in a matter of minutes.”

Georgia – William Baker, an African-American businessman and candidate for the Treutlen County Board of Commissioners, was followed by the Johnson County sheriffs deputies for eighteen miles before they pulled him over, searched his car and belongings for drugs, and ticketed him for following another car too closely.

Kentucky – Dejuan Wheat, a former University of Louisville basketball star, was pulled over while driving in downtown Louisville late one night in 1998. The officers, who claimed they were looking for a truck like his, made Wheat get out of his vehicle while they searched it and ran warrant checks. When a black officer recognized Wheat, the officers let him go.

Texas – A video installed in compliance with Texas’ new racial profiling law captured the beating death of legal immigrant Luis Torres by Baytown PD in late January 2002. Mr. Torres was extremely ill and disoriented, but the video shows him calmly speaking and cooperating with officers Micah Aldred, Bert Dillow and Sgt. Rodney Evans; he clearly does nothing to provoke them before an officer leg-whipped his feet out from under him, knocking him to the ground. Torres did struggle as officers subdued him. One officer could be heard to say, “Put your knee on his neck.” After he was handcuffed, the officers continued to pummel Mr. Torres into submission. When the officers realized he was “turning colors,” they attempted to resuscitate him. Even before the investigation had begun, Baytown interim Police Chief Byron Jones said he believed the officers followed proper procedure and Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal has said he will not seek to indict the officers.

West Virginia – On April 30, 2002 at 9:45 pm, three African-American college students were pulled over in Charleston for failing to signal when changing lanes. They were stopped by nine police officers with their guns drawn and were handcuffed and forced to kneel on the ground while their car was thoroughly searched. They were released without being charged for their failure to signal when changing lanes.