From Wed Nov 29 10:27:55 2000
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2000 06:36:38 -0500
From: Helen Roland <>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Racial Profiling Routine in New Jersey
Precedence: bulk

Racial Profiling Routine, New Jersey Finds

By David Kocieniewski <> and Robert Hanley, The New York Times, 28 November 2000

TRENTON, Nov. 27—At least 8 of every 10 automobile searches carried out by state troopers on the New Jersey Turnpike over most of the last decade were conducted on vehicles driven by blacks and Hispanics, state documents have revealed.

Those figures, contained in 91,000 pages of internal state records distributed today by the state attorney general’s office, showed that a systematic process of racial profiling became a routine part of state police operations, Attorney General John Farmer said.

The documents released by Mr. Farmer were among those being sought by lawyers representing minority drivers who are suing the state, claiming racial discrimination.

Mr. Farmer explained that the practice of singling out black and Hispanic drivers evolved as part of the drug war of the mid-1980’s, when the federal Drug Enforcement Administration began asking local police forces to intercept narcotics traffickers on major highways.

Mr. Farmer said the policy had some success as a crime- fighting tool. He said 30 percent of the searches on the turnpike turned up some kind of contraband, while 70 percent turned up nothing improper.

But even as such race-based tactics helped the New Jersey State Police arrest thousands of drug smugglers, the agency’s methods inflicted a terrible price on the state’s minority residents, Mr. Farmer said, as troopers discriminated against thousands of black and Hispanic drivers who were stopped and searched solely because of their skin color.

The effect of that kind of ratio over 10 years is devastating, Mr. Farmer said. This may have been effective in law enforcement terms, but as social policy it was a disaster.

Mr. Farmer, who became attorney general 17 months ago, said he was releasing the documents as a way to pay a debt to the past and try to rebuild public confidence in the force. But he also defended the actions of previous attorneys general, saying that the law regarding profiling was muddled, and that many of the drug interdiction policies that encouraged profiling were taught by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the federal Department of Transportation.

Even today, Mr. Farmer said, case law conflicts on when it is permissible for an officer to consider race in deciding to stop a driver. He praised Gov. Christie Whitman for making New Jersey the first state to take sweeping measures to stop racial profiling.

Mr. Farmer’s remarks and the release of the documents did little to quiet many civil rights activists, however. The Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, executive director of the New Jersey Black Ministers Council, said the Whitman administration ignored complaints for years, and acted only after three unarmed minority men were shot by two troopers on the turnpike in April 1998. He called for a change in the State Constitution to make the attorney general’s office an elected one. Under the state’s current constitution, adopted in 1947, the attorney general is appointed by the governor.

Right now the attorney general is not going to do anything that the person who appointed him is opposed to, Mr. Jackson said. He is not the people’s lawyer; he is the governor’s lawyer. Who do the people go to?

And the documents are also likely to intensify the criticism of one of the governor’s longtime political allies, Justice Peter G. Verniero of the State Supreme Court, who was attorney general from 1996 to 1998.

During public hearings before his confirmation to the state’s high court in 1999, Mr. Verniero testified that he had no detailed knowledge of any statistical evidence of profiling until the attorney general’s office conducted its own review of the State Police in 1999.

But one memo from an assistant attorney general to Mr. Verniero, dated July 29, 1997, included an audit of the Moorestown barracks, which had been the subject of repeated complaints of racial profiling. The audit showed that blacks and Hispanics, who make up 13.5 percent of the drivers on the turnpike, accounted for more than 33 percent of the traffic stops.

During his sworn testimony before the State Senate, Mr. Verniero also insisted that he had worked in cooperation with the United States Department of Justice, which was conducting a civil rights investigation of the profiling allegations. But a memo from a meeting on May 20, 1997, at which Mr. Verniero and his assistants discussed their response to the federal investigation, also contains handwritten notes that indicate that Mr. Verniero was adamantly opposed to entering into a consent decree and allowing a federal monitor to oversee the department. The notes, which are believed to have been written by an assistant attorney general, say that Mr. Verniero declared that before he’d sign a consent decree, they’d tie me to a train and drag me along the track.

Mr. Verniero has declined to discuss the matter.

The documents, which fill 185 three-ring binders and are available in 15 CD-ROM sets to anyone willing to pay $1,000, make up the most complete record to date of a problem which has, fairly or not, come to dominate the national reputation of the New Jersey State Police.

The records include a vast array of material spanning the administrations of three different governors and seven attorneys general: from state police training manuals, major policy initiatives and disciplinary records to minutiae like radio logs and thousands of pages of individual traffic tickets issued by troopers. Mr. Farmer noted that in 1990 and again in 1993, the state responded to complaints of racially biased enforcement by strengthening its training for troopers and restating its opposition to racial profiling.

The department acknowledged the abuse, tried to address it and believed that they had, he said.

But when a Gloucester County judge ruled in 1996 that there was evidence of profiling by troopers on the southern end of the turnpike, there was a concerted effort to deny the problem, the documents show. A series of memos from 1996 and 1997 show that state police commanders and some members of the attorney general’s office continued to deny the wide- spread practice of racial profiling by troopers even though they had detailed statistical evidence of the problem.

By 1997, for instance, the department’s own internal audits found that in some barracks, members of minority groups accounted for 80 percent or more of all searches. The investigation by the attorney general’s office and the Justice Department found that such results were common throughout the state.

In one of the harshest assessments of the force, Deputy Director Debra L. Stone of the Department of Law and Public Safety wrote in February 1999 that discrimination was so deeply ingrained in state police culture that veteran troopers acted as coaches and taught profiling tactics to rookies.

Trooper after trooper has testified that coach taught them how to profile minorities, Ms. Stone wrote. The coaches also teach this to minority troopers.

Ms. Stone’s memo said that the troopers also went to great lengths to cover each other’s misdeeds, and that after the April 1998 turnpike shooting, the troopers brought in a drug-sniffing dog in hopes that it might find evidence to justify the stop and the gunfire. No contraband was found.

William Buckman, a lawyer who argued the Gloucester County case, said that he was stunned that many of the documents released today were denied to lawyers who requested them five years ago.

There seems to be only one reason to withhold all of this: to conceal from the public how high up in the attorney general’s office people were aware of the length and the breadth of the problem, Mr. Buckman said. And the striking thing, even today, is that when you read these documents, you get no sense of urgency, no sense of outrage that people were being harassed because of their race, and it must be stopped no matter what.

Mrs. Whitman, who was attending a conference in California, issued a written statement praising Mr. Farmer for releasing the documents.

While racial profiling did not begin in this state or under this administration, history will show that the end of racial profiling in America did indeed begin in New Jersey and under this administration, she said.

The political furor surrounding the issue is almost certain to continue. The State Senate Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the issue, plans to take sworn statements from a wide range of state officials and may hold public hearings early next year.