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Reaffirming 'Driving While Black' Racial Profiling of African American Motorists

WHEREAS, scores of African-Americans from all socio-economic backgrounds have experienced the humiliation of being stopped on the nation's roads for no other reason than the alleged traffic offense referred to as "Driving While Black"; and

WHEREAS, a recent incident on the New Jersey Turnpike in late April of 1998 where state troopers stopped a van with four young African-American men who were driving within the speed limit and otherwise obeying all traffic laws other than "Driving While Black"; and

WHEREAS, the state troopers drew their guns and shot into the van, injuring two of the occupants and paralyzing another; and

WHEREAS, the Justice Department is currently investigating an April 1997 incident in New Haven, Connecticut where an unarmed African American motorist named Malik Jones was shot to death by police after he was allegedly the target of a racially motivated traffic stop; and

WHEREAS, this practice of "profiling" African-American motorists is a clear violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as many state and federal laws; and

WHEREAS, compelling evidence of racial profiling of African-American motorists has been documented in New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut; and

WHEREAS, many African-Americans are unaware of their rights and responsibilities with respect to their interaction with law enforcement officials; and

WHEREAS, national legislation (HR 118), which would begin to address this unjust practice was unanimously passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and is currently stalled in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP adopt a national strategy to combat racially targeted traffic stops, including but not limited to:

  • local and state letter writing, lobbying and petitioning campaigns in an effort to persuade U.S. Senators to support HR 118 and ensure its passage;
  •  efforts by all NAACP units to provide training and education on the legal rights and responsibilities of African-American motorist as well as advocacy for the establishment of state and local civilian review boards; and
  • development of a nationwide database to track incidents of racially targeted traffic stops.