NAACP finds blacks fit its typical brutality victim profile But NAACP study says police report most of gripes come from whites.

April 15, 1991|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Evening Sun Staff

If you're a 98-pound white female with a passive personality, a late-model Volvo and a wardrobe from Donna Karan's high-fashion collection, your chances of facing police brutality are minuscule.

At least that's the conclusion of a study by the Maryland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The organization compiled a profile based on complaints made to it by alleged victims of excessive police force and found most to be young black or Hispanic males with other like characteristics.

Some local police departments, however, say they receive more brutality complaints from whites than from minorities. And an NAACP spokesman acknowledges that the finding could be flawed by the fact that white people with police grievances don't typically seek out the association.

The study that was based on 112 complaints made to the state NAACP over the past three years listed eight characteristics of ,, brutality victims. It said a few of those cases originated in Washington and Northern Virginia.

According to the results, victims usually are black or Hispanic males, dark complexioned, 15 to 40 years old, 100 to 190 pounds, casually dressed, assertive or confident, knowledgeable of legal or constitutional rights and drive a vehicle, usually American-made, valued at less than $15,000.

Charles Jerome Ware, general counsel for the state NAACP, said more than half the 112 complainants who notified the organization over the last three years fall into all eight categories. "An individual doesn't have to fit all of those traits, but if he fits more than four or five of those characteristics he is subject to police brutality," said Ware.

He said people who are assertive and tell officers of their rights when stopped by police are more likely to face excessive force. He said those people should maintain their composure and not engage in arguments when stopped.

"The key is to survive the encounter," Ware said. "Live to complain another day. Police are intimidated by anyone who knows their rights. They perceive people like that to be arrogant or cocky. They are often taught to humble people to get their respect."

He said the beating of motorist Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers has focused attention on the problem.

"The public is finally beginning to wake up to the fact that police brutality exists," he said.

In Howard County, police spokesman Gary L. Gardner said most police officers do not look for trouble, but he agreed with that people should remain calm when stopped.

"Even if you feel you are right in a situation, it's not the time or place in the field with the officer to argue your case. The time for that is in the courtroom," Gardner said. "If the officer feels he has grounds to arrest someone, he's going to effect that arrest. The more resistance he meets, the more force he's going to use."

In Howard, the racial backgrounds of excessive force complainants contradict the NAACP's study. From 1988 to 1990, 27 whites filed brutality charges in Howard, compared with 14 blacks. One complainant was Asian, police records show.

"All in all, the general public is going to go to the police department to file complaints," Gardner said. "Those who are black and know of the NAACP's involvement in these matters may go to them."

E. Jay Miller, a Baltimore County Police Department spokesman, said, "We don't keep a profile, but most of our brutality [complaints]are from whites, not blacks."

Dennis Hill, a Baltimore police spokesman, said he would have to see more details on the study before commenting.

Ware acknowledged that the study is not comprehensive because it only studied cases reported to the state NAACP and that whites rarely complain to the civil rights organization.

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