State police searches of blacks on I-95 decline Number and percentage decrease during 1996

November 20, 1996|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

The number and percentage of blacks searched by state police along a stretch of Interstate 95 in Maryland dropped steadily in the first nine months of this year, although the American Civil Liberties Union has alleged continued racial bias in roadside searches.

According to data obtained by The Sun, 34 motorists -- or 53 percent of those searched along a 44-mile stretch of I-95 in Baltimore, Harford and Cecil counties -- were black in the three-month period that ended Sept. 30.

That was down from 96 black motorists, or 68 percent, between January and March of this year.

Overall, the total number of searches also declined through the year, from 140 in the first three months to 64 in the quarter that ended in September. But while the percentage of blacks who were searched declined from January to September, the percentage of whites increased, from 21 percent to 31 percent.

Meanwhile, troopers from the JFK Barracks in Perryville, responsible for patrolling a stretch of I-95 that has a reputation as a drug trafficking route, wrote traffic tickets to 3,700 blacks and 7,812 whites from June 16 to Nov. 14.

Of the blacks ticketed for speeding or other motor vehicle violations over that period, state troopers searched 54 of the vehicles. Of the white motorists ticketed during that period, 38 were searched for drugs.

"I don't know if there is a decrease in the reporting of the searches or an actual decrease in the searches," said Deborah Jeon, an ACLU attorney who filed a motion in federal court last week charging the state police with violating a court agreement that prohibits using race-based profiles.

"It could be either," she said. "There is no way of really knowing if fTC they have changed their ways."

Capt. Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman, would not comment on the figures, saying the issue would be settled in court.

In the motion filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, the ACLU alleged that the state police continued to stop, detain and search motorists on the basis of race, in violation of a 1995 federal court agreement.

The ACLU motion asks that state police pay a $250,000 penalty, turn over the names and addresses of all motorists stopped since January 1995, continue giving the court information on searches and detentions until 1998, and provide additional information about motorist stops.

State police officials, who have consistently denied discriminating against the black family that was the subject of the original 1992 suit, have denied any wrongdoing.

They also have questioned the accuracy of an ACLU survey conducted from June to August that showed that while only 16.9 percent of the motorists traveling that stretch of I-95 were black, nearly three-quarters of state police searches were done on black motorists.

Pub Date: 11/20/96

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