A Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the NAACP in their effort to obtain racial profiling data from the state police’s internal investigations reports. Previously, the state police had denied requests, stating the information within should be protected as personnel files. The Court saw otherwise.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the court said the information could be shared under the Maryland Public Information Act as long as identifying information was redacted. A Baltimore County Court had ruled similarly, though the state police appealed this initial decision.
The state police are required to gather and document information on race and ethnicity on all stops. This information can then be used to determine if there are any issues with specific officers targeting minorities, or if there is a department or region-wide issue of racial profiling. Perhaps more importantly, the documents from the internal affairs unit details what is done when officers are accused of racial profiling.
Data shows that not a single complaint of racial profiling was upheld by the department between 2003 and 2008, and the NAACP rightfully wants to know why that is.
The battle isn’t a new one. It has literally been going on for decades. One of the plaintiffs who initially began the fight, with the American Civil Liberties Union, went on to become an attorney and is now a federal judge—all before the issue was resolved.
“We will finally get a look under the tent,” said Deborah Jeon, legal director for the ACLU. She said that the ruling will allow everyone to see just how comprehensively the state police are dealing with these very serious allegations.
Despite laws and promises by law enforcement agencies across the state and the country, minorities are still stopped at disproportionate rates. While these agencies say they have crafted policies to ensure stops are conducted for all the “right” reasons, these internal investigation details may shed some light on what’s actually happening with complaints behind closed doors.
You have rights, no matter your race. While the police can stop you if they have a legitimate justification, your race should have no impact on their decision to enforce the law.
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