ACLU: People of color unfairly targeted by Nebraska law enforcement
Organization adds that militarization of local agencies with biased practices is alarming.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 26, 2014
LINCOLN – Today the ACLU of Nebraska released the final in a series of reports on Nebraska law enforcement practices. The report, entitled Building Public Confidence: Ending Racial Profiling in Nebraska, reviewed data collected by the Nebraska Crime Commission. The ACLU’s analysis of the data found that “profiling in Nebraska traffic stops disproportionately and negatively affects communities of colors.”
“To serve and protect is not a suggestion. It is a mandate that law enforcement must apply equally to all communities,” said ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller. “Unfortunately the data from the Nebraska Crime Commission shows that Nebraska law enforcement agencies are targeting communities of color. In addition to being unfair, this hurts public safety by destroying trust between law enforcement and the people of Nebraska.”
Nebraska began collecting racial profiling data in 2002. In 2012, the Nebraska Legislature renewed the law that mandated the data collection and expanded the Nebraska Crime Commission’s authority to act on the data from local agencies. According to the ACLU report, the Crime Commission has yet to use their authority.
The ACLU report focuses on three findings:
- People of color are more likely to be pulled over. Black drivers in Omaha are pulled over twice as often as they should be according to census data. In Lincoln, black drivers are pulled over three times as often.
- People of color are more likely to be arrested. A white driver has a 1 in 48 chance of being arrested. Drivers of color have a 1 in 13 chance of being arrested. The data showed that there was not a significant difference in the actual offenses committed by the drivers.
- People of color are more likely to be subjected to searches. 1 in 50 white drivers were searched while 1 in 30 drivers of color were searched.
This is not the only instance of racially biased practices reported by the ACLU in recent years. A 2013 report called The War on Marijuana in Black & White found that Nebraska is behind only New York and D.C. in terms of overall arrest rates. Looking into those numbers further found Nebraska also had one of the highest arrest rates for blacks. In Nebraska, blacks are 4.65 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
In June of this year, the ACLU released War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing. The report found that many police departments, including the Omaha Police Department, uses SWAT teams for search warrants, particularly in communities of color. Since the data for the report was collected, Nebraska law enforcement agencies have acquired several more pieces of military equipment.
“The idea of military equipment in the hands of local law enforcement agencies that participate in racially biased practices is terrifying,” said Miller. “A national spotlight has been pointed at Ferguson Missouri, a community that, unfortunately, does not look that different than Nebraska. The reality is that racially biased law enforcement practices and excessive militarization of law enforcement exists in communities around our country. Nebraska should act now to build public trust with law enforcement.”
The ACLU has several recommendations for Nebraska agencies:
- Mandate anti-bias trainings through the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center.
- Bring law enforcement complaint processes into alignment with Department of Justice recommendations.
- Follow Department of Justice recommendations for use of body-worn cameras and dash cameras.
The Nebraska Racial Profiling Advisory meets on Thursday, September 18th at 9:30 am in the State Office Building. The ACLU encourages those who have experienced racial profiling to attend the meeting or share their story with the ACLU.
For a copy of the ACLU’s report on Militarization: https://www.aclu.org/militarization
For a copy of the ACLU’s report on Marijuana: https://www.aclu.org/marijuana
For a copy of the ACLU’s reform agenda in response to Ferguson, Mo.: https://www.aclu.org/aclu-response-ferguson