The number of states suing over the use of race and ethnicity in police stops is growing.
The states that have filed lawsuits are not only challenging the constitutionality of racial profiling, but also are seeking a court order requiring the Department of Justice to ensure that race and ethnic profiling does not occur in the first place.
“This lawsuit will likely provide the federal government with a critical window into what is happening in police departments across the country,” ACLU attorney Michelle Richardson told The Intercept.
“I think the DOJ will need to do a lot more to ensure a transparent, effective and fair process, and we will see how that unfolds.”
Richardson, a civil rights attorney who has filed numerous racial profiling lawsuits against law enforcement agencies nationwide, said that racial profiling is a key issue in her practice.
“In a lot of ways, we have a very good case for the courts to take on,” she said.
“And the court is likely going to do that because the issue of race is so important.”
The lawsuit was filed last week by the states of California, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Virginia.
The lawsuit asks a federal court to order the Department, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Department for Homeland Security Investigations, and the Department Of Justice to investigate whether “there has been a pattern or practice of race-based profiling in the use and enforcement of the Fourth Amendment rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U,S.
The states also want the DOJ to ensure the “consent of the state” to a racial profiling investigation is obtained before the agency conducts a racial stop.
In a statement, the DOJ did not deny that race was a factor in stops.
“As we’ve seen, the use-of-force incidents that we have seen in the past year are overwhelmingly committed by African Americans,” the statement read.
“The department is committed to implementing an effective, comprehensive, and transparent investigation of the use by local law enforcement of force incidents.”
Richardson said that the states are also asking the court to establish a policy of racial and ethnic sensitivity in police encounters.
“We don’t want a law enforcement officer to violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments because they feel threatened,” she told The New York Times.
“So that officer must have that level of sensitivity before they use force.”
The case is being filed in federal court in San Francisco by the Civil Rights Project, the ACLU of Northern California, and other civil rights groups.
The case also highlights the importance of the courts and the use a federal jury trial, Richardson said.
The DOJ has not yet filed a response to the suit.
In an email to The Intercept, a spokesperson for the department said, “The DOJ does not comment on pending litigation.”
A spokesperson for DOJ declined to comment.