We have to ask if similar situations occur in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County where citizens are profiled because of "race", association, social status (read "homeless")?
Curtis Blackwell case moves forward after Federal Judge determines “driving while black” is a factor.
I bring this to readers’ attention in light of concern about border crossings, race, and profiling. This case is still in its preliminary stages and is set for trial this coming April. The case involves the State Of New Mexico DOT and border inspection of driver’s and vehicles entering through a POE (Port Of Entry). Federal Judge Armijo denied in part the Defendant’s summary judgment motion to dismiss the complaint. This is significant because the decision was based on “racial profiling” by an officer who apparently has a history of stopping drivers for “driving while black”. I believe this is the first case of this nature to arise in the US Federal 10th Circuit.
We have to ask if this not limited to just the officer involved in this particular complaint or is it more systemic throughout law enforcement especially in New Mexico's most populated city and county. Have law enforcement personnel been conditioned to make biased assumptions and in turn the general public (which is generally supportive of law enforcement) mirrors those assumptions? Attached is the original complaint.
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
No. CV 09-377 MCA/WPL
JOHN DENKO, individually and in his official capacity;
(Direct quote from the opinion)“Notwithstanding his denial of racial profiling, Officer Strain has been proceeding on the assumption that Black truckers are more likely than White truckers to be involved in transporting illegal drugs. Accordingly, Officer Strain selects Black truckers as a group for inspections at a disproportionately higher rate than their representation in the general population of truckers, and the inspections to which he subjects Black truckers are more intrusive than the inspections to which White truckers are subjected. Officer Strain’s practice of selecting Black truckers for more frequent and more intrusive search searches results in a “self-fulfilling prophecy”: “Officers [who] engage in profiling will necessarily come into contact with law-breaking members of minority communities far more frequently than with law-breaking whites and thus will view the actions of minority civilians with a presumption of guilt.” Martinez v. Village of Mt. Prospect, 92 F. Supp.2d 780, 783 (N.D.Ill. 2000); see also Dorothy E. Roberts, Foreword: Race, Vagueness, and the Social Meaning of Order-Maintaining Policing, 89 J. Crim. L. & Criminology, 775, 819 (1999) (observing that “Racial profiling becomes a self-fulfilling)
That's pretty serious if the cops accosted your wife, beat her, called her racist slurs, arrested you for coming to her defense then left your kids wandering around without any adult supervision. I mean, that's the kind of thing that would get cops fired in a heartbeat. I'm also surprised this didn't make it to the local news or if it did it wasn't a big story. If there were a hundred witnesses then you should have no problem taking this city for all its worth in civil court.
It sounds like a huge lead headline kind of thing.
I'd be interested to know when this happened. I know a couple of reporters who would be very interested in this story.
BB I will be interested in your comments.
Dboy: I hope you and your wife will consider talking with the ACLU ( who assisted Blackwell ) about your experience.
Finally finished work! (It was one of those days...whew! T.G.I.F.)
Back when my children were small racial profiling seemed to be more of an issue for our family. Me: olive-skin, brown eyes, part Arab-American; my family includes Arab-Mexicans living in Mexico (BC) but my Spanish is OK, not great, and often I'm mistaken for Hispanic (by Hispanics just as much as by Anglos). My husband: African-American and American Indian, with a Latinate last name that is often assumed to be Hispanic. Our kids - son is blue-eyed blond and in Europe is often taken to be a German or Swede and daughter looks like me, but much prettier and with curlier hair. (My son's biological father is deceased; his step-dad is the only father he has known).
So many experiences in this state with law enforcement - some not so positive, but others we were treated as well as anyone would be. All of the really negative experiences happened outside of Albuquerque - Red River and Alamogordo really stand out. In Red River, it was not a "driving while black" case, but I'll mention it anyway because it gave me nightmares for years. We were detained at a restaurant because people eating there questioned whether my son really belonged to us. They called the police. My son's responses convinced them that we really were Mom and (step) Dad. After that I started carrying my son's birth certificate and his father's death certificate everywhere we went, so that if I had to prove my parenthood, I could do so. I strongly believe that we never would have been questioned if we (the parents) had been blond/blue eyed and our son olive/brown-skinned. In fairness this happened about 17 years ago, but it still makes me tense up.
We were pulled over a few times during the year we lived in northern NM (Taos/Angel Fire area). Reasons given included insurance check, tire "seemed bald", taillight supposedly "not functioning." Oddly enough, when we checked these out, everything was within the legal requirements. For what it is worth, this only happened when my husband was driving. It makes me wonder.
We were once pulled over at gunpoint at night in Alamogordo by three police cars for "suspicious behavior." We were driving at the speed limit in no irregular manner whatsoever. (Trust me). The police shone the light directly into my face and ordered commands that I could not understand, since I am deaf and read lips. I kept shouting at them to drop the lights as I was deaf and could not understand them. I was terrified that this would turn into something horrible - one child was crying and the other was very upset, but I dared not to turn around to comfort them. Once the police understood that I had a modicum of understanding about my rights under the law (I've taken a few law school courses and been involved with enough DoJ complaints that I sound like someone that could possibly be a "troublemaker") they finally dropped the light from my face, approached the vehicle, and gave us a story about why they had pulled us over.
It seemed that they thought we might be a trio who had killed a policeman in southern Colorado. The description that was given over the airwaves was not that close - three white males driving a blue American full sized pick up truck. We were a family of 4 in a small white Toyota pickup truck - one male, one female, 8 year old boy and one 3 year old girl. Despite obviously not matching the description, they kept the guns on us while they ran the license and registration check. We informed them we were camping in the area, and had run into town to pick up some groceries and ice. After everything checked out, they sent us on our way.
We've been through there a few times since, as well as Ruidoso and Cloudcroft, where we have been pulled over and warned about speeding or other supposed infractions (my husband drives like a little old lady and NEVER exceeds the speed limit). Each time I've played the Americans with Disabilities Act "card" and been firm enough about my communication needs as required by law, citing ADAAG if necessary, talking about interpreters and just generally making a stink. They have let us go with "warnings" - in part I think because I can be a total PITA. Mind you, I don't pull the PITA behavior until it seems like something like racial profiling is going on.
Only twice have we (as a family) been pulled over in Albuquerque in the past ten years or so. Based on what the kids have told me, my husband has been pulled over more often than that (especially while travelling with our güero son) but he's known me long enough to know that this kind of thing makes me incensed and propels me into "concerned citizen activist mode." I think he sometimes keeps these things to himself so as to give me a gift of blissful ignorance. I also think part of the reason we are not pulled over as often now is that we are older and have accoutrements of a middle class lifestyle. Grey hair (not mine, his!) and a car that shouts middle class (Toyota Avalon) probably put us in the "non-threatening" demographic, despite our Barelas address. Plus, I'm guessing a middle aged black guy driving with a young adult white guy isn't nearly as "disturbing" as a young adult black guy driving with a white blond child? Sigh...
On a different profiling note, I will say that I almost never fly with Arabic print material these days or anything else from the Middle East, including jewelry from loved ones that I wish I could wear without paying the price of profiling. I try to reduce my odds of the other profiling issue that my familia deals with: "flying while Arab." My problem is my pattern of repeatedly scanning the airport with my eyes is a suspicious behavior that TSA is trained to recognize. I do this because I can't hear any announcements made over the PA system, and no matter how many times I notify the gate agents that I cannot understand these announcements, they forget to let me know. So I compensate by being highly attentive to any visual changes by frequently scanning the room. Unfortunately, that behavior, plus a Mediterranean appearance, plus print materials in Arabic = profiling. (Mind you, I go through the Sunport 4-8 times a month!) By eliminating the Arabic materials, it seems to reduce the extra screening.
It is not the screening I mind so much as the frustration of explaining to TSA that I read lips and if they tell me to do something and I can't see their lips I am not able to follow their instructions. This even after I point to my very expensive hearing aids. Instead, they view my asking them to repeat something as evidence of incompetence in English or being foreign born or something, which leads to the whole line of "where were you born" questions. And it doesn't help that I have identification with two different addresses (Washington DC and Albuquerque because I really do live in two places!) and passport visas showing recent visits to the Middle East. I think it is really interesting that I am almost never pulled aside when I'm flying from DC to Albuquerque (or anywhere else in the US or internationally when I am flying into DC). It has been years since I've been pulled aside by TSA or the equivalent outside of Albuquerque, but about once a month in Albuquerque I get pulled aside at the Sunport. The frequency of extra screening in Albuquerque and the lack of this screening at any other airport I frequent elsewhere (including in the DC area) makes me wonder if there is some profiling going on in the Duke City.
I don't want to jump to conclusions based on my experience alone (anecdotes only get one so far), but I'm really curious about what others have found in this city. I've had a number of Anglos (or Anglo looking people) respond with skepticism when I've shared these experiences and suggested these could be partly motivated by racial profiling. On the other hand, when I've recounted these to people of color the response has often been knowing nods of agreement.
@BB: I hear your story loud and clear, and I believe what you are saying. I haven't experienced profiling because I am a fair-skinned, blonde haired, white person; however, I believe profiling goes on probably a lot more than I am aware. Your story about being detained in a restaurant b/c other customers assumed your child w/ blue/blond hair wasn't yours makes my heart sink--a clear case of guilty until proven innocent in our racist world.
When I go through the border patrol checkpoint driving back from Las Cruces, I've never had to do any more than answer "yes" to their question "Are you a US citizen?" I remember a person of color (perhaps Latino) at Home Depot set off an alarm when he walked out and he was immediately surrounded by a few employees as if he were guilty of stealing something--when they quickly learned that it was his cell phone (or another electronic device) that set off the alarm. I know that same behavior would not have taken place if the alarm had sounded when I was walking out. I've brought my dog into places where dogs aren't allowed (like Target, Dollar Tree, and Home Depot) and no one has said anything to me (I don't do this much anymore.)
I have no doubt that your profiling stories are true; I only wish they we lived in a just society where things like that simply didn't happen.
@dboy: ditto with what someone else said--I hope you contact the ACLU.
"I have no doubt that your profiling stories are true; I only wish they we lived in a just society where things like that simply didn't happen."
@Christie Mc - you and me both! I realized this morning when I reread my post that it could be construed as "Anglos don't always believe me and non-Anglos do." This wasn't my intention. My close friends (Anglo or non-Anglo) reacted exactly as you did; it was those who did not know us as well who viewed our experiences with skepticism and suggested that we might be seeing racism where it didn't exist. And to be fair to them, if one does not see this happen, it makes sense that one might be skeptical.
And yes, that experience of having people doubt that my son was our child was one of the most terrifying moments I've EVER had as a parent. To think that I might not be able to protect my very own (biological) son based on some (white) person's assumption that a blue eyed blond boy couldn't possibly be with a black man and an olive-skinned woman...let me just say that never happened to us once when we were living in Oakland/Berkeley CA. Though people did often think that I was my son's nanny! The funny thing is, if people can get past the difference in coloring, it is pretty obvious that my son and I are related. (Especially if they listen to us!) And of course now that my son is a grown man, I'll never have to be troubled by this fear again. But in my perfect world, children who obviously look happy and are interacting well with the adults who bring them to a restaurant should not be questioned by some jacka** about their relationship with those adults.
You know, this makes me wonder...I think I will ask my fair-skinned, green-eyed, once blond father if people ever questioned what my olive skinned brown-eyed brother or I were doing with him when our mother was not with us. It would be interesting to know what his experiences were 35-40 years ago.
Now I am off to work to learn something about ethics and intuition this rainy Saturday morning. Missing Albuquerque and counting the minutes until I return home.