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Findings Confirm Concerns that CHP was Targeting Drivers based on Latino Appearance
Fresno – The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC) released preliminary findings (see PDF) Saturday of an investigation into 2012 traffic citations issued by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in Fresno.
“Our initial findings confirm community concerns that CHP was targeting drivers based on Latino appearance during traffic stops. Latinos were disproportionately issued citations that are not accompanied by a moving violation or other infractions that would have been observable prior to the stop,” said Julia Harumi Mass, staff attorney at the ACLU-NC.
The ACLU-NC reviewed citations issued by CHP between January and December 2012. Each citation indicated the reason given by the officer for the stop.
In December 2012, the ACLU-NC and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) held a press conference demanding an investigation into the targeting of Latinos for traffic stops and car impoundments by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in the Central Valley.
“We shared detailed community concerns about racial profiling with the CHP in December 2012 and requested an investigation. We have not heard the results of any CHP investigation, but have conducted our own—based on actual citations issued in 2012,” added Mass.
The ACLU-NC and the AFSC submitted a Public Records Act request to CHP in December 2012, requesting information about all traffic violations that resulted in car impoundments as well as all the citations that included driving without a license as a listed offense, regardless of whether or not they resulted in impoundment.
“Our study shows that there is a clear mismatch between the tickets that are issued and reasons for a traffic stop, like a moving violation,” added Mass. “There is no way that you can tell someone is uninsured, for example, unless you are making assumptions based on a person’s appearance. Racial profiling is not legal and it certainly does not make anyone safer on the road.”
Although Latinos represent 50% of Fresno County’s population:
* 80% of all citations that resulted in car impoundment were issued to Latinos
* 83% of the citations issued for driving without a license that resulted in car impoundment were given to Latinos
In addition, records show that several drivers were stopped because of tinted windows, crooked license plates, or obstructed views but were only given citations for driving without a license rather than citations for a moving violation or other infraction that would have been observable by an officer prior to the traffic stop.
The analysis included people with Latino surnames, in addition to people who were identified as being Latino on the citations we reviewed.
The ACLU-NC will make public its full analysis of the public records later this year.