HOUSTON (FinalCall.com) – According to the Houston Police Department’s most recent study of its racial profiling data, Black residents were pulled over more than any other race in 2010.
“I’m definitely not surprised by this report. These White cops, and even some Black ones, always pulling me over even though my car’s tags are not expired, I don’t have warrants and I’ve never been to jail,” Tyrone Stevenson, 23, told The Final Call.
Mr. Stevenson, a store cashier, lives in an apartment complex on the Southwest side of the city. He says he’s not oblivious to the drug traffic and violence that surrounds his neighborhood and knows it invites racial profiling.
“I’m a victim of my environment. My car windows are tinted and I have nice rims so I’m sure the cops think I’m a drug dealer. But I am an honest Black man working hard. I’ve been pulled over five times the last three months for no reason. It is racism in my opinion,” said Mr. Stevenson.
The HPD report, released in May, says Blacks represented 33 percent of the 494,000 people stopped by police officers last year. The percentage of Hispanics and Whites stopped were 32 percent and 30 percent, respectively. HPD stopped 175,000 Black residents, released 18 percent, issued tickets to 48 percent and gave warnings to 17 percent.
Approximately 18 percent of White residents were arrested when they were stopped, while 16 percent of both Blacks and Hispanic drivers were booked last year, the report says.
Houston is not the only city with this issue. An investigative report on the ranks of New Orleans Police Dept., released by the U.S. Department of Justice in March, unveiled patterns oflegal violations by officers such as excessive force; unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests; and racial and ethnic profiling.
The Justice Dept. report, requested by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, also noted that for every 16 Blacks put under arrest in the Crescent City, only one White person was arrested.
“The Justice Department report confirms what people at the grassroots have been saying for years: the New Orleans Police Department is the greatest cause of injustice in our city. From pressuring rape victims to drop charges to blatant racial profiling and harassment of Black youth, the NOPD has defined what discrimination looks like,” activist and journalist Jordan Flaherty told The Final Call.
In Fayetteville, N.C., an analysis by The Fayetteville Observer of traffic stops by police officers over the last two years revealed that Blacks accounted for nearly 60 percent of those who were pulled over. Black drivers were also involved in searches during traffic stops approximately 75 percent of the time.
Gallup’s 2004 Minority Rights and Relations poll showed 53 percent of Americans felt the practice of stopping motorists because of their race or ethnicity was widespread.
By race, 67 percent of Blacks and 63 percent of Hispanics agreed that racial profiling is widespread in traffic stops, compared to 50 percent of Whites, the poll stated.
“So what’s new? Law enforcement hunted us down when we ran away from the plantation,” said Student Minister Robert Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 45.
“They enforced the Jim Crow laws in the South and confined us to the ghettos in the North, infiltrated our Civil Rights and Black liberation movements in the 60s and 70s, and now, today, under the guise of war on drugs, ending gang warfare and the ‘War on Terror,’ police profile and target Blacks, Latinos and Muslim males,” he said.
Karim Saleem, a popular fitness trainer in Houston, said he was the recent victim of an unjust shakedown when he was stopped by White officer Stefan Riha in a Southeast area apartment complex.
Mr. Saleem told KHOU news on May 6 that the officer accused him of having had no insurance and a suspended license. The cop then proceeded to search Mr. Saleem’s car, confiscated his phone and wallet and then placed him in the back of the patrol vehicle. After about 20 minutes, Mr. Saleem said he was set free.
“He said, ‘If I were a bad cop I could have really caused you some trouble.’ I was like, ‘Yes sir.’ I was thinking that this guy is giving me a break. Maybe I do have something wrong with my license,” said Mr. Saleem, who is Black.
Hours later, Mr. Saleem realized that the officer had stolen a substantial amount of money from his wallet. “When I leave to go and get some gas, I get my wallet and I think, ‘Wow this is kind of light.’ Lo and behold he robbed me,” said Mr. Saleem.
An internal affairs investigation led to HPD arresting Mr. Riha for stealing $1,100 from an undercover officer. He is suspended with pay and faces 10 years in prison if convicted.
Mr. Saleem said, “A police officer–someone that we highly respect and are supposed to look up to, call for protection–if you can’t trust him, who can you trust?”
Mr. Muhammad partnered with community activist Reginald Gordon and hip hop artist K-Rino in speaking at numerous local high schools before school dismisses for the summer. They warned Black students about this profiling issue, the need to end street beefs and their role in building up their communities.
“The only question left unanswered is when are we going to heed the words of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to stop the killing, unite, pool our resources and do for self before it is too late?” asked Mr. Muhammad.