View from Lodi, CA: ACLU Racial Profiling Coup in California

The lives of drug
mules, terrorists and other sundry bad guys who use the
California freeways to ply their trade just got a lot

The astonishing
settlement [PDF]
by the California Highway Patrol of a 1999

racial profiling
lawsuit originally brought by San
Jose attorney Curtis Rodriguez will end C.H.P. consent
searches until at least 2006. This despite a 1996
Supreme Court decision which ruled

v. Robinette)
that explicitly-given permission
searches are legal.

The settlement also
requires officers to have “objective” evidence that
drugs will be found before searching any vehicle.
Finally, officers must document, subject to supervisory
review, the race or ethnicity of each person stopped.


American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California
which represented the plaintiffs, may never have had an
easier case. Despite the Supreme Court precedent, the
California Highway Patrol, with the presumed assent of
Governor Gray Davis, folded up like a cheap suit.

California Highway Patrol is the now nation`s first law
enforcement agency to prohibit officers from asking
motorists for consent to search their cars or persons.

California Highway Patrol Commissioner Dwight “Spike”
Helmick took the fall for
Davis. The
ACLU`s lead counsel, the San Francisco law firm of

Keker & Van Nest
salt in his wounds. Said partner

Jon Streeter,
Helmick and his top deputies convinced us that
they recognized a problem and were committed to making
significant changes to eradicate the egregious practice
of racial profiling."

problem would that be? Anyone who doesn`t want to be
searched has only to say, “No!”

denied that the California Highway Patrol practices
profiling. He also insisted drug arrests have not been
adversely impacted since the 2001 moratorium on consent
searches. And in a most curious comment,
Helmick referring to
suspects, said, “I want to treat them like family.”

But Hemlick`s take on the
California Highway Patrol doesn`t square with the views
held by district attorneys and criminologists. All agree
that the volume of drugs and cash seized is down since
consent searches ended.

the highly trained narcotics officers are

. Here is an example one expert gave me
of how efficiently the California Highway Patrol

“CHP officers must have a "reasonable suspicion" of a
crime before they can pull someone over. This reasonable
suspicion of a law violation must be based on non-race
based evidence before the officer can pull the guy over
(e.g., the motorist was speeding).

“Once the officer
makes the stop, he contacts the person. Then, the
officer goes through his standard litany of questions,
gets the license, etc.

“During this contact,
the officer, through his experience, may recognize
certain things about the motorist that are common with
other people in the officer`s past (and training) who
have committed crimes.

“On Highway 395, for
example, the CHP officer knows that the Central Valley
Mexican gangs use Mexican illegals to run the dope
north. So — when the officer is confronted with a
Mexican illegal, with no luggage, and who only has a
vague ability to describe where he is going and who he
is going to see, the officer might just want to SEARCH

“However, because the
officer does not have actual evidence that the guy is
carrying dope, the officer will rely on the simple
request for consent. Very often the driver will consent,
even if there is a huge amount of dope in the car.

“Major drug busts are
made this way and it is one of the most effective tools
for road cops to use to stop the flow of dope.”

But today, thanks
to the ACLU and Governor Davis, suspicious behavior is
not enough.

The ACLU hailed
the CHP settlement as a


And Brooklyn Law
School Professor Emeritus and constitutional expert

Henry Mark Holzer
– but for different reasons. “What you have here,” said
Holzer, “is the ACLU
making the laws of California without going through the
legislative process.”

“This is rampant political correctness. Not only has the Supreme
Court upheld consent searches but racial
profiling—whatever that means– is not unconstitutional,

Holzer told me.

Connerly of the
American Civil Rights Institute
agrees with
Connerly tells me:

“Law enforcement has to be given sufficient ability to do its

This settlement has a number of foolish components that
will drive up the cost of law enforcement without
commensurate benefits to the public. In particular,
requiring officers to record drivers` race and ethnicity
and to have this documentation reviewed daily is racial
idiocy gone amok.

by settling this lawsuit in the manner that it was,
Governor Davis played into the hands of the ACLU and
aided them in their opposition to the

Racial Privacy Initiative

that is the scariest of all: the ACLU has struck so much
fear into our legislators that the mere mention of buzz
words like “racial profiling” send them running for

they`re hiding, new “laws”—like the ban on consent
searches—are enacted without a single vote cast.


powerful ACLU presents itself as the most vigorous
defender of First Amendment rights. But the organization
is oh-so-selective about for whose rights it will fight.

Those who wish to speak out against federal immigration
policy are not prospective ACLU clients. Consider the
case of


In October 2000, ProjectUSA
erected a billboard at the foot of New York`s Brooklyn
Bridge. Referencing the U.S. Bureau of the Census, its
message read,
"Immigration is doubling US population in our

After a mere 13 days, the owner of the property, the
Port Authority of NY/NJ, ordered the board removed.

Executive Director

Craig Nelsen appealed to the ACLU

not once, not twice but three times to support
ProjectUSA`s First Amendment

Nelsen was denied each time.

The ACLU told a reporter that
ProjectUSA had no case. But an ACLU staff
attorney confided in Nelsen that a “large and growing
immigrants` rights faction”
would make it difficult
for the ACLU to become involved.

In 2002, ProjectUSA won an
out of court settlement from the Port Authority – thus
proving the ACLU wrong.

Nelsen, now Director of Friends of Immigration Law
Enforcement, noted that if the ACLU had promoted open
and honest debate about immigration, as anyone truly
committed to freedom of speech would do, then possibly
“the chaos and stupidity that lead to the 9/11
attacks might have been avoided.”

A cruel and ironic footnote: the Port Authority owned
the World Trade Center.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the

Lodi News-Sentinel