Indians expect to be harassed when they leave their homelands. "That's a part of being Indian in this state."
From the South Dakota Advisory Committee's Report for the Commission on Civil Rights:
Rosalie Little Thunder, Rapid City
Rosalie Little Thunder has lived in the Rapid City area for over 20 years. Racism is a problem in the community, she said, but an even bigger issue is the denial of its existence. "We have heard different people sitting up here saying there is no discrimination, there is no racism. I've seen that to extremes here. And when we deny it, we don't recognize it. We don't recognize it, we don't deal with it."
Racism, she continued, is not merely prejudice but the power to exercise that racism; and for that reason reverse racism is impossible.
"The gentlemen sitting up here saying there is no discrimination, they hold the power. Law enforcement, most of all, holds the power. The judicial system holds a lot of power over Native people," she said.
Before racism can subside, she said, those in power must confront their attitudes toward Native Americans. ... Alleging racism exists throughout South Dakota's judicial systemby judges and juries, even by defense attorneysLittle Thunder recommended to the Advisory Committee that a study be done on sentencing patterns.
... Beginning his presentation, Chief Starr remarked that panelists before him had focused on negative encounters with non-Indian officers. But, by and large, he has not had "bad dealings" with white officers. "There's a lot of issues in the past, and a lot is gone," he said ... One problem he has faced, however, is racial profiling. And his own officers are sometimes the ones pulled over. He told the Committee:
Some of the younger law enforcement officers out there, they even stop some of our Indian police officers. We see each other. Then when they stop us, they realize it's us. They don't recognize us out of uniform. . . . It's not done, I believe, intentionally towards the individual officer. I believe it's because he's an Indian driving a nice vehicle or something and he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
... ... ... .Speakers at the public session concurred with earlier panelists that Native Americans are targeted by overzealous, and sometimes abusive, law enforcement officers. ... ... .
... ... some speakers discussed practices of officers from Rapid City and Walworth County. Complaints ranged from harassment to assault. Young Native American drivers in Rapid City are pulled over for playing Lakota music too loudly or simply for driving an "expensive" car, Sheryl Lu said. In Walworth County, Brad Peterson, an attorney for Dakota Plains Legal Services, said Native American drivers are stopped for such minor infractions as having air freshener hanging from rearview mirrors and having bent license plates. He added, "I find it hard to believe that investigation of these types of charges would show many non-Indian people being arrested for these types of charges."
Geraldine Jackson said she was chased out of the Rapid City Police Department after inquiring about her grandson's arrest. An officer, she alleged, told her he would "throw her in jail and throw away the key" if she came back.
Linda Johnson said a Rapid City officer slammed her daughter face-first onto the trunk of a squad car. A panel set up by the mayor exonerated the officer, she said. Roberta Crazy Horse described another encounter with Rapid City officers:
When she refused to let officers who did not have a search warrant into her house to look for a reported gun, they dragged her out by her legs, she alleged. As a result, she suffered a spinal injury, a broken arm, and severe bruises, she said. She asked the Commission to investigate the department.
... .Several speakers suggested ways to curb officer misconduct. First, Brad Peterson said the Commission should review arrest records for the hard data needed to prove Native Americans are targeted by officers. He recommended starting with Walworth County. Second, Peterson and Faith White Dress said officers need to be more diverseboth in terms of race and genderto better serve the community. Peterson said there are no Native American police officers, sheriffs, or deputy sheriffs in Walworth County. And White Dress said the Pine Ridge Public Safety Department must hire more female criminal investigators and officers. Third, Geraldine Jackson said a review board to monitor police departments' policies and practices, specifically in Rapid City, would be useful.
The Rapid City Journal Online.
... .Madonna Thunder hawk of Swift Bird, on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation, said Indians expect to be harassed when they leave their homelands. "That's a part of being Indian in this state," she said.
... Marcella LeBeau of Eagle Butte also said racial profiling is a problem in South Dakota. "Why must we have to live with this kind of harassment," she asked. "We have a veil hanging over us ... of racism." ...
Driving While Black: Racial Profiling on Our Nations Highways by David A. Harris, University of Toledo College of Law An American Civil Liberties Union Special Report, June 1999:
No person of color is safe from this treatment anywhere, regardless of their obedience to the law, their age, the type of car they drive, or their station in life. In short, skin color has become evidence of the propensity to commit crime, and police use this "evidence" against minority drivers on the road all the time. (page 4,)
Online archives from The Rapid City Journal Online.
... many Indians are poor and drive old cars, making them easy for police to spot, some said. Webster Two Hawk, state commissioner of tribal government relations, said he has an old car and has been questioned several times by police but not ticketed.
... After several people said police use flimsy excuses, such as a dangling object on the rearview mirror, to stop Indians, Sen Jim Putnam, R-Armour, suggested a bill should be introduced to repeal that law. It is a petty offense, punishable by a $20 fine, to hang things from the rearview mirror. Police like it because it allows them to stop suspicious-looking people ...
Sun, 02 Sep 2001
Charlie Cummings then spoke, "I was a tribal police officer for 15 years. I'm a private citizen now. August 5, I was going fishing at He Dog Dam. Four Indians in a Wisconsin car got stopped by the Bennett County sheriffs. And I know the sheriffs searched the Wisconsin car for two hours, looking for drugs. You know what the probable cause for them being stopped was? Two miles-per-hour over the speed limit. I don't believe it was right, and it was a hundred-degree plus day."
The sheriffs get half their pay from the city of Martin; therefore, the
sheriffs jump for the mayor. Indian businesses is dropping off at Martin businesses. Why? Indian people are afraid to go to town. Even afraid to go to the bank. The sheriffs in Martin, when they spot 65 (tribal) plates, will run your license plate and then wait for you in the shade of trees. These officers even wait for you to go to town. O'Bryan's said, business is dropping off.
Rapid City Journal: News Column
... ... There's no need to be rough and put people in jail. The badge gives these guys power, and they abuse it. Yet, they can't search white people or prominent business people's kids. Those kids have and do drugs too. (In Maryland, statistics show that " blacks make up 17 percent of drivers but account for 73 percent of traffic stops, and whites account for 76 percent of drivers but less than 20 percent of stops. Further field study showed whites accounted for 74 percent of actual traffic violations, regardless of whether or not they are stopped."
Sun, 02 Sep 2001
... ... I might answer Waterbury (the sheriff) in the Booster. My wife says they'll surely retaliate against me.
... ... My son quit the Sheriff Department. A county commissioner was stopped for DWI, but they made him let the commissioner go. My son said, that's not right. I've been a law officer for 15 years.
... ... I personally witnessed Bennett County Sheriff behavior along the road to Hwy 18. One night they shined a spotlight in my daughter's eyes as she was driving us to Martin. We shouldn't have to tolerate actions such as this.
... ..Our kids inherit racial abuse. I don't want kids to experience what I experienced. We're a third world country. We need to change things peacefully. Look at the Berlin Wall. When the wall went down, it was done peacefully. The U.S. government is scared of the truth. Waterbury is but a reincarnation of Custer and the 7th. Cavalry.
From the minutes of a meeting regarding a March on Martin against racial profiling:
What is taking place in and around Bennett County is called "Racial Profiling." In other words, or in the words of the Sheriff Russell Waterbury, " ... .is I see a carload of Indians, I'm gonna stop 'em."
Last weekend, a juvenile was spotted off the reservation by a Bennet County dispatcher. Apparently, the juvenile was wanted for a truancy violation. The dispatcher phoned into the sheriff, who immediately pursued the juveniles car, after ramming and side swiping the juveniles care the sheriff began shooting the unarmed suspect. He fired three rounds, one of which went through the hood of his patrol car.
Forum focuses on abuse, racial profiling, lack of state
"You know there are a lot of Indians who are picked up. The police chief actually admitted he ran a wants and warrants record on every Indian he saw."
... if police believed tribal residents were in the vehicles, they were stopped. Tribal members reported that warrants checks were made not only on the driver, but all the passengers. They said they heard the names of some of their relatives on radios during the checks, she said. "They would stop Indian cars for nothing. The most common reason was obstruction, "illegal objects hanging from a rear view mirror," she said.
More alarming were the cases of more serious abuses. Lehto recounted the case of an 11-year-old boy choked by a white police officer in front of witnesses. An all white jury found the officer innocent ...
... ... ... Thunder Hawk said Indian people expect to be pulled over and learn to fear nontribal law enforcement officers. "You get that fear. It is just part of who we are, we're so used to it," Thunder Hawk said.
... ... ... it was about 2 a.m. and he had finished celebrating his birthday with friends in Sioux Falls. He stopped his car to write a note to his friend, when a police officer passed him. Once he proceeded on his way, the officer followed. Starkey said he knew he hadn't broken any laws. He doesn't drink, he has current insurance and licenses and his car was road worthy. He believes he was stopped for "driving while Indian." After the officer could find no reason to cite him, Starkey refused an offer of leniency and insisted the officer cite him for something. He wanted to prove the officer had no reason to stop him other than for his race.
Native Americans in South Dakota: An Erosion of Confidence in the Justice System, The South Dakota Advisory Committee for the Commission on Civil Rights, 1999
Thomas Hennies has been a Rapid City police officer for 35 years, and for the past 16 years he has been chief of the 101-member force. Recently he was elected to the South Dakota State Legislature.
He told the Committee, "I personally know that there is racism and there is discrimination and there are prejudices among all people and that they're apparent in law enforcement."
Forum focuses on racial disparity; Indian youths treated differently,
Cars in downtown were stopped and searched by police one after another Friday night in this community of 2,500 as flashing red and amber lights illuminated the street. Some Sisseton-Wahpeton tribal members, especially teen-agers, said they're tired of what they said is a regular weekend influx of law enforcement.
Racial Profiling Bill killed
"I do not believe it is occurring very often. This bill isn't a solution, if it is indeed a problem."
Dick Tieszen, lobbyist for sherriffs and police chiefs, says, (Racial Profiling Bill killed, by Denise Ross, Journal Capital Bureau, 2/9/01)
Forum Focuses on Racial Disparity
... Audrey Oliver, 20, an enrolled tribal member, and others say they are pulled over often for dirty license plates, window tints and having items dangling from their windshields. And they said they think sometimes they're pulled over for being Native American.
... Juvenile corrections is a Native issue," says Jennifer Ring. She said the ACLU considers the state's continuing practice of over-incarcerating juveniles is the single greatest outrage." She railed against state law enforcement for not recording the race of people they contact or cite...."Police departments are not doing it. I wonder why." One local lawman, who sat through the forum but did not participate, declined comment on what he heard. "I don't want to get into trouble," said Rodger Carlson, a Roberts County deputy sheriff ...
(Native Americans in South Dakota: An Erosion of Confidence in the Justice System, The South Dakota Advisory Committee for the Commission on Civil Rights, 1999)
In Roberts County, German alleged, an examination of records would show "patrol routes encompass the Indian portion of the county significantly more than they encompass the non-Indian section," which means more arrests of Indian people, he said. Law enforcement also sets up traffic checkpoints between Indian communities, he added.
Driving While Black: Racial Profiling on Our Nations Highways by David A. Harris, University of Toledo College of Law An American Civil Liberties Union Special Report, June 1999
Racial profiling is based on the premise that most drug offenses are committed by minorities. The premise is factually untrue, but it has nonetheless become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because police look for drugs primarily among African Americans and Latinos, they find a disproportionate number of them with contraband. Therefore, more minorities are arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and jailed, thus reinforcing the perception that drug trafficking is primarily a minority activity. This perception creates the profile that results in more stops of minority drivers. At the same time, white drivers receive far less police attention, many of the drug dealers and possessors among them go unapprehended, and the perception that whites commit fewer drug offenses than minorities is perpetuated. And so the cycle continues. page 4
The cost of keeping such statistics and the potential to inflame already tenuous race relations in the state would be problems ... "This will do more to cause divisiveness between the races than individual actions could ever do," said Rep. Tom Hennies, R-Rapid City.
Rapid City Journal: News Column
The bill follows an identical bill killed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 19. It would have state, county and city law enforcement officers record the race, ethnicity, age and gender in all stops and would require the state Attorney General's Office to maintain a database.
The Attorney General's Office and law-enforcement lobbyists opposed the bill, saying it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Fri Feb 9, 2001 11:08 am
Jennifer Ring of the ACLU says that the Department of Justice surveyed six jurisdictions and data collection costs ranged from $30,000 to $100,000. In San Diego, records are tracked by Microsoft Access program, which comes packaged with software for under $100.
(ACLUs Highlights in the Campaign Against Racial profiling)
In 2000, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Washington joined the states of North Carolina and Conncticut enacting laws that require law enforcement agencies to collect data during traffic stops. At least 26 states have considered racial profiling legislation in 2000 and several additional states are expected to consider bills for the first time in 2001.
The End Racial Profiling Act 0f 2001 (HR 2074/S.989) 10/25/01:
This practice (of racial profiling) violates our nations basic constitutional commitment to equality under the law. Racial Profiling is also contrary to effective law enforcement-polices practices that result in disproportionate stops of minority pedestrians or motorists generate resentment among minority citizens and undermine the respect and trust that are essentialfor successful community policing.
Excerpts from Driving While Black: Racial Profiling on Our Nations Highways by David A. Harris, University of Toledo College of Law An American Civil Liberties Union Special Report, June
One of the core principles of the Fourth Amendment is that the police cannot stop and detain an individual without some reason probable cause, or at least reasonable suspicion to believe that he or she is involved in criminal activity. But recent Supreme Court decisions allow the police to use traffic stops as a pretext in order to "fish" for evidence. Both anecdotal and quantitative data show that nationwide, the police exercise this discretionary power primarily against African Americans and Latinos.
No person of color is safe from this treatment anywhere, regardless of their obedience to the law, their age, the type of car they drive, or their station in life. In short, skin color has become evidence of the propensity to commit crime, and police use this "evidence" against minority drivers on the road all the time. (page 4)
Fighting crime is surely a high priority. But it must be done without damaging other important values: the freedom to go about our business without unwarranted police interference and the right to be treated equally before the law, without regard to race or ethnicity. "Driving while black" assails these basic American ideals. And unless we address this problem, all of us not just people of color stand to lose. (page 6)
In practice, the Whren decision has given the police virtually unlimited authority to stop and search any vehicle they want. Every driver probably violates some provision of the vehicle code at some time during even a short drive, because state traffic codes identify so many different infractions. For example, traffic codes define precisely how long a driver must signal before turning, and the particular conditions under which a driver must use lights. Vehicle equipment is also highly regulated. A small light bulb must illuminate the rear license plate. Tail lights must be visible from a particular distance. Tire tread must be at a particular depth. And all equipment must be in working order at all times. If the police target a driver for a stop and search, all they have to do to come up with a pretext for a stop is follow the car until the driver makes an inconsequential error or until a technical violation is observed. (page 10)
The ACLU of Pennsylvania believed that the problem in Philadelphia was considerably larger than the actions of six police officers, and that racial bias in law enforcement was rampant. Under threat of ACLU litigation, the city entered into negotiations which, for the first time in the country, required a detailed racial analysis of police data. A case filed in federal court resulted in a settlement which required the city to record information about all vehicle stops, including the reason for the stop, any police action taken, and the race of the driver stopped. (page 22)
All the evidence to date suggests that using traffic laws for non-traffic purposes has been a disaster for people of color and has deeply eroded public confidence in law enforcement. (page 28)
In April of this year, the ACLU of Northern California established a statewide toll-free hotline for victims of discriminatory traffic stops. The hotline number has been publicized on billboards and through a 60-second radio spot. In the first forty-eight hours, the hotline received 200 calls. As of this writing, the count stands at over 1,400. (page 30-31)
"The End Racial Profiling Act of 2001" would: prohibit racial profiling; create programs to eliminate racial profiling by federal and state law enforcement agencies; allow for the collection data on police investigations; and provide federal grants for the development and use of best policing practices, including training and use of technology to facilitate the collection of data.
"Ending the practice of racial profiling is important to help rebuild the trust between minority communities and all levels of law enforcement." Congresswoman Morella.
Racial Profiling " causes a breakdown of trust on which community policing depends. And unless that trust is built, deep seated, nurtured, then the police can't do the job of protecting our communities, a job we all want the police to do." John Conyers, Jr.
In the last Congress, we wanted to move forward on this issue by studying the practice of racial profiling. But today we have moved beyond just a study. We now know racial profiling exists. We know the pain and outrage that it causes, and, most of all, we know that it is wholly at odds with our civil rights laws.
The time has come to take the right steps to end racial profiling and protect the rights of all Americans to walk or travel free of discrimination. U.S. Senator Russ Feingold
As you consider the actions taken in response to terrorism, consider that threats to the constitutional rights of one group endanger the constitutional rights of everyone. As Dr. King said in a speech he gave in September 1967: "I have fought too hard and long to end segregated public accommodations to segregate my own moral concerns. It is my deep conviction that justice is indivisible, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Justice means that each and every right and liberty in our Constitution must be as strong in a time a crisis as in a time of peace. We cannot sacrifice equality or privacy or basic checks and balances without eroding justice for all. We cannot allow discrimination against one group without threatening equality for all. We cannot allow the government to silence the voice of one dissenter without weakening the core of our democracy. These principles are the bedrock of American democracy.
Nadine Strossen President of the American Civil Liberties Union
The "STAR - Students and Teachers Against
Racism" web site is the