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Maryland Police Agree to End Racial Drug Courier Profiles


February 1995

The Maryland State Police have agreed to end any practice of race-based drug courier profiling, traffic stops, and searches as part of a settlement in a case brought against them by four black motorists (Wilkins v. Maryland State Police (Civ. No. MJG-93-468 USDC MD); "Maryland Police and ACLU Settle Drug Courier Profile Case," Drug Enforcement Report, Jan. 23, 1995, p. 1).

Under the agreement, the State Police have begun compiling information about the numbers and race of those who are stopped. The Maryland affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLUF), who litigated the case along with the Washington, DC law firm of Hogan and Hartson, will be provided with this information. The state will also pay $45,600 in legal fees and $12,500 to each of the plaintiffs. In addition, the police will specially train their personnel in the law of highway interdiction. [For more information about this case, contact Deborah Jeon, Esq., Managing Attorney, ACLUF Maryland Affiliate (Eastern Shore Project), 410-758-1975.]

Harvard law school graduate and DC attorney Robert L. Wilkins, one of the plaintiffs in the case, was travelling through western Maryland on May 8, 1992 with three of his relatives (all four are African-American). Wilkins was returning to his home from Chicago, where he attended his father's funeral. An officer stopped the car, citing a speeding violation and then asked if he could search the car. Wilkins refused, and the officer called for a drug detection dog. When Wilkins continued to refuse, officers told him and the other family members that they would be detained until the car was searched. The plaintiffs then left the car, and had to wait in the rain during the search. No drugs were found.

Maryland State Police said there was no "racial drug courier profile" for the force. Periodically, they receive information about a drug trafficking operation and issue intelligence reports. In this case the State Police had broadcast an "intelligence report" describing drug couriers as black males and black females. Outgoing Police Superintendent Larry W. Tolliver said that these reports will no longer mention race. Tolliver also said that he issued a directive that officers are not to stop and search motorists because of race.

The Nov. 1994 NewsBriefs reported on a similar settlement by the Tinicum Township in Pennsylvania. That police force was required to stop the practice of pulling over motorists based on racial profiles and report statistics to the ACLU on the race of those that are subjected to traffic stops. Tinicum Township was also required to pay $220,000 to the 55 plaintiffs and their lawyers.