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Clinton Orders Federal Agencies to 
Collect Racial Data


Summer 1999

In an attempt both to restrict the use of racial profiling, and to calm the anger of civil rights groups regarding such practices, President Clinton issued an executive memorandum on June 9, titled "Fairness in Law Enforcement: Interior Collection of Data," requiring all federal law enforcement agencies to collect information on race, ethnicity and gender of those people whom they detain. The order was preceded by a U.S. Customs Service decision in May to collect data on the people searched by its agents. Customs is covered under Clinton's order.

The memorandum was criticized by law enforcement representatives. Robert Scully, president of the National Association of Police Organizations said, "I don't know what purpose is going to be served by law enforcement officials recording your race, your sex, and your age" (Michael A. Fletcher, "Presidential Order on Police Stops," Houston Chronicle, June 10, 1999).

Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police claimed that the order "shortcuts meaningful dialogue between the police and the community. If anything, it exacerbates the gulf" (Naftali Bendavid, Chicago Tribune, "Clinton Orders Feds to Collect Racial Data on Routine Stops," The Columbia (SC) State, June 10, 1999).

Laura Murphy, director of the Washington Office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), observed that "this is just a mandate to gather statistics, not a mandate to solve the problem." Murphy acknowledged the importance of the President's move, calling it a good first step (Steven A. Holmes, "Clinton Orders Investigation On Possible Racial Profiling," New York Times, June 10, 1999).

Some police representatives argued that the order will not deal with the problem of racial profiling at all. Richard J. Gallo, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said, "when was the last time the Secret Service pulled you over to give you a speeding ticket, or a DEA agent stopped you for running a red light?" [The U.S. Park Police makes thousands of traffic stops each year in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. Border Patrol also makes thousands of traffic stops. Federal agencies patrol vast areas under Federal jurisdiction in every state. -- EES]

The President supports bills for grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to collect racial and ethnic data. The bills, H.R. 1443, sponsored by John Conyers (D-MI), and S. 821, sponsored by Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), were introduced on April 15. Neither of the bills have yet been addressed in committee.

During his speech, Clinton called for the end of racial profiling, declaring it a "morally indefensible, deeply corrosive practice." Clinton said that his memorandum set an example for law enforcement agencies across the county, and challenged them to do the same (Edward Chen, "`Corrosive' Racial Profiling Must End, Clinton Insists," Los Angeles Times, June10, 1999).

Robert Scully - National Association of Police Organizations, 750 First St., SE, Suite 920, Washington, DC 20002, Tel: (202) 842-4420, Fax: (202) 842-4396, E-mail: <>, Web: <>.

Richard J. Gallo - P.O. Box 508, East Northport, NY 11731, Tel: (516) 368-6117, Fax: (516) 368-6429, Email: <>.

Jim Pasco - Fraternal Order of Police, 309 Massachusetts Ave., NE, Washington, DC 20002, Tel: (202) 547-8189, Fax: (202) 547-8190, E-mail: <>.

Laura Murphy - ACLU, 122 Maryland Ave., NE, Washington, DC 20002, Tel: (202) 544-1681, Fax: (202)546-0738.

Rep. John Conyers - 2426 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-5126, Fax: (202) 225-0072.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg - Hart Building, Room 506, Washington, DC 20510, Tel: (202) 224-4744, Fax: (202) 224-9707.