State Settles Racial Profiling Case Dating To ’93

BERLIN – In a decision
that could have far-reaching implications across the state including the
Eastern Shore and Worcester County, a settlement was reached this week between
the parties in the landmark “driving while black” racial profiling case filed
by several plaintiffs over a decade ago.

The initial suit was
filed in 1993 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of an
African-American man and his family against the Maryland State Police (MSP)
alleging they were victims of racial profiling, or the practice of stopping
motorists and making decisions regarding searches based on race. While the
initial case was filed on behalf of a specific plaintiff, documents showed the
state police illegally targeted African-American motorists for stops and
seizures for offenses later called “driving while black.”

In 1995, a settlement
was reached between the parties under which the state police, among other
things, agreed to collect data on traffic stops along Maryland’s highways and take measures to
prevent racial profiling. Two years later, a federal court overseeing the case
ruled the MSP had continued to target non-white motorists for traffic

In 1998, based on
accumulated evidence of a continuing pattern of racial profiling, as many as 18
plaintiffs joined in a suit against the MSP alleging many troopers were
continuing to engage in racial profiling. This week, the parties reached a
settlement, which among other things, provides substantial damages to the
individual plaintiffs, requires the MSP hire and retain an independent
consultant to assess its progress towards eliminating the practice or racial
profiling, and the issuance of a strongly worded joint statement condemning the
practice and outlining preventative action against the practice in the future.

The state’s three-member
Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved the $400,000 settlement, which
includes $300,000 in damages to be paid by the state to the individual
plaintiffs in the case. Another $100,000 will be dedicated to the hiring and
retention of an independent consultant who will assess how the MSP has
implemented policy and practices changes to address racial profiling. According
to the terms of the settlement, the consultant will make recommendations to MSP
that cannot be rejected without reasonable cause.

According to the joint
statement, “while the parties have agreed to terms acceptable to both to end
the lawsuit, the parties remain committed to condemning unlawful racial
profiling in the future.”