October 9, 1998

ACLU Opens Hot Line For Drivers Stopped Just For Being A Minority

By Louinn Lota

LOS ANGELES - A civil rights group opened a toll-free hot line Tuesday for motorists to call when they've been stopped by police because of their race.

``Thousands upon thousands of anecdotal stories strongly suggest that African Americans and Latinos are far more likely to be stopped while driving than whites,'' Ramona Ripston, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said Tuesday. ``We now need a statistical basis to see whether or not this information is in fact true.''

The ACLU took action after Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed a bill by Assemblyman Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, that would have required police and highway patrol officers to keep statistics on whom they stop and why, and whether a ticket or citation was issued.

``What we're hoping is that we gather enough anecdotal evidence to have the bill reintroduced in February,'' Ripston said. ``We'll tally the incidents and we'll get some information on what is happening to people of color.''

Murray, who is black, was stopped in June by a Beverly Hills police officer as he and his fiancee rode his Corvette to a restaurant for a victory celebration. Murray had just won a hard-fought primary campaign for a state Senate seat.

Several states have traffic stop statistic laws, and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has introduced HR 118, a national Traffic Stop Statistics Act.

The ACLU's toll-free number is 877-DWB-STOP (877-392-7867). DWB stands for ``Driving While Black or Brown.'' Information is confidential. The survey is not scientific and cases will not be checked for validity.

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