Someone asked about what constitutes “profiling” in regards to traffic stops. I thought this might be a good time to address that. The mere mention of “profiling” in the same conversation as traffic stops is considered a no-no. Mostly because it is something defense attorneys use as a defense. Any police officer, regardless of jurisdiction or agency who stops someone of race or descent other than his own can expect a defense attorney to use “profiling” to attack the state or governments case. Especially if large amounts of drugs and or money are involved and the case goes to court or starts that way.
One case I had that I will not soon forget came from my first year on the patrol in late 1997 when I arrested a woman from Missouri for DUI. At the time I was assigned to Ottawa and Craig Counties in extreme N.E. Oklahoma. Several months later, after I had transferred home to S.E. Oklahoma the case went to trial. I drove back to Miami , OK for the trial and had learned a particularly obnoxious (but good) local defense attorney had taken the womans case. The woman was about three times the legal limit on alcohol in my estimation but refused to take a breath test. I had to literally carry her to my patrol car and she “cussed” me the entire time. This was before video cameras were widely available to us but I can assure you I heard a new curse word or two. I stopped the woman for speeding at least 15 mph over the limit and for no other reason. The moral to the story is that the only real defense the attorney made was that this was a “profile stop” and that the case should be dismissed on that reason alone. He was the most annoying attorney I ever met and in that one particular case I can honestly say I took his attacks personal. For that reason I still remember the case well. Most notably the suspect was as white as I am and it was late at night. Her German Shepard could have been driving the car and I would not have been able to tell until I walked up there after the car stopped. I suppose he had to make the woman feel like he gave her her moneys worth. I still scratch my head occasionally when I think of that one.
There are other officers around here much more knowlegeable about drug interdiction than I am but I can say I know a little about it and also the “profiling” defense. It is illegal and unethical to stop anyone solely based on race. Always has been. You MUST have a violation of traffic law or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to make a stop legal and a subsequent case strong. With all that in mind I will say that depending on your location there are certain things and people to watch for that are known to carry drugs, commit crimes etc. In a police officers mind a person who fits a “profile” might be someone to take a closer look at when stopped for a legitimate violation of the law or under some other reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. To single out a particular race is wrong and certainly illegal. From what I have read and heard in recent training there is simply no way to know who might be carrying drugs these days. Even elderly people have been used to carry large amounts of drugs and or money.
Good drug interdiction officers must know what is usual and unusual in the area they work. They must stop people for legitimate violations then go from there. Is that “profiling”??? I really don't think so...........
Trooper Duane Johnson #280
Oklahoma Highway Patrol
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