The principle of racial equality has been far easier to articulate than to implement in practice. To be sure, America has made significant progress in showing respect for the civil rights of all citizens. But there is still a long way to go, especially in the criminal justice system.
The use of racial profiling to target minority suspects is one way that the justice system still falls short. A reminder of this came in a recent St. Louis County case, in which a white lieutenant allegedly ordered law enforcement officers to target African-Americans for arrest.
The incident in question occurred at a shopping center in south St. Louis County and at a Walmart store. The lieutenant who allegedly issued the racially motivated orders has been placed on administrative leave during an investigation.
Last week, St. Louis County police chief Tim Fitch confirmed that the lieutenant had been placed on leave and that an inquiry is underway. He said he is hopeful that the internal affairs inquiry will be completed before the police board meets again next week.
The inquiry was prompted by an anonymous letter from a county officer. The letter alleged that a lieutenant had ordered officers under his authority to focus their efforts on arresting blacks, particularly in the area around the South County Center and a nearby Walmart.
According to police sources, the lieutenant gave these orders to about 20 officers. The officers were supposed to perform license plate checks on cars with black drivers - and then arrest them on any outstanding warrants.
Source: "St. Louis County police lieutenant put on leave following claims of racial profiling," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2-7-13
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