By Clifton Adcock and Nate Robson
Over a four-year period, Oklahoma’s two largest police departments and two state agencies received about 60 complaints alleging illegal racial profiling by officers.
Investigators substantiated none of the allegations, according to data obtained by Oklahoma Watch.
All of the complaints were probed by the law enforcement agencies against whom the complaints were filed, but investigators found insufficient evidence that officers had treated the person differently because of race or ethnicity.
The absence of any finding of profiling contrasts with assertions by many blacks that police detain, arrest, follow or frisk them for little or no reason except their race.
“If it’s a black person and they (officers) see you walking, they’re going to pick at you,” said Daran Steele, who recounted how two officers, saying they had a complaint, stopped and frisked him in his northeast Oklahoma City neighborhood in 2013, then let him go. Steele is black. “Now, if it’s a white person, they aren’t really going to mess with them. A person like me, yeah, they figure I’m up to no good.”
Steele, pastor of New Union Baptist Church, did not file a complaint.
Law enforcement officials train officers not to engage in racial profiling, which is a violation of both federal and Oklahoma laws. Under state law, racial profiling is a misdemeanor and “means the detention, interdiction or other disparate treatment of an individual solely on the basis of the racial or ethnic status of such individual.”
Oklahoma City Police Department Chief William Citty said the reasons are complicated as to why there are no substantiated reports of police racial profiling.
“Bias-based complaints are difficult to prove. Most of them are merely ‘the officer stopped me because of my race,’” Citty said. “Unless the officer says something to the complainant to indicate the stop is racially motivated, then they are hard to prove, because the officer will usually have a justified legal reason for the contact.”
Filing of Complaints
From 2011 to 2014, a total of 62 complaints alleging racial profiling were filed with the Oklahoma City and Tulsa police departments and either the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office or the now-defunct state Human Rights Commission, both of which handled bias complaints, the agencies reported. All but three complaints were…
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