NAACP: Racial profiling on the rise
Incidents of racial profiling appear to be on the rise, particularly involving young black men, according to the Seattle King County NAACP.
Seattle Times staff reporter
An African-American senior at Garfield High School says Seattle police singled him out as he and a group of white friends were walking on Capitol Hill one night, telling him he'd never amount to anything and wasn't welcome in that neighborhood.
A probation counselor with King County Superior Court tearfully recalls how a black teen she'd just accompanied on a back-to-school shopping trip was stopped by police for jaywalking and accused of stealing the clothes they had just bought.
The incidents are not isolated but part of a pattern of racial profiling — particularly involving young black men — that officials of the Seattle King County NAACP say appears to be on the rise, based on recent complaints.
"Nearly every African-American male can point to an instance where he feels he has been profiled," said James Bible, president of the civil-rights organization. Bible said such action undermines any "true goal of equity and equality" police and other law-enforcement officers might have in working with the younger generation.
A Seattle police spokesman, Sean Whitcom, said he didn't know if there has been a spike in racial-profiling complaints but added: "It doesn't matter if it's 1 or 100. Every complaint is important to us and they will all be looked at."
Bible was accompanied at a news conference Monday by the probation counselor, Yvette Gaston; the Garfield High student, Marcus Whitehurst; and other NAACP officials and community leaders.
Whitehurst, who plays the viola in Garfield's band, said he and his friends were walking home one night last month when police approached them and asked if they knew anything about an incident at a nearby park. When they said they didn't, officers ran their IDs, handed Whitehurst's friends their IDs but kept his, tossing it onto the roof of the patrol car, he said.
"I asked them what was going on and they began telling me how I would not amount to anything," he said. "When I reached for my ID they told me to get ... off their car." Whitehurst, who in the past had been involved in a domestic altercation with his stepfather, said the cops called him a "convicted felon."
"They were trying to bait me," he said. "It was degrading to have them talk to me like that in front of my friends."
Gaston said she had gone with a teenager to help him pick out clothes for school and then dropped him off in the Central Area before heading home. He telephoned her as she was entering her driveway to say officers had stopped him and were accusing him of stealing the clothes.
Gaston showed up with the receipt but instead got pulled into the confrontation. She said she called 911 but the sergeant on the scene told the emergency operator to cancel the call. Gaston said police later complained to her employer about her. Paul Sherfey, spokesman for King County Superior Court, said that department is awaiting the completion of a police investigation into the incident.
The Rev. Kenneth Ransfer, pastor of the Greater Mount Baker Baptist Church in the Central Area, said he regularly hears stories of racial profiling from members of his congregation, particularly young people.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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