Today the Houston Institute joined a large coalition steered by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice in an amicus brief in the Commonwealth’s highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court. The coalition includes more than a dozen prominent racial justice, immigrants’ rights, and LGBTQ organizations in a high-profile matter concerning police bias and racial profiling, Commonwealth v. Buckley.
The case concerns whether police officers can stop and search cars on a hunch that a crime has been committed – in the absence of sufficient evidence – by citing the driver for minor traffic violations that have little or no relation to the underlying reason for the stop and search. Our brief argues police use of pretextual traffic stops in searching for evidence of other crimes invites racial discrimination and must be outlawed. As the brief argues, a 2004 study conducted by Northeastern University revealed large disparities across Massachusetts. In Boston, for example, 32% of citations were given to Black drivers, while only 13.7% of the Boston driving population is Black. More recently, according to the Boston Globe, of the nearly 15,000 individuals that Boston police observed, interrogated, or searched in 2016, almost 70% were Black. Data demonstrates similar discrimination in stops conducted by the state police, and researchers confirm similar statistical disparities nationally.
The brief was filed on behalf of 19 community and professional organizations: Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice; Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts; Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice; Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Union of Minority Neighborhoods; Boston Police Camera Action Team; GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders; MassEquality; The Network/La Red; InterACT:Advocates for Intersex Youth; Theater Offensive; Greater Boston PFLAG; CentroPresente; Brazilian Worker Center; Justice At Work; Justice Resource Institute; Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action; Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys; and Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association.
Read the brief: