A New Orleans case in which police officers were accused of racial profiling magnifies doubt that law enforcement agencies will ever end the practice. On Monday, a federal jury found that Louisiana State Troopers violated a Black student’s rights, but rejected a series of civil rights claims that accused officers of racial profiling.
“We are studying the verdict and plan to seek further review. The people of New Orleans should be alarmed that the state police are a threat to the constitutional rights of law-abiding residents of — and visitors to — New Orleans,” said Jim Craig, the attorney who represented the student Lyle Dotson, according to the New Orleans Advocate.
The ruling effectively allows the Louisiana State Police to use racial profiling in New Orleans. Unlike the state police, the New Orleans Police Department has been under a federal consent decree that bans racial profiling since July 2012, after a federal probe found a pattern of racial bias by the police department. The state police, however, are not subject to federal oversight while policing in the city, and this ruling illustrates that they are apparently free to continue profiling.
Racially biased policing continues largely unaddressed—even in cities that acknowledge that a problem exists. In New York City, for example, progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD announced implicit racial bias retraining for most of the police force in 2014 after a grand jury declined to indict the White officer who fatally choked Eric Garner. Yet the mayor has made repeated excuses for delays in keeping that promise.
In the New Orleans case, the police arrested Dotson, who was 18, while he was on a field trip to the city’s French Quarter neighborhood in 2015. The troopers claimed that he resembled a Black suspect. Without identifying themselves, the officers pushed him against a building and handcuffed him. One of the officers tried to photograph the teen without permission. Dotson filed a civil rights lawsuit that accused the state police of routinely profiling Black people in the French Quarter.