WASHINGTON – A national civic and civil rights group called on President Clinton Tuesday to help mend relations between police and minority communities.
Hugh B. Price, president of the New York-based National Urban League, asked Clinton to lead a campaign “to restore trust and respect between the nation’s police and the minority citizens they are sworn to serve.”
White House spokeswoman Julie Green said, “We certainly respect the group’s views and we’ll review the proposal.”
The National Urban League’s request comes less than a week after the American Civil Liberties Union presented numbers in court documents showing that a disproportionate number of blacks are being stopped and searched for drugs along Maryland highways.
For instance, from January 1995 through September 1996, about 73 percent of motorists stopped and searched by Maryland State Police along I-95 in northeastern Maryland were black. About 20 percent were white.
More than 70 percent of the blacks stopped and searched statewide were not found with drugs.
“This is a problem of police overzealousness,” Price said.
Calls to the Maryland State Police were not returned Tuesday.
Price also mentioned other potential hot spots around the country. In the Pittsburgh area, a white police officer who had been charged with involuntary manslaughter of a black man was acquitted Nov. 13. And in St. Petersburg, Fla., where a white policeman shot and killed a black driver, a grand jury decided this month not to indict him. Riots followed.
Ira Harris, executive director of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, said one can see from police misconduct since Rodney King was brutalized by police officers in Los Angeles that there is a “vein of racism” running through some police departments. “We will not and we cannot ignore” the abusive behavior of some officers, Harris said. The National Urban League asked Clinton “to convene a White House summit as soon as possible” to address police-minority relations as a national problem and to have law enforcement and civil rights leaders come together to solve it. -30-