On February 12, 1993, Robert L. Wilkins, an African-American attorney, and three of his relatives filed a class-action lawsuit against the State of Maryland and the Maryland State Police [MSP] under 42 U.S.C. §1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleged that defendants violated their constitutional rights by stopping, detaining and searching them pursuant to a racial profile used by defendants as part of their drug interdiction efforts. Plaintiffs sought declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief, as well as class certification.
On January 5, 1995, the parties reached a settlement agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, the MSP was to prohibit the use of race-based drug-courier profiling, to re-train all police officers on this new policy and to maintain computer records of all vehicle stops made on Maryland roadways in which drug-detecting dogs were used. Defendants also agreed to pay each plaintiff $12,500 in compensatory damages and to pay attorneys’ fees of $45,600. Data from vehicle stops was to be forwarded to plaintiffs and the court in order to assure that the MSP was in compliance with the agreement.
On November 14, 1996, the plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement, alleging that the traffic stop data provided by the MSP showed that the MSP was engaged in a continuing pattern and practice of race discrimination in its drug interdiction activities carried out along the I-95 corridor. On April 22, 1997, the District Court (Judge Catherine Blake) ordered that its jurisdiction over the settlement agreement be extended as it found that plaintiffs made a reasonable showing that the MSP was in violation of the agreement. The District Court also ordered the MSP to collect and disclose additional data and information regarding traffic stops for further evaluation of the compliance issue.
In June 1998, the case was consolidated with the related case Maryland State Conf. of NAACP Branches v. Maryland Dep't of State Police, Civil Case No. 98-cv-01098-JKB for discovery purposes. [See PP-MD-1 of this collection for a summary of that case.] Litigation and discovery on the issue of MSP’s compliance with the settlement agreement continued for years.
On April 22, 2003 the parties entered into a Consent Decree, which formally resolved all disputed issues in the case and replaced the terms of the settlement agreement. The Consent Decree also served to resolve the claims for declaratory and injunctive relief in the related case Maryland State Conf. of NAACP Branches v. Maryland Dep't of State Police, Civil Case No. 98-cv-01098-JKB for discovery purposes. [See PP-MD-1]
The Consent Decree provided for a new MSP policy that included: the prohibition of racial profiling in traffic stops, retraining of all MSP officers, audio-visual taping of all traffic stops and searches, creation of a citizen complaint process, maintenance of statistics regarding traffic stops, development of a Police-Citizen Advisory Committee to promote mutual understanding between the police force and the community, and use of consent forms for vehicle searches. Defendants also agreed to pay plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and expenses in the amount of $325,000. On May 23, 2003, the District Court approved the Consent Decree.
As of the date of this summary, it is believed that monitoring of the Consent Decree continues.Kristen Sagar - 01/06/2007