BLACK VICTIMS OF RACIAL PROFILING DRAGNET EXPRESS OUTRAGE -- ON "60 MINUTES II," WEDNESDAY, FEB. 13
Correspondent Scott Pelley reports on Oneonta's "Blacklist" for 60 MINUTES II, Wednesday, Feb. 13 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Since Sept. 11, many people of Middle Eastern descent have been detained because of who they are or what they look like -- and not what they've done. But the problems associated with racial profiling started long before the recent terror-related cases.
Consider what happened a decade ago in a small town in upstate New York: the victim of a crime saw her attacker's hand and, based on only that evidence, the police began questioning all of the African-Americans in town. A federal appeals court ruled that what police did in Oneonta was constitutional, but 60 MINUTES II has learned that the judges may have made their decision without all the facts.
When an elderly woman was attacked with a knife in her home in Oneonta, N.Y., police say she gave them two clues about their suspect: the assailant was a young black man and was cut in a scuffle before he fled the scene. The officer in charge of the investigation called in a police dog to pick up the suspect's trail, which he said led him to the State University of New York at Oneonta. The college administration drew up a list of 78 black male students and handed it over to the police.
One student, Ron Jennings, was a junior at the time of the attack. "It's not a good feeling to know that if someone commits a crime and they happen to be black, that I automatically become a suspect," says Jennings, who disagrees with local authorities' claim that the men were only being questioned and were actually free to go. "They're playing with words. You don't pull someone over in a car, ask them to step out of their vehicle, ask them to place their hands on the hood and they're gonna feel a sense of freedom that they can just walk away."
But Karl Chandler, the New York state trooper in charge of the investigation, doesn't understand why the black men in Oneonta are complaining. "...[Black men in Oneonta] were not treated poorly. They were not treated disrespectfully. If they were looking for an old man with a shaved head, I would have no objections if they came and talk[ed] to me...I guess this is where I have a problem understanding it."
Even black women were questioned. Sheryl Champen, a recruiter for the college, was getting on a bus when the police told her and other black women that they weren't going anywhere until they showed identification. "...When you look at how myself and other women were stopped, that's when [police] took it to another level. That's when I feel that they stopped looking for a criminal that created this crime. They used this as an opportunity to harass us, hoping that we'll pack up and leave."
Three years ago, judges in a federal appeals court decided the actions of police in Oneonta was constitutional because the victim's description of her attacker was more than a racial description. 60 MINUTES II has learned that judges didn't know that in her statements to police, the victim didn't say her attacker was young or cut on the hand. Judges also didn't see the dog handler's official statement, which said the dog actually turned away from the local college.
Jeff Fager is the executive producer of 60 MINUTES II and David Schneider is the producer.
PHOTO OF SHERYL CHAMPEN IS AVAILABLE AT THE FOLLOWING ADDRESS: "CBSPRESSEXPRESS.COM"