The Ohio Highway Patrol made news last year for its arrests of suspected drug couriers as they crossed the Ohio Turnpike in northwest Ohio, particularly in Lucas County. Millions of dollars worth of cocaine, heroin and a potent form of marijuana from Canada, were seized. But a review by the Toledo Blade of those cases as well as those for the previous two years found that a disproportionate number of the motorists stopped and arrested in high-profile drug cases were minorities – mostly Hispanics but also some blacks and Asians.
In 2004, for example, just one suspect was white while 26 were Hispanic and six were black. By comparison, a total of 15 whites were arrested over the entire three-year period reviewed. In one case, an Ohio Highway Patrol trooper was terminated by his supervisors over his decision to fire his gun in pursuit of two black suspects he contended had a gun. The chief of the patrol’s administrative investigation unit told The Blade that the trooper engaged in racial profiling in deciding to follow the suspects for six miles before initiating stop procedures. A study scrutinizing whether racial profiling has occurred in Ohio Turnpike stops and drug arrests by troopers in northwest Ohio has stalled because of a lack of funding. The study came about because of a 1996 court decision in New Jersey in which a judge concluded that state police had been targeting African-American drivers for traffic stops and arrests along that state’s turnpike.