Customs Says It's Changed

Customs Says It's Changed
Posted by FoM on April 10, 2000 at 22:16:15 PT
By Stephen Barr, Washington Post Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post
The U.S. Customs Service, stung by a congressional report showing African American women returning from overseas trips were disproportionately singled out for strip searches at airports, said yesterday that policy changes put in place last year are taking hold.
Customs Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly released new statistical data showing airport inspectors have improved their targeting of international travelers suspected of smuggling cocaine and heroin in their clothes and in their bodies."Racial bias is not the policy of the Customs Service and will never be tolerated," Kelly said at a news conference.Customs officials said the number of intrusive searches has sharply declined but that drug seizure rates are more or less similar among African Americans, Hispanics and whites.For example, Customs said it found contraband on 55 percent of travelers selected for intrusive searches in the first six months of fiscal 2000, up from 26 percent in the same period of fiscal 1999.Intrusive searches include strip searches, X-rays, body cavity searches and monitored bowel movements. Since last year, Kelly has required Customs inspectors to obtain the approval of a supervisor or senior manager before performing such searches or detaining a passenger for medical examination.The General Accounting Office, in a study requested by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), analyzed searches in fiscal years 1997 and 1998 and found African American women nearly twice as likely to be strip-searched on suspicion of smuggling drugs as white men and women, and three times as likely as African American men to be strip-searched.The intrusive searches were not justified by a higher rate of discovery of contraband among minority groups, GAO said.But Customs data for the first six months of fiscal 2000 showed black women now among the least likely to be searched. They were half as likely as white males to be searched on suspicion of smuggling drugs and had approximately the same likelihood of undergoing a search as white females, the agency's figures showed.More than half of all the travelers searched, regardless of race or gender, were found to be carrying drugs, Customs said.Growing numbers of smugglers swallow cocaine-filled balloons or insert packages of heroin into their body cavities, officials said. Customs has far-reaching authority, upheld by courts, to detain travelers and administer searches if they suspect persons of smuggling.Kelly, who took charge of Customs 19 months ago, said a shortage of reliable historical data makes it difficult to determine why the agency appeared to slip into discriminatory practices when selecting passengers for searches. But he said inadequate training of inspectors, weak internal policies and a lack of oversight by senior agency managers were factors."This whole process needed more management oversight than it was getting," Kelly said. By Stephen BarrWashington Post Staff WriterTuesday, April 11, 2000; Page A21  Copyright 2000 The Washington Post CompanyRelated Article:Study Finds Wide Disparities In Customs' Searches Articles On Racial Profiling:
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Comment #1 posted by Freedom on April 11, 2000 at 12:15:39 PT
The kinder, friendlier Customs.
45% of people now detained for strip searches, X-rays, body cavity searches and monitored bowel movements, were innocent people. Down from 74%.Hmmm... Y'know Joyce, I'd like to see if your attitude would change if you were subjected to these procedures. Perhaps not, you are die-hard. One has to wonder just how far you will go to try to guarantee Johnny High-Schooler will not experiment with marijuana.Of course, actually reading the stories of the innocent is more moving than this dry, institutional rendering. Like, the story of a woman detained for 72 hours, handcuffed to a wall in a locked room, given a bucket to defacate into, who gave premature birth to her baby.
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