Racial Profiling Concerns Mount at Atlanta International Airport Amidst Lawsuit
The growing concern was sparked by a lawsuit from comedians Clayton English and Eric André.
The law enforcement at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta is facing criticism for allegations of racial profiling and the harassment of Black travelers. This issue has gained increased attention, particularly in light of a 2022 lawsuit filed against the Clayton County police by comedians Clayton English and Eric André, shedding light on the racial composition of jet bridge stops.
Atlanta News First‘s investigative team has revealed that Black passengers along the jet bridge were the majority of those stopped by police officers, accounting for 67% of the 360 individuals logged from 2020 to 2021. The lawsuit by English and Andre also found similar statistics, citing a 2016 study that found only 8% of flyers were Black, yet also made up 56% of Clayton County police stops.
“When they stopped me on that jet bridge, I’m not saying that I saw everybody that went past me, but most of the other people that went past me seem to be, you know, white people,” English told the news outlet.
The lawsuit was dismissed on a federal level on the grounds the officers claimed the stops were consensual, but the comedic duo filed an appeal on the matter. English stated that although law enforcement states those stopped can refuse, his experience was the opposite, sharing that police surrounded him with no clear indication that he could forego the stop.
The research conducted by Atlanta News First also indicates that racial profiling remains a concern, as law enforcement confiscated over one million dollars in cash during the same period despite a relatively low number of arrests. Furthermore, the majority of individuals stopped did not possess any drugs. Operation Jetway, the training program started by the Drug Enforcement Administration for airport security, was exposed to have been undergone by Clayton County police as well, prompting their “random consensual encounters.”
People of color who are carrying luxury goods were also found to be a target by police stops, leading to the cash seizures that subsequently brought money into the police department and district attorney’s office. English also noted that an officer commented on his designer bag when initiating the stop.
“The only reason I can think is because [Black passengers] look like they’re not supposed to have something that nice, or you think that this person shouldn’t be able to afford this item based off their skin color,” shared English.
With the logs showing a disproportionate amount of minorities being stopped, the concern of racial profiling by the airport police and the financial incentives to do so is becoming more prevalent, say critics.