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Two Black Comedians Sue Over “Humiliating and Degrading” Jet Bridge Drug Search Program at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport

Two Black Comedians Sue Over “Humiliating and Degrading” Jet Bridge Drug Search Program at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport

a plane taking off from a runway

The actors and comedians Eric André and Clayton English are suing the local police department for Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport over a “coercive” jet bridge stop program that they claim is unconstitutional and is subjecting passengers passing through the airport to “racial profiling”.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Atlanta on Tuesday by lawyers for the men who will ask the court to shut down the Clayton County Police Department’s controversial ‘jet bridge stop program’.

As the name implies, the program entails two or three police officers standing on a jet bridge as passengers are boarding a plane and “randomly” stopping people as they are walking down the jet bridge.

On April 21, 2021, Eric was flying from Atlanta to Los Angeles when he was intercepted by two police officers who were waiting on the jet bridge. The officers questioned him for five minutes, during which time they asked if he was carrying illegal drugs, all while other passengers “gawked” at him as they squeezed past.

Eric was allowed to board the flight, but he says the encounter with the police officers was a “humiliating and degrading experience”.

“It’s hard to believe I was selected at ‘random’ for questioning,” Eric said of the encounter. “I didn’t see any other Black people boarding at the time.”

Clayton had a very similar experience as he went to board a flight to Los Angeles just six months earlier in October 2020.

In an eight-month period, the Clayton County Police Department had 402 “consensual encounters” as they describe them, of which only two resulted in passengers being charged with drug offenses.

During that same time period, however, the police department seized more than $1 million in cash and money orders based on the “slightest suspicion” that the money was connected to criminal activity.

“Neither Georgia residents nor travelers are safer because of these unlawful, discriminatory stops,” commented Richard Deane from law firm Jones Day who are representing the two comedians.

In the lawsuit, lawyers acting on behalf of the men will argue that “by ambushing passengers in this manner, the Unit’s officers compound the enormous, preexisting compulsion to cooperate with airport law enforcement by exploiting the passengers’ fear they will create an untoward scene or will appear guilty, subversive, or dangerous to their fellow passengers.”

“Those pressures are even greater for persons of color, given the history of racial profiling by airport security officers,” the lawsuit continues.

An Open Records Act request revealed that 56 percent of the passengers stopped during an eight-month period were black. Researchers from the Policing Project which is supporting Eric and Clayton say that when compared to the percentage of black airline passengers, the odds that black passengers were randomly selected for these stops is less than one in 100 trillion.

View Comments (3)
  • Saw no other black people boarding at the time? Out of ATL? Only White people were boarding huh? My bullshit detector is going off.

  • 32% of the population in Georgia is Black. The article says 56% of passengers stopped were Black. The odds given are 1 in 100 trillion. That is a big math error.

    402 people were stopped in 8 months according to the article. That is fewer than 2 people per day.

    Are these stops completely random or based on suspicion or a mix of both? If completely random, then 56% instead of 32% seems to discount that claim. However, it is probably not completely random. Would you expect a 3 year old to willfully and knowing smuggle drugs? No.

    93.1% of prisoners in federal prison are male. Therefore, one could conceivable claim that searches are random if 93% of those stopped are men.

    There was a rumor that in 2001, airport security purposely selected elderly and kids to search because the chance of them carrying a bomb was low. Airport security would then have less of a chance of missing a bomb for elderly and kids (and avoid being fired from their jobs if they missed a bomb) so the old and kids were selected for search for job security.

    In some other countries, they are open about selecting people based on the mathematical threat.

    Not enough data to make a conclusion.

  • Police made 402 jet bridge stops and confiscated only a handful of “suspected THC gummies” and six prescription pills without a prescription., yet a million dollars in cash and money orders were also seized. I think we can all see what is going on here.

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