On March 21, 2022, the ACLU of Maine submitted a “friend of the court” brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in United States v. Fagan, alongside the ACLU of New Hampshire and ACLU of Massachusetts. In this case, the ACLU is supporting Damon Fagan, a victim of racial profiling. Mr. Fagan was stopped by Maine State Police Officer John Darcy, who previously stated that people with dreadlocks look like “thugs” and should be stopped and questioned. We argue the District Court of Maine erred when it didn’t take into account Trooper Darcy’s pattern of racial profiling when assessing the credibility of his testimony.  

Under the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment, police cannot target persons or engage in investigative surveillance based on the race of the person investigated. The Maine State Police has recognized that racial profiling is illegal and unconstitutional, but they have not taken adequate steps to stamp out the practice by officers like Trooper Darcy. To ensure that the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures is upheld, the Court ought to take into account a pattern of racist policing in assessing an officer’s credibility.  

Even though racial profiling is unconstitutional, it is all too common in the United States — a symptom of systemic racism in policing. Black people have a higher rate of being pulled over, searched without probable cause, arrested for drug possession, and killed by police. Last year, 28 percent of the 1,127 people who were killed by the police in America were Black people; even though 13 percent of the US population identifies as Black. Allowing law enforcement to continue to act on racial bias, without any consequence, sends the message that Black and Brown people deserve less constitutional protection. By finding in favor of Mr. Fagan, the Court of Appeals has the opportunity to uphold the Fourth Amendment and remind the police that racist police tactics are not tolerated. 


Zachary Heiden, ACLU of Maine, Carol Garvan, ACLU of Maine, Matthew Warner, Gilles R. Bissonnette, ACLU of New Hampshire

Date filed

March 21, 2022


United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit



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