California Governor Brown signs anti-racial profiling bill AB953 that is legislation to change California’s definition of racial profiling. It also requires that local law enforcement agencies are to now collect demographic data on the people they stop.
For civil rights activists, the governors action is seen as progress towards protecting minorities from racial profiling. On the other hand some in law enforcement feel that this is an unnecessary burden.
Republicans Fear Whites Could Be Profiled
Under Weber’s bill, law enforcement agencies in the state would have to:
- Include the race of the person who was stopped
- The reason for the stop, and;
- Whether the stop resulted in a citation or arrest.
The largest police departments will have to start reporting in April 2019 and the smallest by April 2023.
Several Republicans opposed the bill, saying such record-keeping would require onerous, costly reports and might be unnecessary as police agencies begin using body cameras. They fear it could prompt officers to engage in racial profiling against whites to skew the statistics.
Law Enforcement: Waste of Time and Resources
“It’s a terrible piece of legislation,” said Lt. Steve James, president of the Long Beach Police Officers Assn. and the national trustee for the California Fraternal Order of Police.
Law enforcement organizations, including the state Fraternal Order of Police and the 65,000-member Peace Officers Research Assn. of California, had asked Brown to veto the bill, AB 953, arguing among other things that its reporting requirements would be burdensome to police and costly to taxpayers.
James echoed the sentiment.
“We have contact with the public all the time that requires no documentation, no paperwork,” he said. “Now, the amount of time we have to spend doing documentation and paperwork has gone up. The time doing menial tasks has gone up.”
The extra work will cut into the time officers spend on community policing, James said. He cited that as one of several flaws in the legislation, not least of which is that it addresses a problem he contends doesn’t even exist.
“There is no racial profiling. There just isn’t,” he said. “There is criminal profiling that exists.”
What does the Data Show
California Attorney General Kamala Harris admitted last September that violent arrests are fueling racial tension between cops and citizens because the “ data shows that there are disparities” in how minorities are treated by law enforcement.
Harris said: “Twenty-five percent of the deaths in custody are African American despite the fact that African Americans are 6 percent of California’s population.”
The attorney general stated that she was in favor of legislation that “would require law enforcement to report non-fatal use-of-force incidents to the state” and make this information available online for anyone to see.
Study Shows LAPD Racial Profiling
A 2008 study of LAPD data by a Yale researcher (http://www.law.yale.edu/news/8165.htm) found blacks and Latinos were subjected to stops, frisks, searches and arrests at significantly higher rates than whites, regardless of whether they lived in high-crime neighborhoods. Then-Chief William J. Bratton acknowledged isolated cases of profiling may occur but dismissed the notion of a widespread problem.
An earlier study found that Latino and African American drivers were much more likely than whites to be asked during LAPD stops to leave their vehicles and submit to searches. But the report’s authors said they could not determine whether this treatment was caused by racial or ethnic profiling.
Lt. Craig Lally, president of the union that represents Los Angeles police officers, called the new measure “another one of these feel-good laws” that will be impossible to enforce.
The Michael Brown Affect
Legislators in nearly every state this year proposed measures stemming from the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old who had scuffled with a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s death triggered large protests and repeated clashes between demonstrators and heavily armored police.
Twenty-four states passed at least 40 new measures addressing such things as officer-worn cameras, training about racial bias, independent investigations when police use force and new limits on the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, according to a recent analysis by The Associated Press.