From the Office of State Senator Royce West - District 23

For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Jennifer Wichmann
(214) 467-0123
October 8, 2002

With contract secured, racial profiling law moves closer to implementation

Most outside of government circles are unaware of the process that a bill must undergo to become law. For the most part, that stage is complete when the bill clears both legislative chambers and is signed by the governor. But that, albeit a tedious process, is still just part of the task. Laws go from passage to the implementation stage. Rules must be passed and governmental agencies must shift gears to adjust to a new mode of operation. Some laws require more of a preparatory period than others.

With that said, a new Texas law is literally about to hit the road. August 6, the Council on Competitive Government - an agency whose sole mission is to ensure that Texans get the most bang for their tax bucks - announced the awarding of an $18.5 million contract to Mobile-Vision, to supply audio/visual equipment in accordance with Senate Bill 1074, the Racial Profiling Bill.

That amount - the $18.5 million that voters approved as part of a constitutional amendment last November - represents the largest-ever, single purchase of audio/visual equipment for law enforcement use. Those dollars will equip more than 7,500 vehicles used in traffic enforcement throughout the state of Texas.

This Spring, the Council sent out a nationwide request for proposals for the equipment contract. After undergoing an extensive evaluation process, Mobile-Vision emerged the winner from a pool of 13 competitors. The company was shown capable of providing a quality product in the needed quantity and also came in just under the $2,500 per unit target price established by the Council. By October, it is anticipated that the first wave of audio/visual equipment purchased under SB 1074 will make its way to local law enforcement agencies.

I truly believe that the creation and passage of the Racial Profiling Bill is in testament to the will of the citizens of Texas. Might I remind that I believe the use of audio/visual technology in police vehicles will prove a valuable aid to the public, law enforcement and the court system.

Often police/citizen encounters result in complaints about procedure and alleged use of force that are difficult, if not impossible to substantiate. Police officers too, are sometimes the subjects of frivolous complaints that require valuable man-hours in response. If these interactions can be resolved without the necessity of a court setting, it represents a savings in both law enforcement resources and taxpayer dollars. If recorded audio/visual evidence can assist in determining the truth, it is the public that stands to benefit.

The implementation of the Racial Profiling Bill has required the team effort of the Legislature, law enforcement, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) and local government.

Police departments were required to adopt a racial profiling policy by January 1, of this year. Those policies must meet the requirements of Senate Bill 1074. Initially, information was requested of more than 2,700 law enforcement agencies in the attempt to determine which of those agencies fit the definitions set forth in SB 1074. TCLEOSE has worked with those agencies in the collecting and evaluation of their departmental policies.

Of that number, nearly 2,100 have responded. More than 1,500 of those agencies perform traffic stops in the course of their duties and in doing so, fall within the guidelines of the racial profiling bill.

DPS was assigned the task of developing rules for determining which agencies will receive audio/visual equipment and the number of units needed.

Senate Bill 1074 requires that information collected by agencies be submitted to local city and county governing bodies annually. The first reporting of that information is due March 1, 2003.

In addition, all licensed police officers in this state are required to participate in an education and training program addressing racial profiling. TCLEOSE's October report said that 80 percent of Texas' nearly 66,000 officers have received the training mandated under SB 1074.

In preparing the Racial Profiling Bill, I sat in my Capitol Office and listened to the story of a member of our Armed Forces, a decorated Desert Storm veteran. While on a cross-country trip with his 12-year old son, he was twice stopped by Oklahoma troopers. The second time, he watched as his car was ransacked. Under the hot August sun, the army sergeant was held inside a police car, it's windows rolled up, air turned off and had to watch as his son screamed in fear, terrified by a police dog. His crime? There was none.

Sure this incident happened in Oklahoma, not in Texas. But it shouldn't happen anywhere. Nowhere in this state, nor in this country should law-abiding citizens be stopped by police for reasons not related to suspected criminal activity. Race, gender, sexual orientation nor religious affiliations are cause for police action. I believe that the use of audio-visual equipment in police cars will help to ensure that both citizens and law enforcement are on their best behaviors.