Senator West, UNT and cities plan partnership to develop racial profiling model
DALLAS -- A recent meeting between State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas), officials from Southern Dallas County cities, Dallas and the University of North Texas (UNT) yielded a plan to create a model to analyze data gathered under state statutes that prohibit racial profiling.
Senate Bill 1074, passed by Senator West in 2001 requires law enforcement agencies that perform traffic duties to make an annual report that lists the race and gender of all persons stopped by officers. The law also requires police to report if a search was performed, if illegal substances were discovered during the search and if the search resulted in an arrest. Data on traffic stops for 2002 and 2003 revealed that statewide, African Americans and Hispanics are stopped by police more often than whites, although the majority of Texas residents are white.
"What I've asked the University of North Texas and these cities to do is to develop a statistical model that can be used to analyze the data that's been gathered over the past two years," said Senator West. "Reports from law enforcement agencies all over Texas say that Blacks and Latinos are stopped and searched more often than Anglos. The problem is, does that necessarily mean that police are engaging in racial profiling? There could be other factors involved. So I've asked these parties to work together in creating a model that will yield more meaningful information."
City managers from DeSoto, Duncanville, Cedar Hill and Lancaster met with Senator West and UNT Professor Dr. Robert Taylor, a nationally known police consultant, April 16, at the UNT - Dallas Campus. It was prompted by a March meeting with Senator West called by DeSoto Mayor Michael Hurtt to discuss findings of that city's latest report that reflects statewide trends. Assistant City Manager Ramon Miguez represented Dallas.
A February 2004 report commissioned by the Texas Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, the Texas ACLU, and state NAACP and LULAC chapters also showed that African Americans and Hispanics are searched more often than whites even though whites are more likely to be found with illegal substances.
"We take the whole proposition of being fair and equal to all of our citizens very seriously," said DeSoto City Manager Jim Baugh. "If we have a situation where we are not treating people equally, then we want to know about it. But the statistics that we looked at from our racial profiling data didn't give us that comfort, that kind of understanding. One of our goals is to develop the type of information we need to collect; the process to collect that information and then a way to verify that information, so that we know that the data is good."
City managers will further discuss the plan with their respective cities and anticipate recommendations to include additional training for departments on system and data analysis. Baugh says it is natural that DeSoto, Duncanville and Cedar Hill work together on the project given the fact the cities already share internal police functions including a central dispatch. Their proximity, along with that of Lancaster and southern Dallas provide a demographic sample that is representative of state population trends. Taylor says the joint project is a logical extension of the initial legislation.
"We've had a couple of years to examine those issues that come up on any piece of new legislation," said Taylor. "The law, as we see it now needs to be improved in terms of the type of data that we are collecting. What we hope to do is produce a model that will be extractable to other departments around the state. We would collect the appropriate data and then, look at variances in data. Then more important, be able to look at those points where the variances show that there may be a problem at the individual officer level."
Senator West anticipates that the model will include recommendations to create a centralized database and standardize reporting procedures. Beyond the model, he expects that some recommendations will be incorporated into new legislation for the 2005 legislative session with the overall goal of providing a more versatile and effective tool for law enforcement evaluation.
For more information, please contact Kelvin Bass at 214-467-0123.