Police, Sheriffs in Violation of State Law
Senator says more oversight needed
AUSTIN -- Seventy law enforcement agencies in Texas have failed to comply with a Texas Senator's recent open records request, acts that are in violation of the Texas Public Information Act.
State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas), author of Texas' racial profiling law (S.B. 1074) which passed in 2001, issued open records requests to nearly 600 police and sheriffs' departments across the state, asking for each department's racial profiling data for 2002 and 2003.
"Racial profiling is a serious issue," Senator West said. "The Texas Legislature approved legislation that prohibits racial profiling in order to eliminate this deplorable and unjust practice. Now some departments are refusing to report the data to the public. It begs the question of what their reluctance means. What are they hiding from?"
Senator West's request was made in order to continue monitoring racial disparities in stop and search rates across Texas, and to ensure that departments are complying with routine open records requests. The most recent request coincides with the results of a study by Texas civil rights groups earlier this year, which found that hundreds of departments failed to comply with previous open records requests for their racial profiling data.
Despite the 10-day deadline for responding to an open records request under the Texas Public Information Act, more than 100 departments did not respond to Senator West's initial request. More glaringly, 70 agencies have yet to respond to a follow-up request sent by Senator West in June.
"I'm concerned that so many police and sheriffs' departments don't seem to be taking their obligation to share public information seriously and in fact, are in violation of state law," said Senator West. "Some agencies aren't gathering racial profiling data or producing reports at all. If police and sheriffs don't freely share racial profiling data with public organizations, it sends a clear message to the community that their local law enforcement agencies remain insensitive to the issue of racial profiling."
There is no clear pattern that characterizes compliance or non-compliance among departments. Some departments who did respond to the Senator's request exceeded the requirements of S.B. 1074. "These departments have not only shown good faith by collecting additional data but have also proven that compliance with the racial profiling act is possible for any department, large or small. There is clearly no good excuse why some - especially larger - departments have not complied with state law," said Senator West.
It cannot be determined if non-responding agencies actually produced the S.B. 1074 mandated reports. Those departments may be in violation of two state laws - the Public Information Act as well as S.B. 1074. The racial profiling law also requires annual reports to local governing bodies.
A complete list of non-responding agencies is attached. For more information, contact David Quin at (512) 463-0123