From the Office of State Senator Royce West - District 23

For Immediate Release
March 21, 2001

Senator West's Racial Profiling Bill gaining momentum

AUSTIN - The Senate Criminal Justice committee, after more than two hours of testimony, voted 6-0 in favor of Senate Bill 1074, a bill designed to address the issue of Racial Profiling. The bill, filed by State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) on March 5, 2001 has the support of various law enforcement entities, Civil Rights groups and major Texas cities.

"When I decided to take on this issue, I wanted to bring together all interest groups and see if together, we could craft a compromise bill that was reasonable to all parties," said Senator West. "This is not the type of issue that will ever have 100 percent agreement on every point. But I appreciate the collaborative effort of all those who have worked in good faith to reach this point." Senator West called Senate Bill 1074 "a work in progress."

Representatives from the Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio police departments stood alongside Senator West and Legislators at the March 5, news conference. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee met Wednesday, March 14, 2001. Representatives of police departments from Dallas, and Houston, joined the Texas NAACP, Texas ACLU, LULAC, MALDEF, and the National Conference of LaRaza in testifying for Senate Bill 1074.

Using language from the federal definition, Senate Bill 1074 defines Racial Profiling as "a law enforcement action based on an individual's race, ethnicity or national origin rather than on the individual's behavior or on information identifying the individual as having engaged in criminal activity."

The bill requires that traffic citations will include additional data on ethnicity, information on searches, and for authorities to implement a process for gathering citizen complaints on Racial Profiling. Phase II data collection for Senate Bill 1074 will require expanded information on all stops. The data will monitor pedestrian and traffic stops, whether or not a citation was issued, probable cause for conducting a search, if an arrest resulted from the search, and if contraband was seized. These mandates will apply to departments who have not installed audio/video equipment in police cars by January 1, 2003.

Senate Bill 1074 contains provisions to establish education and training programs by January 1, 2002. It also requires law enforcement to study the use of audio/video equipment statewide.

"Video cameras in every patrol car is an expensive proposition," said Senator West. "However, I think it is important to weigh the importance of the issue as we debate the cost. In addition, all must recognize that video cameras can also contribute to officer safety and protect against claims of police misconduct." Senator West is calling on law enforcement officials at the federal, state and local levels to join forces in finding a funding solution.

Currently, nine states have adopted laws that address Racial Profiling. Two others states have introduced legislation. More than 200 U.S. cities now collect traffic stop data. A December 1999 Gallop Poll revealed that 81 percent of people surveyed said they disapprove of Racial Profiling. Sixty percent believe that Racial Profiling is widespread. Forty-two percent of African American respondents think they were stopped due to their race, while only six percent of whites feel the same.

Department of Public Safety figures says that Latino males are four times as likely to than white males to be searched. Senate Bill 1074 provides for ethnicity to be included in data collected on traffic citations statewide. Presently at the federal and state level, Latinos are recorded as white for reporting purposes. This omission does not allow accurate data for the reporting of infractions involving those of Hispanic descent.

"While I believe that the vast majority of law enforcement officers are honest, dedicated professionals who are committed to protecting the constitutional rights of all our citizens, we cannot and must not ignore complaints received from citizens of this state who feel they are the victims of Racial Profiling," said Senator West.

With the approval of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, Senate Bill 1074 will now go to the full Senate for a vote.

For more information, please call Kelvin Bass or Janna Burleson at 512-463-0123.

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