From the Office of State Senator Royce West - District 23
For Immediate Release
April 11, 2001
For more information, please contact Kelvin Bass at 512-463-0123.
Senator West's Racial Profiling Bill passes full Senate
AUSTIN -- Senate Bill 1074, for the prevention of Racial Profiling by law enforcement, cleared yet another hurdle on the way to becoming state law. The bill, authored by State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) was approved in the Texas Senate April 4, 2001 on a 28-2 vote. The passage of the Racial Profiling bill is a milestone for Senator West and will have far-reaching significance in the State of Texas.
"I think it's a giant step forward,"said Senator West. "I've had both young and old African Americans and Hispanics come to me, and say, 'Senator, thank you for passing that bill.' Even though we must continue to lecture our sons and daughters about the hazards of driving while Black and Brown, it raises the hope that our rights and liberties will be protected and enforced under the laws of Texas."
Texas Department of Public Safety figures say that the percentage of African American motorists who receive traffic citations is higher than normal in more than half of Texas' 15 largest counties. For Hispanics, the percentage of those searched pursuant to a traffic stop is more than three times the rate of Anglo citizens. The percentage of African Americans searched after a traffic stop is more than twice that of whites. Although minorities are searched at a higher rate, a larger percentage of Anglo citizens are arrested a result of a traffic stop.
Since the start of the 77th Session of the Texas Legislature, Senator West has met with law enforcement agencies, police associations and various groups representing the Civil Rights community. Together, the parties negotiated the contents of Senate Bill 1074. The bill received the unanimous approval of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee March 14, 2001 before being brought to the full Senate for a vote.
"I believe Senate Bill 1074 represents a very close compromise," said Senator West. "This is not the type of issue for which we're ever going to get 100 percent agreement on every point. There are parts of this bill the chiefs of police don't particularly like. There are parts that police associations don't like, and there are parts that the Civil Rights organizations don't care for. No one got everything that they wanted. But I believe that everyone got their highest priority included in Senate Bill 1074."
Senate Bill 1074 requires that traffic citations collect expanded data on ethnicity, information on searches and for authorities to develop a process for gathering citizen complaints on Racial Profiling. One of the larger components of the Racial Profiling Bill calls for every police car in the state of Texas to be equipped with video cameras. The bill also includes the establishment of additional education and training programs for police officers.
Funding concerns were discussed both in committee and on the Senate floor, but Senator West believes the importance of the issue should outweigh the concerns about financing. Possible funding approaches include the use of existing crime victims funds, the collection of an added fee to traffic citations and the enjoinment of federal monies. It is projected that equipping as many as 8,000 police cars statewide with audio/video capabilities could cost up to $35 million. But Senator West says that law enforcement will also benefit from the technology.
"I think that if you talk with any officer who has worked with the video technology, he will tell you that it is a very effective law enforcement tool. It provides protection for both the citizen and the officer," said Senator West. "What's going to happen is that a lot of the cases where police officers would ordinarily have to go to court will be capable of resolution through plea bargaining."
Senate Bill 1074 now goes to the Texas House of Representatives for approval. Senator West thinks the multiple approach of data collection and audio/video capabilities, combined with increased law enforcement training will provide an effective approach to end the practice of Racial Profiling.
"I think the bill give police chiefs and agencies the flexibility they need in order to draft effective policies that will make sense in their individual communities," said Senator West.
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