Blog of Rights

Legislating Racial Profiling, Eroding Public Trust

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 12:06pm

In 2008, the Utah state legislature passed S.B. 81, a law that gives local law enforcement the authority to enforce federal immigration law. Opposition to the law was diverse: everyone from the ACLU of Utah to the conservative Sutherland Institute opposed the law. Salt Lake City has opted out of enforcing S.B. 81, as have several other municipalities in the state.

On Monday, Chris Burbank, the Chief of Police of Salt Lake City, coauthored an op-ed in Huffington Post against laws like S.B. 81 and Arizona's new racial profiling law, S.B. 1070. Proponents of such discriminatory laws wrongly claim that deputizing local police and sheriffs to enforce federal immigration law will result in a decrease in crime.

The op-ed cites a yet-to-be-released report by the Consortium for Police Leadership in Equity, which finds that not only will the new law not result in a decrease in crime, it could actually lead to an increase in unreported crimes. Called "Policing Immigration. A Job We Do Not Want," the op-ed states:

1 in 3 Salt Lake City, Utah residents are unwilling to report drug-related crimes when law enforcement can detain someone based on their immigration status […] [N]ot only are undocumented immigrants less likely to report crime in the face of officers who can ask for their papers — but both Latino citizens and Whites are more likely to leave drug crimes unreported.

Such laws will also lead to an erosion of public trust in law enforcement. Burbank told the Salt Lake Tribune last month: "How does an individual officer interact with members of the community and keep a level of trust when they are forced to engage in what is profiling or racial policing practices?"

This is at the heart of the problem with Arizona's S.B. 1070. While proponents of that law have asserted that racial profiling is forbidden, it won't prevent the police from asking people for their papers based on race and the way they look. On what other basis would a police officer suspect that someone is not lawfully present in the United States?

No one's been able to answer that question. But many in law enforcement know the truth:

It is the intention of officers to serve the public with integrity. That is why so many in law enforcement are voicing their objection to a change in their jobs that would once again institutionalize racial profiling and biased policing — while depriving the public of their safety.

Law enforcement groups have made clear that immigration policing is not their job. Support them by calling on your local government to keep laws like S.B. 81 and S.B. 1070 out of your state.

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