ACLU of Tennessee's "Campaign Against Racial Profiling" Achieves Another Success With Passage of Traffic Stops Bill

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
May 12, 2005 12:00 am

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NASHVILLE, TN — The recent resounding passage of a bill to study racial profiling bill is the latest achievement in the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee’s “Campaign Against Racial Profiling,” the group announced today. Passed by both the House and the Senate by large margins and awaiting the Governor’s signature, the bill requires Tennessee Highway Patrol officers to collect data for each traffic stop they make.

“Data collection is critical for discerning any patterned practice of racial profiling by law enforcement,” said Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee. “Data collection takes the racial profiling debate beyond accusations and denials by enabling systematic monitoring of Tennessee highways. We look forward to the Governor signing the bill and are very appreciative of the willingness of the Department of Safety to collect this data and the State Comptroller to compile and analyze the data.”

The type of data collected includes race, ethnicity, gender and age of the person stopped, the reason for the stop, and whether a search occurred and a citation was issued. The data will be collected for one year, beginning January 2006. The State Comptroller’s Office will compile and analyze the data and issue a report by March 2007.

The ACLU drafted the data collection bill and recruited Representative Henri Brooks of Memphis and Senator Doug Jackson of Dickson as sponsors. Weinberg praised Representative Brooks for her tenacity in pursuing the issue. “For the last five years, the ACLU has worked closely with Representative Brooks to combat racial profiling in Tennessee.”

Racial profiling occurs when group characteristics (e.g., race or ethnicity) rather than behavioral indicators (e.g., reckless driving) become the primary factor prompting law enforcement encounters. The major professional law enforcement organizations oppose the use of racial profiling as a law enforcement technique.

Launched in January 2000, the ACLU of Tennessee’s “Campaign Against Racial Profiling” focuses on increasing public awareness of racial profiling; identifying the extent and prevalence of the problem across the state; and seeking solutions to eradicate racial profiling through organizing, community outreach and training.

During the last five years, the ACLU has sponsored town meetings; provided training for law enforcement agencies and community groups; drafted and lobbied for state legislation that would combat racial profiling; and partnered with law enforcement officials to develop curricula for community-police training programs.

Weinberg said she views the recent bill’s passage as another important step in ACLU’s work to combat racial profiling. The ACLU of Tennessee has pursued two other legislative initiatives in its effort to eliminate racial profiling. The first, in 2000, was the unprecedented collaboration between the ACLU and the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police in crafting a one-year voluntary pilot data collection project. Forty-six law enforcement agencies agreed to participate in the study. The State Comptroller’s Office compiled and analyzed the data.

Last year, the ACLU of Tennessee drafted and successfully lobbied in support of a resolution that declared racial profiling contrary to state policy and called on law enforcement agencies to provide anti-racial profiling training for their officers on a continuing basis.

Building on the momentum of this recent legislative victory, Weinberg said the ACLU intends to continue its work with community groups and law enforcement agencies to develop strategies to abolish racial profiling in the state.

For more information on the ACLU’s work to combat racial profiling, go to/racialjustice/racialprofiling.

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