California Civil Rights Leaders Applaud Demise of "Toothless" Racial Profiling Bill

August 24, 2000 12:00 am

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Civil rights leaders today applauded the demise of a watered-down piece of legislation that purported to address racial profiling but lacked the enforcement mechanism of data collection to make it effective.

“This bill was pulled after legislators recognized that it did not have the teeth to address the problem of racial profiling,” said Michelle Alexander, Director of the ACLU of Northern California’s Racial Justice Project.

“Without collecting information on who is being stopped by police, it is impossible to identify, track, prove or prevent racial discrimination,” she said.

Marcos Contreras, Immediate Past President of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in California, said, “We have marched, rallied, organized and spoken out about the need to document race-based police stops. We are encouraged that the legislators saw that a bill without data collection is worse than no bill at all. The groundswell of opposition by state and local civil rights leaders cannot be ignored.”

The groundswell that Contreras referred to included packed town hall meetings throughout California and a major demonstration in Sacramento on April 27, sponsored by the Racial Justice Coalition, as well as statements from key Black Congressional leaders and national civil rights leaders.

In a full-page ad in the New York Times, published during the Democratic Convention, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King III, Reverend Al Sharpton, as well as the national directors of League of United Latin American Citizens, the Japanese American Citizens League, and the National Conference on Civil Rights, and a score of other national civil rights organizations asked Governor Davis to “support efforts to enact a racial profiling bill that includes data collection.”

And in a press statement last week, Congresswoman Maxine Waters said that the recent overwhelming evidence of the practice of racial profiling around the country shows that “Data collection is critical to any meaningful effort to address the serious problem of racial profiling that has plagued communities of color for decades.”

Congressman John Conyers, former leader of the Congressional Black Caucus and Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, said, “Nothing is more important to developing a solution to this problem than the gathering of meaningful data. Civil rights organizations and news organizations have spent considerable resources documenting patterns of abuse whereby African American motorist are randomly stopped as much as ten times more frequently than are white motorists.”

“I’m glad to see that legislators came to understand that Latinos and others who are racially profiled would still have no way of documenting the problem,” said Elizabeth Guillen of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. We will continue to work toward enacting a meaningful racial profiling bill that includes data collection.”

Eight other states (Connecticut, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Washington) have passed racial profiling bills that include data collection. All of those bills have been signed by the Governors — both Republican and Democrat.

Eva Paterson, Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights said, “The civil rights community is pleased that this bill has been pulled. We’re looking forward to working with the Governor to create a meaningful solution to the racial profiling problem.”

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