California Newspapers Blast Governor's DWB Deal - "Toothless," "Meaningless," "A Cop-out"

May 21, 2000 12:00 am

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California Newspapers Blast Governor’s DWB Deal – “Toothless,” “Meaningless,” “A Cop-out”

CALIFORNIA – In the latest in a series of scathing editorials appearing in newspapers throughout California in recent weeks, the San Jose Mercury News today labeled racial profiling legislation gutted at the request of Governor Gray Davis “a flimsy bill that meekly ambles between compromise and pandering.”

As described in the Mercury News editorial, “Twice, state Sen. Kevin Murray crafted bills to end race-based traffic stops. Twice the bills were vetoed. He gave up the third time. Arguing that Gov. Gray Davis would never sign a bill mandating the collection of racial data on traffic stops, Murray, D-Culver City, is pushing an impotent `driving while black’ bill. And Davis is giddily willing to sign it.”

The Mercury News went on to describe the new Davis/Murray bill as requiring more diversity training and requiring the distribution of business cards by officers to motorists they stop. “Noticeably missing is the order to gather racial data. Collecting information on who is being stopped goes a long way in proving the existence of racial profiling, determining where it is practiced and ultimately wiping it out.”

Calling data collection the “key tool” in the fight against racial profiling, the Mercury News noted, “Further, no data collection means no police accountability. How can departments measure whether training or any other program to end the unfair pattern of behavior actually works without numbers?”

In conclusion, the Mercury News argued, “The demand for change – here and across the country – is swelling. The response must be equally strong. . . . (Davis) should not sign SB 66 (the compromise bill) unless it is amended to include data collection. Signing anything less would be meaningless.”

In an editorial headlined “Davis Drives Wrong Way On Racial Profiling” published on May 1, 2000, the San Francisco Chronicle said that Davis had used the “considerable weight of his office” to force legislators to drop their demand for data and remarked that “. . . his failure to put any teeth in a bill to stop the odious practice (of racial profiling) made for a Capitol sideshow that will be remembered mostly for its political theatrics.”

The Chronicle noted, “With the bill, Davis proclaimed that he, `for the first time ever’ was outlawing racial profiling. But it a hollow declaration that caused justifiable wariness among civil rights groups and communities of color who had wanted, and were entitle to expect, much more. They were right to point out that racial profiling has long been outlawed by the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act, and neither has stopped the practice. Little wonder that communities view the compromise as a sellout, a hoax that all but guarantees no change.”

The Chronicle concluded that, “. . . the governor should know that this is not nearly enough. The state needs a tougher law to reveal the scope of a dangerous practice generally performed in distant darkness, well out of public view.”

The Los Angeles Times editorial on the subject, “Profiles of Injustice,” appeared on May 5, 2000 and took Governor Davis to task in a similar fashion. Contrasting the Davis/Murray compromise’s emphasis on training with the prior bill’s requirement of data collection, the Times said, “The new training would cost the state as much as $50 million and would be intended to change police behavior. But what would change behavior faster than the requirement to keep a simple record?”

Pointing to Governor Davis’ double standard when it comes to law enforcement, the Los Angeles Times concluded, “The governor wants to track school scores to determine which schools do the best job of educating students because specific information leads to specific improvements. Schools that do their jobs well have nothing to hide. The same should go for law enforcement.”

On May 11, 2000, the Oakland Tribune noted in its editorial, “We have badgered Davis to sign the bill proposed by state Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, but what happens? Davis agrees to sign a pale imitation of the measure that is less a compromise than it is a cop-out. . . . The bill Davis will support doesn’t require the collection of statistics on race and traffic stops which, in essence, makes it toothless.”

On May 3, 2000, the Contra Costa Times called the removal of traffic stop data from the Davis/Murray bill, “a loophole large enough to drive a tractor-trailer through. Without the data there is no way to tell whether stops are being made on racial grounds and, if they are, where the most flagrant examples exist. Davis’ arguments against collecting the data do not hold water. . . . Without such information, the state cannot make things right. Davis should rethink his objection to collecting data about racial profiling, and Murray should try again, with a stronger bill.”

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