Civil Rights Groups Denounce California Governor Davis' Racial Profiling Bill

September 26, 2000 12:00 am

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Civil rights organizations today denounced California Governor Gray Davis’ new racial profiling legislation as useless and vowed to continue working for a data collection bill. Although data collection is widely understood to be essential to track and prevent racial profiling, Governor Davis has adamantly refused to sign a data collection bill, and instead pushed through the legislature a “diversity training” bill for law enforcement. Davis’ refusal to sign a data collection bill has been condemned by national civil rights leaders, and his veto of a data collection bill last year ignited grassroots organizing efforts across California.

In late August, the California Legislature killed a previous attempt by Davis to pass a racial profiling bill modeled on the Los Angeles Police Department’s approach to the issue of distributing business cards to motorists they stop. (More information is available at: .) However, in the last hours of the legislative session, the Governor was able to convince legislators to pass a new bill aimed solely at beefing up diversity training for the state’s police officers. Davis signed that bill, SB 1102, this evening.

“This new legislation is nothing but a smokescreen. It is designed to divert public attention and pressure away from data collection and meaningful police accountability. It is designed to provide Governor Davis the opportunity to claim credit for doing something about racial profiling without doing anything meaningful at all,” said Michelle Alexander, Director of the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU. “The Racial Justice Coalition is committed to ensuring that communities of color will not be fooled by this. It’s an insult that Governor Davis has signed into law a so-called racial profiling bill that will leave communities of color powerless to identify, track and prove discrimination by the police.”

Eight other states (Connecticut, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Massachusetts and Washington) have enacted data collection bills, signed by both Republican and Democratic governors. (More information is available at: and .)

“We have organized town hall meetings, marched on the State Capitol, and requested meetings with Governor Davis, demanding data collection,” said Marcos Contreras of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). “And we will not stop until the Governor of California shows some respect for our civil and human rights by signing into law a mandatory data collection bill.” (Information on the Racial Justice Coalition’s efforts to enact a data collection law is available at: <> , <> , <>, <>, <> , <> , and <> .)

“Data collection is essential. Everyone from President Clinton to grassroots organizations now understands the critical importance of data collection – except Governor Davis,” said Walter Wilson, Political Action Chair for the Western Region of the NAACP. “The time is long overdue for politicians to take the problem of racial profiling seriously.”

In Washington, Congresswoman Maxine Waters stated in August 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, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee and leader of the Congressional Black Caucus said “Nothing is more important to developing a solution to this problem than the gathering of meaningful data.” (More information is available at: .)

In a full-page ad in the New York Times, published August 15th, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King III, Reverend Al Sharpton, as well as the national directors of the NAACP, 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.” (More information is available at: .)

“Every law enforcement agency knows that good training programs are built on reliable information. Yet this bill will result in the development of training based on no reliable information at all,” said Alexander. “The fact that the bill requires the Legislative Analyst to conduct an analysis of voluntary data collection efforts is of no comfort. Only a few of the voluntary agencies are collecting the basic data that is necessary to draw meaningful conclusions. The bill was designed to solve the problem of Davis’ image, not the problem of racial profiling.”

Elizabeth Guillen, Legislative Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), said, “The Governor’s signature of the bill (SB 1102) isn’t fooling anyone – Latinos, African-Americans and other people of color know that they are in the same position as before. The bill does not improve their situation because it does not call for data collection. We will still not be able to prove when there is a pattern or practice by law enforcement of racial profiling when traffic stops are made.”

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