Mayor Wants Traffic Stop Data to Fight DWB in Columbus, Ohio

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
June 27, 2000 12:00 am

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COLUMBUS, OH — According to a story in today’s Columbus Dispatch, local police officers would keep records of every traffic stop — not just those for which they write tickets — under a policy aimed at preventing discrimination, Mayor Michael B. Coleman said yesterday. The newspaper reported that Coleman announced his proposed anti-discrimination policy yesterday as the U.S. Department of Justice was considering whether to add allegations of discrimination during traffic stops to a lawsuit that claims Columbus police have engaged in a pattern of violating people’s civil rights.

The administration shared the policy with the Justice Department last week, said Steve Campbell, Coleman’s deputy chief of staff, but it was in the works before the department threatened to amend the lawsuit. According to the Dispatch, a federal judge has given the Justice Department until Wednesday to determine whether to add the allegations to the suit. Fred K. Parker, president of the Columbus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said racial profiling takes place locally.. “At the NAACP, we get numerous complaints of people who say they were stopped unlawfully,” said Parker, who marched to City Hall yesterday with about 50 other people opposing racial profiling. He called Coleman’s proposal a good first step. “Racial profiling is a great concern in our community. Any steps Mayor Coleman can take to lend credibility to the Police Division, the NAACP supports.”

Coleman said racial profiling is against police policy, but he acknowledged that Columbus is not immune to the problem. To inoculate the city, Coleman wants more police training on discrimination issues and wants the Police Division to collect and analyze data from all traffic stops.

Information now is kept only when officers write tickets. The newspaper reported that Coleman said he has “reached out” to Police Chief James G. Jackson on the policy but would not say how the chief responded. Coleman’s spokesman, Mike Brown, hustled the mayor out of a news conference when the question about the chief’s response was posed. Police spokesman Earl Smith said the chief would not comment about the issue. But Jackson issued a written statement saying the police “will work with this administration to ensure our policies and directives reflect the nationally recognized standards for training and management in regard to these sensitive issues.”

Coleman’s policy is similar to a clause in a proposed settlement between the city and the Justice Department. But unlike the settlement, Coleman’s policy does not call for putting the names of officers on the traffic-stop reports. Coleman was unclear yesterday about whether the information gathered would be used to identify officers who might be stopping too many minority motorists. Coleman said he would like to see anti-discrimination training begin with the next police class and that he hopes to have the record-keeping policy in place by fall.

Information on selected other voluntary traffic-stop data collection programs around the country is available at: (Sacramento), (Minneapolis/St.Paul) (Milwaukee), (Salt Lake City), (Houston), (San Jose), (San Diego), (Richmond, Virginia), (Michigan State Police), (Massachusetts State Police), (Washington State Patrol), (Florida agencies), (Texas Department of Public Safety), (St. George, Utah), (Palo Alto), (Ann Arbor) , (Spartanburg, South Carolina), (Western Pennsylvania agencies), and (Stockton).

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