Opposition Mounts to California Compromise on Racial Profiling

June 7, 2000 12:00 am

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SACRAMENTO – According to a story in today’s Stockton Record, the lawmaker who crafted a compromise with California Gov. Gray Davis to discourage police from singling out minorities for traffic stops vowed Tuesday to continue pushing for the legislation even though civil rights groups oppose it and several Democratic leaders have dropped their support.

Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Los Angeles, pulled his bill from a committee hearing Tuesday morning, frustrating civil rights advocates who were prepared to testify that the compromise plan is worse than no legislation at all.

“The only reason to do this today is to evade scrutiny,” said John Crew, Coordinator of the American Civil Liberties Union Campaign Against Racial Profiling. “I think it certainly raises the question, and it’s a fair question, if the delay is rooted again on an attempt to make sure that the opposition to this bill is not heard?”

The newspaper reported that by fashioning a compromise with the governor, Murray has lost support from leading Democrats. After he amended his bill May 15 to take out the data-collection mandate, Senate President John Burton, D-San Francisco, Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, D-Sherman Oaks, Assembly Public Safety Chairman Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and other legislators asked to be withdrawn as co-authors.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer gave notice Monday that he also was withdrawing his support.

Editorials appearing in several California newspapers have opposed the compromise measure as inadequate. (More information is available at: http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w052100a.html .)

Civil rights groups are urging legislators in California and at least 20 other states to pass legislation that would force law enforcement officers to record the race of motorists that they stop. Advocates say minorities are routinely pulled over only because of the color of their skin.

Davis vetoed a bill by Murray last year that would have required such record keeping by local law enforcement agencies. (More information is available at: http://archive.aclu.org/news/1999/n092899a.html .) Since then, police chiefs in Stockton, Sacramento and dozens of other California cities have voluntarily started data collection. (Information on selected other California agencies’ data collection programs is available at: http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w052500a.html Sacramento, http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w032300a.html Stockton, http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w021200b.html Palo Alto, http://archive.aclu.org/news/1999/w020599d.html San Diego, and http://archive.aclu.org/news/1999/w032599a.html San Jose.)

Murray’s new bill would require peace officers to hand out business cards to the people they stop, which he said will make them think twice about singling out minorities or treating residents rudely. The bill would also lead to training on racial profiling. (More information on the compromise measure is available at: http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w042800a.html .)

The Record reported that Murray said he understands why some civil rights group oppose the legislation, but their argument should be with Davis, not him.

“What they really want is data collection,” Murray said. “We all want data collection. The governor has made it clear that he is not going to support that.”

According to the Record, Murray said he postponed the hearing in the Assembly Public Safety Committee by one week only because some committee members were absent and a plane carrying supporters from the Los Angeles area arrived late. He said he doesn’t plan to make any changes to the bill.

Representatives from the ACLU joined the Racial Justice Coalition, the League of United Latin American Citizens and other civil rights groups Tuesday morning at press conference blasting California’s failure to provide national leadership on the issue.

A press release issued by the Coalition noted that on Monday, June 5th Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan signed a racial profiling bill that includes comprehensive data collection. Missouri is the fifth state in the nation to enact a data collection bill to fight racial profiling. The other states include Connecticut, North Carolina, Kansas and Washington. Data bills were introduced or are still pending in twenty-four states.

“Instead of leading the nation, California is way behind when it comes to solving the problem of racial profiling,” said Marcos Contreras of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). “If the Governor wants to lead the nation in the fight against racial profiling, he must sign a bill that includes data collection. The current bill is the weakest racial profiling bill in the country.”

“The NAACP has withdrawn its support of Senator Kevin Murray’s bill because any racial profiling bill without data collection is meaningless,” said Walter Wilson, Legislative Director of the NAACP. “The NAACP believes that comprehensive data collection is critical to the process of ending racial profiling. Without data collection – there is no progress on this issue.”

“The current racial profiling bill is a fraud,” said Michelle Alexander, Director of the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU of Northern California. “Giving business cards to victims of racial profiling is like offering aspirin to cancer patients. Business cards might be good for some problems, but they will do nothing to solve the problem of racial profiling. Data collection is an essential first step in addressing racial profiling.”

“As a victim of racial profiling, I urge Senator Murray to amend his bill and include data collection,” said Michael McBride, a Youth Minister at Bible Way Baptist Church in San Jose. “If Governor Davis it truly concerned about discriminatory police practices, he will sign a mandatory data collection bill this year, rather than giving us rhetoric and a useless bill.”

The Racial Justice Coalition includes a broad array of organizations, including the NAACP, LULAC, ACLU, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), United Farm Workers, and many others. (More information about the campaign to pass a mandatory data bill is California is available at: http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w041400c.html , http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/n031300a.html, http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w040500a.html, http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w032200b.html , http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w032700b.html , and http://archive.aclu.org/news/2000/w033100a.html .)


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