ACLU PRAISES DWB LEGISLATION PASSED TODAY IN MISSOURI
Missouri Becomes 4th State in Nation to Require Data Collection Statistics Necessary to End Racial Profiling, says ACLU
St. Louis, May 12, 2000: The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri today praised the Missouri Legislature for taking a bold step towards ending racial profiling in the state of Missouri by overwhelmingly passing legislation prohibiting racial profiling and requiring police departments state-wide to keep racial statistics on all police stops. The legislation, SB 1053, was spurred in part by advocacy and public education by the ACLU about the extent of racial profiling, also known as DWB - Driving While Black or Brown.
'This is an historic moment for race relations in the State of Missouri,' said Matt LeMieux, ACLU-EM Executive Director. 'Racial profiling - the practice of police stopping people based upon race or ethnicity - is pervasive across the country. We believe that data collection of the kind adopted by the Legislature today is the best way to document and end this insidious practice.'
'This is an important step towards promoting racial equality,' said Leland Ware, ACLU Vice President. 'The practice of racial profiling has long been a matter of profound concern to the African American community.'
'Missouri is taking the lead on addressing this serious problem by becoming the fourth state in the nation to adopt this kind of legislation,' LeMieux said. 'The Missouri legislature's overwhelming approval of this bill signals an acknowledgement of the problem and is a large step towards reducing racially-motivated police encounters and improving police-community relations in our state.'
'Data collection is the best way to document the problem of racial profiling and will ultimately allow us to work to end this practice,' LeMieux said. 'Racial profiling has been statistically documented across the country, and the reports we receive suggest that the practice occurs in Missouri as well. Data collection will allow us to see where the problems lie, and work to eradicate them.'
Missouri is joining a nationwide trend to attack racial profiling. Last year, two states - North Carolina and Connecticut - passed legislation requiring law enforcement agencies to collect data during traffic stops. This year, some 25 states introduced legislation requiring data collection. Washington State passed similar legislation earlier this year, and Missouri's bill makes it the fourth state in the nation to do so.
The legislation follows a year of outreach and advocacy by the ACLU and other civil rights groups in St. Louis about racial profiling. The legislative initiative here kicked off in February, when State Rep. Russell Gunn introduced legislation outlawing racial profiling and pretext stops and calling for the data collection. Soon after, a similar bill, SB 1053, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Wayne Goode. The bill was overwhelmingly approved in the Senate before being championed back in the House by Reps. Gunn and Rita Days to similar overwhelming support.
The Missouri initiative was spurred by recent national attention to the practice of DWB by the ACLU. A 1999 report issued by the ACLU entitled Driving While Black: Racial Profiling on Our Nation's Highways reviewed a number of studies around the country showing that non-white drivers are much more likely to be stopped and/or searched by the police. This report along with a national public education campaign and ACLU-led litigation challenging racial profiling in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma, New Jersey and California have convinced an increasing number of law enforcement agencies to review how traffic stops are being conducted. Numerous law enforcement agencies nationwide now voluntarily collect data during traffic stops.
Results from a recent Gallup Poll and reported incidents across the country reaffirm the need for gathering statistics. According to the poll, released in December 1999, 59 percent of the public believes that racial profiling is widespread, and an overwhelming 81 percent disapprove of its use by police.
Racial profiling has been described as practices that 'equate race with criminality and use it in the absence of and in lieu of probable cause.' The practice is not only illegal but is humiliating, degrading and erodes public trust and confidence in the police. The ACLU of Eastern Missouri has received numerous complaints of racial profiling by police. Frequent targets include black males, particularly those in nice cars or those in predominantly white neighborhoods. People of color call it one of the most prominent examples of racism thriving in American society. 'I felt like I had been raped by a criminal, not someone sworn in to serve and protect people like me,' said one victim who complained to the ACLU after he was thrown to the ground, handcuffed and detained for an hour while St. Louis Police ransacked his truck before releasing him blocks from his St. Louis business without a ticket or explanation. Another victim said that after her incident, 'I have a hard time telling my children the police are here to protect everyone regardless of who they are.' The ACLU's national Campaign Against Racial Profiling is documented on the ACLU's website: www.aclu.org/profiling.