A long-overdue bill to strengthen the Alvin W. Penn Racial Profiling Prohibition Act and enforce the collection of traffic stop data by Connecticut police departments needs revisions to make it truly effective, Sandra Staub, legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut, testified this week.
The Penn Act, passed in 1999, prohibits police from stopping, detaining or arresting anyone solely on the basis of race and requires police departments to collect data on traffic stops and enforcement actions. But for 13 years, state officials failed to establish the system for reporting stops required under the law and most police departments reported no data.
"The simple fact is that despite all of the investigations, reports and anecdotal evidence, and despite the indictments of East Haven police officers accused of biased policing and civil rights violations, nothing has changed," Staub said in testimony delivered to the legislature's Judiciary Committee. "The state officials and police departments responsible for enforcing the racial profiling prohibition and for collecting and analyzing the data have inexplicably failed and refused to comply with the Penn Act."
The ACLU of Connecticut supports the new legislation, Senate Bill No. 364, but objects to language that would exempt police departments from the law's requirements if the state Office of Policy and Management and the Criminal Justice Information System Governing Board fail to provide the necessary traffic stop forms. There is no reason the forms can't be created and distributed, Staub said, and no reason to provide excuses and escape clauses.
Staub also called on the Judiciary Committee to make the new law effective immediately, instead of on Jan. 1, 2013. "There is simply no excuse for waiting any longer," she said.
She also asked the committee to add language to the bill requiring traffic stop forms to report perceptions of a driver's religion. Muslims in particular have been stopped by police "simply because of indicators of their religion," she said.
The ACLU-CT also offered testimony to the Judiciary Committee in support of Senate Bill 245, which would clarify the right to photograph and take video of police officers in public, and in support of House Bill No. 5432, which would require schools to report detailed information about school-based arrests and to implement formal written policies about the of school resource officers.
- March 14, 2013