Legislation seeking to curb racial profiling by having law enforcement share more data on stops narrowly passed the California Assembly on Thursday.
After the deaths of unarmed African American men at the hands of police officers convulsed California and the nation, lawmakers – in particular members of the California Legislative Black Caucus – vowed to pursue bills that seek to repair strained relations between law enforcement and minority communities.
“We should be outraged at the things that have happened across this country,” said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego. “When do we stop the cycle? When will we say enough is enough in this country? When do we step forward and do the most modest thing, which is to collect data?”
Backed by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, Assembly Bill 953 would compel local law enforcement to collect more information on the number and reason for police stops and submit that information to the California attorney general’s office. It would also create a Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board, comprising members from various law enforcement organizations. Defending the bill, some members called profiling a common scourge in their communities.
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“It is simply unjust and unfair that African Americans and Latinos are stopped by police more often than any other group,” said Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles. “Although this information is common knowledge for black and brown people, current data does not show us the frequency or the purpose of these stops.”
Law enforcement groups such as the California Police Chiefs Association and the California State Sheriffs’ Association oppose the bill, saying it would burden officers with tedious work that would distract them from keeping communities safe. Assembly members who voted against the bill criticized it for unfairly blaming law enforcement.
“I think this backlash we’re going through right now of labeling police officers part of the problem is not helpful,” said Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside.
The measure was sent to the Senate on a 41-23 vote, the minimum necessary in the 80-member house.