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Lawmakers Call On Governor To Fund A Decade Old Racial Profiling Law

by Christine Stuart | Jan 4, 2012 1:35pm
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Posted to: Legal, State Capitol

Christine Stuart photo

Sen. Eric Coleman and Rep. Kelvin Roldan

(Updated 1:02 p.m.) Using the recent U.S. Department of Justice report which found the East Haven Police Department engaged in racially profiling Latino motorists, lawmakers called on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Wednesday to get behind their efforts to fund the more than decade old Alvin Penn Racial Profiling Act.

“The law hasn’t been enforced in a decade,” Rep. Kelvin Roldan, D-Hartford, said Wednesday at a Capitol press conference.

If it had been enforced, “It could have prevented what I consider a significant black eye on the state of Connecticut,” he said. “By the way we know about East Haven, but we have to absolutely wonder if this is happening somewhere else in the state of Connecticut.”

But the state for more than a decade has failed to enforce the law which requires municipal police departments to annually report traffic stop data to the African-American Affairs Commission. The data was then going to be analyzed for racial profiling. Since the law was passed in 1999 only one report has been issued.

Malloy, whose administration didn’t support similar legislation last year because of budget constraints, promised Wednesday that things would change.

“As Governor, I will continue to insist that every effort is taken to protect individual rights in every community, and that racial profiling is eliminated,” Malloy said in a statement Wednesday. “Let me be clear: it is simply unacceptable that Connecticut law hasn’t been followed. To that end, I have directed my staff and the Department of Transportation to ensure police departments continue to collect, or begin to collect, this data and submit it to an appropriate outside evaluator for analysis and report.“

Michael Lawlor, the governor’s top criminal justice adviser at the Office of Policy and Management, said that there is a federal grant with the Department of Transportation the state can use in order to help fund the initiative. The $1.2 million grant has been sitting untouched by the state since 2006.

“It appears that for the past five years federal funding has been available to pay for racial identity data gathering and analysis,” Malloy said. “I cannot speak to the actions of the previous administration in allowing these funds to languish, but I can assure Connecticut residents that my administration is committed to enforcing the laws on the books and has moved forward to get this data collected, reported, and evaluated.”

Legislation to modify the racial profiling law died last year in committee.

“Legislators must now do their part and pass the bill that died during the last General Assembly session,” Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, said.

In a press release, Holder-Winfield, applauded Malloy’s “zero-tolerance of racial profiling and emphatic call to protect people’s rights in all communities.”

In order to carryout the policy in a consistent manner the state will need to continue to fund the initiative.

Roldan said there will need to be an appropriation going forward on an annual basis to make sure the data continues to be collected and analyzed. He estimated it would cost the state between $200,000 and $300,000 a year going forward.

Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Hartford, said the African-American Affairs Commission, which has been in charge of data collection, is susceptible to reductions in staff and resources because of budget difficulties and the state may want to consider naming another entity to collect the data. He said the governor’s Office of Policy and Management should play a role in enforcing compliance and data collection.

But Lawlor said his office doesn’t have the resources to manage such a program and suggested the state look at contracting with a university to gather and analyze the information.

According to 2010 data, 27 departments have submitted reports on a regular or consistent basis — meaning annually or monthly.

But Sandra Staub, legal director of the ACLU-CT, told the Connecticut State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights last month that the data being submitted is virtually meaningless because its being collected in all sorts of data fields. She said in 2010 when the ACLU asked eight police departments for their racial profiling data they learned none of it was uniformly reported.

She said the chief state’s attorney had from 1999 until 2003 to develop a uniform way for police departments to report their data, but he never did. The reporting responsibilities were then handed over to the African-American Affairs Commission, which has yet to produce a complete report.

Coleman said one of the complaints he’s heard from police departments is the lack of a single form to collect the data during traffic stops. He said the Judiciary Committee has recommended the state develop a uniform reporting system or form to make it easier for police officers to comply with the law.

Lawlor said his office would help facilitate the management of the grant and development of a reporting system.

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