In an attempt to address the ongoing trend of police misconduct and institutional bias, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation last week mandating that California law enforcement agencies collect and make public data on the racial makeup of all those encountered by police. A.B. 953, was written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) as a response to fatal police shootings of unarmed black men and other people of color. A 2008 study of LAPD data by a Yale researcher found blacks and Latinos were subjected to stops, frisks, searches, and arrests at significantly higher rates than whites, regardless of whether they lived in high-crime neighborhoods.
What A.B. 953 Does
A.B. 953 will amend Sections 13012 and 13519.4 of the California Penal Code. Under the new law, California police must collect data on the people they stop, including perceived race and ethnicity, the reason for the encounter, and the outcome. The state attorney general’s office will determine how the reporting is done and how the data are stored. In addition, police agencies whose officers wear cameras will have to follow rules on storing and using the video so it is not mishandled. The regulations dictate how long video should be kept and how supervisors should use it in investigations.
Law enforcement organizations, including the state Fraternal Order of Police and the Peace Officers Research Assn. of California, had asked Brown to veto the bill, AB 953, arguing among other things that its reporting requirements would be burdensome to police and costly to taxpayers. Supporters of the bill say it will provide information on where racial profiling is occurring. Data collection does not have to begin until March 1, 2018, to allow time for a system setup.
What Laws Currently Apply to Racial Profiling?
Racial profiling is defined as the targeting of someone by law enforcement based on his or her race, ethnicity, or nationality. Racial profiling violates the 4th Amendment in the U.S. constitution, which states that we should be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the 14th Amendment, which guarantees us to equal protection/equal treatment under the law.
Additionally, California Penal Code Section 13519.4 explicitly prohibits racial profiling–“A law enforcement officer shall not engage in racial profiling.”
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