Pubdate: Mon, 19 May 2003
Source: Pensacola News Journal (FL)
Copyright: 2003 The Pensacola News Journal
Author: Phillip Rawls, Associated Press


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- The new head of Alabama's law enforcement agency 
has formally banned racial profiling by state troopers and added a new 
procedure for reviewing motorists' complaints.

The policy, unveiled last week, prohibits troopers from stopping motorists 
based solely on ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, 
religion, economic status, age or cultural group, and mandates annual training.

"This policy clearly states that such actions will not be tolerated," 
Public Safety Director Mike Coppage said.

Coppage's move, mirroring actions by other states, drew surprise and praise 
from black legislators who had expressed concerns about racial profiling in 
the past.

Democratic state Sen. Charles Steele, state president of the Southern 
Christian Leadership Conference, said he was surprised the department 
didn't have a formal policy earlier. "But I commend them for bringing this 
to light," he said.

Democratic state Rep. Alvin Holmes said the policy might help erase the 
tarnished image state troopers have carried since civil rights clashes in 
Selma in 1965.

"To see a new Public Safety director come in and take a position is 
refreshing," Holmes said.

Racial profiling by law enforcement gained national attention after a 1998 
shooting on the New Jersey Turnpike in which two white troopers fired on a 
van occupied by four minority men, wounding three. A year after the 
shooting, the New Jersey attorney general admitted troopers had engaged in 
racial profiling, and the state agreed to reforms including monitoring the 
races of motorists stopped by troopers.

Since then, several states have instituted similar laws or reforms aimed at 
preventing racial profiling, including Texas, Maryland, Massachusetts, 
Arkansas and California.

Coppage, a former Birmingham police chief who was selected by Gov. Bob 
Riley in February to head the state law enforcement agency, said he wanted 
to codify what had previously been an informal policy against biased-based 

"There is no place in any professional law enforcement organization for any 
type of bias-based enforcement," Coppage said.

The new policy does not prohibit officers from considering race and other 
factors when they are part of a suspect's description or "otherwise validly 
related to an officer's investigation of criminal activity."

Under the new policy, the department's Standards and Integrity Unit will 
also make an annual review of the department's practices and enforcement 
activities, including citizens' complaints. In the past, complaints about 
racial profiling were reviewed by an officer's supervisor.

Any officers who practice profiling and any supervisors who condone it 
could be punished with anything from a reprimand to dismissal, Coppage said.
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