Pubdate: Wed, 09 Jun 1999
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 1999, New Haven Register
Author: Gregory B. Hladky


HARTFORD - Legislation to ban "racial profiling" by Connecticut police and
to require them to report on the race and ethnicity of everyone stopped for
traffic violations won final approval Tuesday on a 35-1 state Senate vote.

The bill, which now goes to Gov. John G. Rowland for his signature, was
prompted by complaints that police in Connecticut and around the nation
often stop motorists based solely on the color of their skin.

State Sen. Toni N. Harp, D-New Haven, said as an African American she hasn't
been stopped by police because of her skin color. But she said she
sympathized with other African Americans, such as state Sen.

Alvin Penn, D-Bridgeport, who proposed the legislation after a
racial-profiling encounter.

"It must have been terrifying," Harp said. She noted that New Jersey didn't
think it had a racial profiling problem, but when it was forced to do a
study it found that 70 percent of all people being stopped by police on the
New Jersey Turnpike were black or Hispanic.

"Racial profiling is not fair, not just, and not something that should be
occurring in this state or this country," said state Sen.

Eric D. Coleman, an African American from Hartford.

But state Sen. Win Smith Jr., a Milford Republican who was the only member
of the Senate to vote against the measure, insisted the bill would simply be
a paperwork nightmare for police.

Smith said he does support the prohibition on racial profiling by state and
local police, but doesn't believe this legislation will solve the problem.

The bill requires state and local police to start collecting information as
of Jan. 1, 2000 on the race and ethnic background of all persons stopped for
traffic violations.

Police agencies would be required to begin filing reports on that
information with the Chief State's Attorney by Oct. 1, 2000. Police would
also have to adopt formal policies prohibiting stops or searches based only
on race, ethnicity, age, gender or sexual orientation.

"I fell that creating these kinds of forms, forcing police officers to try
to identify someone's racial background, will just be an unenforceable
imposition on law enforcement," Smith said.

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