JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING TRAFFIC STOP INFORMATION.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
REASONS FOR BILL:
Recent reports, including stories in the Hartford Courant on February 25, 2012, have indicated that a higher percentage of minorities receiving infractions for traffic stops than for white drivers. Although municipalities are required under current law to report their traffic stop data to the African American Commission and the Chief State's Attorney, many municipalities are behind or out of compliance with the terms of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-1m. There is also concern that the agencies to which this data should be forwarded lack the resources to adequately evaluate the data collected and that there is a need for standardized forms upon which law enforcement agencies may record this data. The terms and conditions of this law as is are known as the Penn Act.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Michael Lawlor, Office of Policy & Management , Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division: Supports, with caution, this bill, subject to requested changes. OPM believes it has the resources now to support the bill, but recommended that several portions of the bill be revised. Specifically, OPM wanted section (b) to direct OPM to promulgate a form in consultation with the Criminal Justice Information System Governing Board, rather than in conjunction with that body. This change was not adopted. Further, OPM recommended that other references to the CJIS be deleted due to their advisory nature. Additionally, OPM was concerned about section (c)'s requirement of a copy being given to the operator of the motor vehicle. OPM notes the limitations of copying abilities in police vehicles. This, too, was not adopted.
Isaias T. Diaz, Chairman Latino & Puerto Rican Affairs Commmission: Supports. The chairman of Connecticut's LPRAC's offered support for the bill highlighting recent Courant reports that pointed out inequities in traffic citations. The Chairman also noted that the shift in responsibility included penalties for municipalities that do not comply with reporting requirements.
Glenn Cassis, Executive Director, African-American Affairs Commission: Supports. The executive director offered his support for the bill noting several circumstances where racial profiling in other parts of the country led to either police behavior or a search for suspects based on profiling or preconceived notions. In the former case, a Hispanic suspect subsequently died. The executive director also noted that Missouri and Illinois had passed similar laws to this one and that his commission did not have the resources to adequately process and analyze the data it currently receives under the Penn Act.
Division of Criminal Justice: Supports. In written testimony submitted by the division, there is a word of caution, but support for the bill. The division notes its own inability to adequately process the data the chief state's attorney receives and supports its redirection to OPM. However, it questions the wisdom of putting too much responsibility on the Criminal Justice Information Service. Additionally, it suggests the bill does not make clear what kind of data should be collected, and recommends a study group to clarify.
Deborah Del Prete Sullivan, Legal Counsel, Chief Public Defender's Office: Supports. This bill makes important changes to the data collection process and transfers functions to OPM. “Racial profiling is an illegal, discriminator practice that impacts upon the rights of everyone to be treated fairly. Profiling has significant implications regarding racial and ethnic disparities and disproportionate contact of minorities within the criminal justice system.”
Reuben Bradford, Commission, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection: Supports. The Division of State Police has been compliant with the Penn Act since its passage. The commissioner states that paper and electronic versions of documents are already available.
Robert Brothers, Executive Director, Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities: Supports. The executive director offered his support for the bill. He noted that missing information frustrated the CHRO's investigation of inappropriate conduct performed by the Avon police department. Amendment: However, the executive director requested that the phrase in section (i), “within available funding” be deleted so as to not permit the current situation be repeated once the obligations are switched over to OPM. This change has not been made.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Senator Donald Williams: The senator supported passage of the bill. He argued that racial profiling generally is undemocratic and counter productive while noting recent behavior of the East Haven Police Department. He argued that this bill strengthens racial profiling laws by standardizing forms and putting the analysis responsibility into the hands of OPM & the CJIS, which have the resources to properly analyze them. Amendment: Senator Williams advocated for strengthening the bill by requiring police departments to submit their written policies to OPM; authorizing the CHRO to receive complaints of profiling and then compile a report of such complaints to be submitted to OPM; and requiring police departments to retain their officers when data illustrates the prevalence of racial profiling.
Rep. Matthew Ritter: The representative noted concerns brought to him as a member of the Hartford City Council about that city's compliance with the Penn Act. He also noted the Courant reports & recent controversy in East Haven. Rep. Ritter also urged that committees that review data include members of the communities most affected by racial profiling and inclusion of a list of law enforcement agencies he or she may contact along with the receipt a motorist receives when getting a citation from police.
Sandra Staub, ACLU-CT Legal Director: The ACLU of Connecticut supports the bill, but urges changes that would give the bill more teeth. Amendment: Specifically, the ACLU urges the removal of “ifs” so as to assure that the mandate of the law is executive and not open to delay; urges that the bill be enacted upon passage and not delayed the usual three months; and that religious profiling also be added to the covered discrimination.
Anti-Defamation League, Connecticut branch: The ADL's CT branch urges passage of the bill and a critical effort to end racial profiling. While it believes most police behave appropriately, absent an effective data collection and analysis system, poorly behaved officers may be difficult to identify.
David Samuels, Founder, The Community Party: Mr. Samuels argued that motorists often do not receive a receipt following a traffic stop and argued that this must be corrected. He called failure to issue a receipt a form of profiling itself.
Ron Thomas, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities: The CCM did not express any opposition to the bill, but urged that the legislation require OPM & CJIS consult with municipalities when devising its standardized form. The CCM also disputed details in Courant articles about profiling.
Moira Buckley, Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association: Largely in agreement with the points raised by Office of the Chief Public Defender, the CCDLA supports the bill, specifically the standardization of forms.
Connecticut Police Chiefs Association: The CPCA supports the bill, but urges that a scientific methodology be used during analysis of that data. In addition, the CPCA urges development of a standard or other advice to guide law enforcement so it does not unwittingly create the appearance (or reality) of racial profiling.
Abdul Shahid Ansari of the Greater Hartford NAACP: Mr. Shahid Ansari urged the adoption of the bill in light of media reports of racial disparities in traffic stops.
Paulette Cohen: Ms. Cohen praised the efforts of Rep. Holder-Winfield to pass this legislation and related a story wherein she filed a complaint with the New Haven police department and found the department's response satisfactory. By comparison, a fellow resident is a nearby neighborhood experienced a confrontation with police who had originally only arrived at the resident's home to identify the resident's nephew. The details were spelled out in an article in the New Haven Independent. Ms. Cohen described how racial profiling affects all citizens as when crime does spill over into her neighborhood, residents in minority neighborhoods are less comfortable speaking to police, frustrating law enforcement's effectiveness throughout the city.
Monica Fore: Ms. Fore testified on several bills, but did highlight abuses by police in Bristol. She offered a body of evidence of racial profiling with her testimony including news reports and forums on the subject in Bristol.
Dr. Katherine Hermes and Ronna Stuller: Both Dr. Hermes and Ms. Stuller supports the bill because whenever racial profiling happens it undermines our society's values. Although neither have been the victim of racial profiling, but both believe that a society needs equity regardless of race. Both urged better oversight of police stops and the issuance of receipts following a traffic stop.
Mary Sanders: Ms. Sanders, a member of the Community Party urged changes to the Penn Act including Amendment adding religion and sexual orientation boxes to forms as well as box “not visible” for police to check if they cannot determine a motorist's race from afar; a prohibition against questions about immigration status; a requirement that motorists get a copy of paperwork. Ms. Sanders also suggested that complaints be filed with a third party and not the local police department. She also recommended an oversight minority committee consisting of the existing commissions as well as legislators, law enforcement, and community leaders to oversee the Penn Act's enforcement.
Mrs. Shawn Soljour: Mrs. Soljour related her experience of racial profiling in which she received a citation because she contested the officer's reason for stopping her. The officer involved claimed to have planned to let her off with a warning, but refused once she contested. Ms. Soljour attempted to appeal the matter as far as she could, but the result was only a warrant for her arrest, continued embarrassment and a loss of $3500 in legal fees. She ascribes her ordeal to racial profiling.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Matthew Szafranski