*The relationship between police officers in California and the public are more detailed now as a new law requires officers to reveal the race of whomever they encounter while on duty.
The law, which Gov. Jerry Brown Saturday (Oct. 3), requires that law enforcement throughout California will have to document the race or “perceived ethnicity” of suspects in any such stop or arrest, according to The Christian Science Monitor, which noted the law extends to any “encounter between police and the public, whether pedestrian or automotive, and whether or not the encounter results in an arrest or citation.”
The reason for the law, regarded as one of the toughest in the country, stems from creating, a database of information available to the public that can be analyzed for potential patterns of racial profiling. Despite praise from civil rights activists who labeled it historic and going further than any other state law, the new law has generated criticism from various law enforcement groups, including the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Fraternal Order of Police.
The Fraternal Order pointed out the additional paperwork for officers to tackle as a statement it issued mentioned that this would take “peace officers away from response, patrols and building relationships.” In their eyes, the law is a bureaucratic nightmare meant to address something they say doesn’t exist.
“There is no racial profiling. There just isn’t,” Lt. Steve James, the national trustee for the California Fraternal Order of Police, told the Los Angeles Times. “There is criminal profiling that exists.”
California’s new law comes amid tense times for cities in the U.S. who are trying to find ways to protect folks while not infringing on the rights of minorities. For many, racial profiling of minorities by police is an issue that needs to be handled and can no longer be put on the backburner.
“Racial profiling has been a national crisis for people of color for decades,” Najee Ali, executive director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E. in Los Angeles, told the Monitor. “Now we finally will have some proof with the collected data to back up some of their claims.”
With the new law, California joins other states that have passed similar legislation in response to racial profiling. Among the states is Missouri, which has had a data collection law in effect since 2000. In June, the New York Times reported that nearly every state has considered some form of anti-racial profiling legislation in recent years. The publication goes on to note that at least 18 states have laws requiring some form of data collection related to racial profiling.
In December, the US Department of Justice updated its policies on racial profiling, banning the practice for many federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“It’s very clear from the numbers they were using stops as a means to check someone out,” University of Kansas researcher Charles Epp, a co-author of a study of the social effects of investigatory police stops while voicing clear patterns shown in data collected from states who have enacted similar laws. “It seems clear that California data this law will produce will allow watchdog groups to see if this is happening in California.”
“I will be very surprised if it isn’t,” Epp added
As it stands now, it will be a minute before data from California starts coming in for viewing. Large police departments have until 2019 to comply with the law, while smaller departments must comply by 2023.
For more on the new California law, click here. To see coverage of the law, check out the video below: