State lawmakers could continue to require law enforcement agencies to track data on the race of people they pull over and pedestrians they stop.
For the past 15 years, the state has been collecting data about police traffic and pedestrian stops. The ACLU of Illinois has compiled similar statistics in reports that show in some areas of the state, police stop a disproportionate number of minorities, raising questions of police bias and racial profiling.
Springfield resident Ken Page, who once served as president of the Springfield NAACP and now serves as the president of the Springfield ACLU, said he had been targeted because of the color of his skin.
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“When I asked why I was being stopped, the officer commented on the fact that I had a nice car and he said that the light over my license plate was out,” Page said. “I didn’t even bother to look at the light. I knew from friends that this is just how it worked in Springfield.”
State Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, sponsored House Bill 1613 to remove a July 1, 2019, sunset of the traffic and pedestrian stop statistical study. He said collecting such data is important for police to fine-tune best practices.
“Data collection can result in the review of policies and training and can lead to the implementation of practices that prevent bias policing,” Slaughter said.
Illinois Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jim Kaitschuk said the data lacks context.
“It doesn’t consider the time of the stop, the location of the stop, the previous record of the driver, for example,” Kaitschuk said. “None of those things are considered.”
Kaitschuk said those things need to be considered if policymakers want to use the data to determine best practices for police.
State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, said there may be problems with police bias in some parts of the state, as has been shown in Peoria, Springfield, Champaign and Aurora, but mandating such reporting could be burdensome for smaller law enforcement agencies.
“If there is indeed an issue, I think we need to address that, but if this is just another report for another report, then I don’t necessarily think that’s a good idea,” McCombie said.
The ACLU said having a committee of law enforcement and community groups could improve data collection and allow for smaller police agencies to compile data, something Slaughter said the bill does in addition to making the data collection permanent.
One ACLU report found black and Latinx drivers were searched about 1.8 and 1.4 times more often, respectively, than white drivers. It also found that back and Latinx drivers were more likely to be asked to be searched, even though they were less likely to be found with contraband during consent searches than white drivers.
Despite concerns from police groups and some Republican lawmakers, the measure to continue the data collection found enough support to advance out of committee.
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March 1, 2019 at 06:51AM