Janesville59°

State wants law enforcement data to track racial bias

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Ted Sullivan
March 23, 2009
— Local law enforcement officials said they would be willing to collect traffic-stop data to be analyzed by the state Department of Justice for racial profiling.

Gov. Jim Doyle wants to require law enforcement in Wisconsin's 11 largest counties to track the names, ages and race of stopped drivers starting in 2011. The reason for the stop also would be recorded.


The state Department of Justice would review the data to determine whether the stops involved racial stereotyping.


The proposal is in Doyle’s budget.


Rock County Sheriff Bob Spoden and Janesville Deputy Police Chief David Moore said their agencies already track arrest data, including race, to prevent racial profiling.


“We’ve always had a very good record of going out and targeting offenders, but it hasn’t been isolated to any one particular racial group in the community,” Spoden said. “I’m very confident our officers don’t practice that.”


The police department emphasizes that the reasons for stopping drivers must be supported with facts, Moore said.


“At the Janesville Police Department, contacts need to be behavior-based and not race- or gender-based,” Moore said. “We want our officers making those contacts and conducting those searches based on facts.”


The budget proposal doesn’t compensate agencies for the cost of the data collection. It also doesn’t require every county to provide records.


The sheriff isn’t worried about the potential cost of tracking traffic stops.


“It’s really not going to be this big, staff-intensive, unfunded mandate,” Spoden said.


Local law enforcement agencies already police themselves for racial stereotyping.


The sheriff’s office tracks incidents involving the use of force, Spoden said.


It also makes its arrest reports available to an outside agency to check for racial profiling, he said.


The police department has policies against racial stereotyping, Moore said.


Officers must have reasonable suspicion to make traffic stops, he said. They also must articulate a reasonable suspicion when asking for consent to search vehicles.


Officers are taught to apply the law equally to everyone, Moore said.


“We are sensitive to performing our duties appropriately,” he said.



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