Sweeny Police | Racial Profiling

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Racial Profiling

 

 

 

 

Introduction

During the 77th Legislative Session of the Texas Congress, Senate Bill (SB) 1074, also known as the Racial Profiling Data Collection Law of 2001, was enacted.  It was signed into law on Thursday, June 14, 2001 by Governor Rick Perry, and went into effect on January 1, 2002.  Senator Royce West, D-Dallas, authored the bill.  This legislation required Texas Law Enforcement Agencies to adopted departmental policies prohibiting the practice of racial profiling.  These laws also required comprehensive, comparative analysis of racial profiling data collected from the previous year to be reported to the local governing bodies by March 1 of the next year.

 

The law prohibits police from stopping motorists or pedestrians based solely on their race.  It set aside $18.5 million for grants to help equip police vehicles with video cameras.  It also required law enforcement agencies to have a written policy that strictly prohibits racial profiling, and to create a grievance policy for those who believe they were subject to racial profiling.

 

Racial Profiling --- Historically

Prior to 2002, the concept of racial profiling was viewed as an effective law enforcement investigative tool. It was mainly used in the War on Drugs campaign to target narcotic's traffickers around the country. However, complaints and lawsuits brought from victims of overzealous law enforcement practices over the years raised the eyebrows of legislatures across the country. It seemed unreasonable to law makers that police officers were stopping motorists and pedestrians without reason of a law violation, a constitutionally protected freedom drawn from interpretation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. These practices relied upon unsubstantiated suspicious circumstances, although proven effective in screening for illegal activity, and the race of the individual in determining whether illegal activity was occurring.

 

The Fair Roads Standard

Neither the law nor Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCLEOSE) rules provide guidance as to what "baseline" racial profiling stop numbers should be compared in order to accurately estimate "the prevalence of racial profiling," as required in the law. And, without a reasonable and consistent baseline, no two law enforcement agencies' racial profiling statistics may be comparable, nor can a definable standard of acceptable/unacceptable be applied.

 

The consensus of national experts is the baseline should attempt to mirror who is on our roads. After examining the available options and consulting with national experts, ACLU of Texas, LULAC, and the Texas Criminal Justice Reform Coalition have jointly endorsed what is believed to be the best baseline option for Texas at this time: the Fair Roads Standard.

 

The Fair Roads Standard compares racial profiling stop totals to a baseline derived from vehicle availability date in the Census. That data measures the extent to which different demographic groups have access to cars. Vehicle availability data is most appropriate as a Texas baseline because it is easily accessible and address gaps other baselines create. For example, proposals to use drivers' license data for a race baseline ignore the fact that Texas licensed population data lumps together whites and Latinos, making all comparisons useless. Using residential population data ignores differences in rates of vehicle ownership. The Fair Roads Standard accounts for these variable and is based on the most reliable available data: the 2000 Census.

 

The Fair Roads Standard measures who is most likely to be subject to traffic stops by law enforcement - not those who take the bus, but those with access to cars. Since it does not strictly concern ownership, it includes data from those drivers who do not own vehicle, but nonetheless are part of the driving population. Under the Fair Roads Standard, all racial/ethnic groups specified in SB 1074 are individually analyzed.

 

According to the 2000 Census, 1,244 households in Sweeny have vehicles available to them, see Table H44, U.S. Census Bureau Report. Of those, 73% are Caucasian Households, 17% are African-American Households, 10% are Hispanic Households, 0% are Asian, 0% are Native American, and 0% are Other. Tables HCT33B, HCT33D, HCT33H, and HCT33I detail the racial breakdown of vehicle availability.

 

Are we engaged in racial profiling?

Nobody knows. In order to determine the prevalence of racial profiling, at least according to the present guidelines, the percent of households with vehicles must be compared to the percent of stops per race/ethnic background conducted by officers. The difference between the resulting numbers show how much more or less frequently that race is stopped compared with how many people from the race are on the road. Although this is an effective comparison, it still does not establish an acceptable variance.

 

For example, if the percent of households with vehicles in Anytown, USA, among Caucasians is 60%, and the percent of Caucasian stops is 40%, is that 20% variance acceptable or unacceptable? What if the percentage of stops is 80%? Since we have no standard, these figures, although revealing, are useless in determining the prevalence of racial profiling.

Simply put, and ideally, the figures above should match. If 60% of the Caucasian households in Anytown, USA have vehicles, then 60% of the stops should be on Caucasian violators, or at least this is the result law makers want from this legislation. On the other hand, if 30% of the African-American households in Anytown, USA had vehicles, but over 60% of the stops were on African-American violators, then this may be a problem. Perhaps biased-based enforcement is being conducted in this case.

 

From reviewing this data, it seems any variance within 10% would be acceptable, but anything above that might be some cause for concern. In Sweeny's case, however, no variance occurred at more than 6% above vehicle availability rates when compared to population rates.

 

Conclusion

Thanks to a grant from the State of Texas, video cameras with audio and video surveillance were installed in each Sweeny police patrol vehicle. As a result, every traffic and pedestrian stop is now recorded according to departmental policy. Data collection and reporting requirements have been exempted because of the camera installation. Video tapes from all recorded traffic stops are retained according to Records Retention Guidelines for a minimum of 120 days before destruction or re-recording, unless a complaint was filed.

 

Due to the above exemption status, further reporting and compilation of racial statistics are no longer required. The Sweeny Police Department will, however, conduct periodic internal reviews to maintain and ensure ethical standards of law enforcement.

 


 

Racial Profiling --- Laws

Click on any of the links below to view the statutes concerning racial profiling.  The law can be found in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedures (CCP), Chapter 2.  These documents are in Microsoft Word format.


 

Racial Profiling --- Department Policy

Click on the link below to view the Sweeny Police Department's policy on Racial Profiling.


 

Racial Profiling --- Yearly Reports

Click on a link below to view the report for the year specified.

 

 

 

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More Information
For more information about racial profiling or any other topic in this section, contact us at 979-548-3111 or via e-mail at inbox@sweenypolice.org.

 

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