The Problem Of Racial Profiling

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Legislative efforts to address racial profiling on our highways fizzled early this year. Four bills were introduced to require Virginia State Police to record, analyze and report the race, ethnicity, gender, and age of each motorist stopped and the specific reason for the stop. Each failed, as did HB 2672, a weaker bill which merely requires the State Police to prepare a report indicating what actions they have taken to reduce racial profiling. Legislators did pass a bill requiring cultural diversity training for police officers for the purpose of reducing racial profiling on our highways.

Both the House and Senate addressed bills that would have allowed a police officer to stop a vehicle for failure of the driver or passengers to wear a seatbelt. This would have given police yet another pretext for stopping motor vehicles, thus reducing the privacy rights of drivers and exacerbating racial profiling. Legislators addressed but failed to pass several bills affecting non-English speaking residents of Virginia.

A bill to designate English as the official language of the Commonwealth died, as did a bill to restrict bilingual programs for students with limited English proficiency. Another bill, which would have required a non-English speaking defendant to pay the cost of an interpreter if found guilty, was also defeated. (Virginia, Attorney General) This bill would have placed severe restrictions on use of state funds for legal services for the poor. The bill was eventually stricken by its patron, but only after an agreement was made to prohibit further funding of a legal services program for migrant farm workers. (Virginia, legislature). The forum, a research and advocacy group for police executives concluded that racial profiling is a human rights issue that can be resolved only through police and community partnerships. However, most police executives do not believe...