February 14, 2000
To Members of the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee,
On February 18, you will be asked to vote on House Bill 106, the Traffic Stops Statistics Act. Sponsored by Representative Duane Bourdeaux, the bill will implement a three-year study in which Utah law enforcement agencies will collect and report race data on all traffic stops. We urge you to support this important legislation.
HB 106 is a pragmatic and effective response to the increasing allegations of racial bias in law enforcement practices. Recent reports from the Utah Taskforce on Racial and Ethnic Fairness, as well as accounts from many of our own constituents, indicate that there is a very real perception in our communities that some law enforcement officers are initiating traffic stops primarily on the basis of the driver’s race. A Gallup Poll released in December 1999 reveals that nationwide, the majority of Americans believe that racial profiling by police officers is both widespread and unfair.
Unfortunately, allegations of race-based traffic stops are too easily dismissed as lacking substantial evidence. HB 106 moves this issue from the anecdotal realm to one based in hard fact, and it therefore goes a long way to restore the public’s trust in law enforcement. Throughout the country, states and law enforcement agencies are increasingly recognizing the important role data collection plays in effective policing, and since 1999, 25 states have proposed similar legislation and over 100 law enforcement agencies are collecting race data.
HB 106 will provide us with solid, comprehensive information so that the discussion of racial profiling may move beyond the question of whether or not it occurs, to the determination of concrete ways in which we can address the current allegations. It will benefit both law enforcement officers, who will be better able to accomplish their difficult jobs through an increase in public trust, and minority communities, who will no longer travel in fear of being stopped because of the color of their skin.
We thank you for your careful consideration of this very important issue.