Saturday, September 22, 2007

State-wide Racial Profiling Task Force Wichita Town Hall meeting hears from the citizens of Wichita

BY CHRISTINA M. WOODS
Reposted from The Wichita Eagle


A state task force listened Thursday [9/20] as Wichitans described their encounters with what they regarded as racial profiling at the hands of police.

The Governor's Racial Profiling Task Force town hall meeting drew more than 150 people, including Police Chief Norman Williams, several elected officials and community activists to the Midtown Community Resource Center, 1150 N. Broadway.

Task force members are seeking input across the state as they create recommendations for legislators and the governor to implement a 2005 law prohibiting racial profiling.

"We didn't want to make any recommendations without knowing what you feel," said the Rev. Allen Smith of Salina, who co-chairs the task force.

The task force heard raw emotion.
Former Wichita police officer [19 years] Steven Young said someone needs to police the police because the department hasn't substantiated any citizen complaints of racial profiling. "My question to them is, are they promoting racism or are they racist?" he said.
Emira Palacios a community activist, told task force members to look at who pays the most traffic fines. "Do you think blacks and Hispanics are bad drivers and whites are good drivers?" she said.

One woman said she was stopped in her blue Cadillac, which has fancy rims and tinted windows. She wasn't ticketed, but was told officers had seen teenagers driving the car before. "Those were my kids," she recalled saying. "They stopped me because of the way my car looked."

Janice Williams showed two pictures of her son, who she said was beaten by police several years ago when he was 11. "Look at my son," she said. "Everybody talks about what y'all are doing to adults, but y'all are doing it to kids, too."

"We do feel your pain," Smith told the crowd. "We expect we will get stories like this. It's just greater motivation for us to go back and deal with it."
Chief Williams did not address the task force. Task force members said they'd have recommendations to strengthen the racial profiling law by early 2008. Changing the information that Kansas law enforcement agencies report about racial profiling complaints they investigate is being considered.

"Whether or not you have a complaint, you need to file an annual report so we know for sure what's going on," said Jackie Williams, task force co-chair and former U.S. attorney.
The task force plans to hire a statewide racial profiling coordinator Nov. 1 to manage grant money and task force activities, he said.

Community suggestions included recording and tracking all law enforcement stops -- whether or not they end in tickets -- and publicizing officers who are involved in racial profiling complaints. Several members of Sunflower Community Action, a nonprofit group promoting neighborhood improvements, suggested video cameras for police cars.
Kenneth Ardoin was among several people who said they were unsure things would change.
"How many complaints does it take to remove certain officers from positions if they keep doing this?" he said.

And though Antwan "Twansac" Richardson, a rapper with Wichita roots who lives in Arizona, expressed discouragement, he also offered to organize a protest. "Obviously our voice isn't being heard enough," he said. "If they can do it in Jena, Louisiana, then we can do it in Wichita, Kansas."
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Among those in attendance were Representative Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Represenative Melody McCray-Miller, Senator Donald Betts, City Councilman Lavonta Williams, WPD Chief Norman Williams, Wichita Racial Profiling Advisory Board Chair Walt Chappell, and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Chair Abel Perez. The event was moderated by K. Myles of the Wichita NAACP.

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