Monday, March 3, 2008

Racial Profiling Hearing in Topeka--Thursday March 6th

The Kansas Senate, Federal & State Affairs Committee will be holding a hearing on the Racial Profiling Bill SB610 this Thursday, May 6th. The hearing will be in Room 526-South at 10:30am. We are asking that all who are concerned about Racial Profiling in Kansas make it a point to come to the hearing and provide testimony or support to the ongoing efforts to end the practice of Racial Profiling in the State.

SB610 is purported to be a compromise bill with a hodgepodge of recommended changes from both the community and Law Enforcement. I serve as Governor Sebelius's appointee to the Task Force representing the interests of the community in our discussions. We were able to get some significant language changes placed into the bill such as prohibiting the use of race as “a factor” instead of the current language which says Race cannot be the “sole factor”. Also, we got language in the bill which moves up the timeline to start uniform data collection to document the extent of racial profiling to 2009 instead of 2011.

However, this is Not a compromise bill. SB610 as introduced contains what I consider to be two "Fatal Flaws". One item that I strongly object to is that in SB610 the provision of the law that would allow a citizen found to have been Racially Profiled to recover damages, has been amended. Under the language in SB610, a prevailing party would only be entitled to the recovery of 'reasonable' court costs.

A second Fatal Flaw in this bill is found in the proposed changes to the process for investigating Racial Profiling claims. Under current statute, charges of Racial Profiling are investigated by the Kansas Human Rights Commission (KHRC). The KHRC is an independent agency, created by statute, charged with investigating human and civil rights violations. The KHRC does not have enforcement powers, but instead, may render findings of probable cause which preclude civil action. Since SB77 which prohibited Racial Profiling went into effect in 2005, the KHRC has issued two findings of probable cause against officers here in the Wichita Police Department. While those civil actions are still ongoing, the Law Enforcement agencies have proposed changes within SB610 which would take any future findings of the KHRC and forward them to CPOST (which is essentially another Law Enforcement agency). If Cpost concurs with the findings of the KHRC, then they will recommend disciplinary action. We view this as an attempt to give Law Enforcement a Veto over the KHRC.

So while there are some proposed changes in SB610 that are needed and necessary, the inclusion of these two provisions would have the compound effect of reducing if not eliminating the likelihood that any Kansas Law Enforcement officer could ever actually be cited for Racially Profiling a citizen. And in the unlikely event that they were, the removal of damages and severe limits to awards and recovery would dis-incentivize the pursuit of any civil claim. Instead of protecting citizens from Racial Profiling, these proposed changes would serve only to protect Law Enforcement officers from accountability under the law.

For these reasons, we will be testifying AGAINST SB610. I will be doing so in my dual role as both the President of the Wichita Branch NAACP and as the Political Action Chairman for the Kansas State NAACP. We are not interested in any Pyrrhic victories. We will not sacrifice enforceability for linguistic clarity. We would rather see this bill fail and come back next year with something stronger, than to see it pass only to have to return and attempt to undo its more onerous provisions.

Members of the Racial Profiling Task Force on which I serve, will also testify and will offer suggestions of their own for different language and provisions. However, it is important to note that the alternative proposal was not unanimously agreed upon by all. As one of the only Community Representatives in the group, I would like to point out that the Task Force's proposal would have the same net effect as SB610 as it contains the same "Fatal Flaws". I note my dissent here for the record.

For those who are interested in attending the hearing, we will be leaving by car pool or bus from St. Mark United Methodist Church lower level parking lot at 7am on Thursday morning to take people from Wichita to Topeka. We will return to Wichita around 6pm.

If you would like to testify, you will need to contact Ms Connie Burns at the Capitol Building. She says that each person who wants to testify must call her at 785-296-4335 by Tuesday afternoon—March 4th—to state whether they will be testifying for or against the bill.

There are two other bills which the Senators will also hear that day. So, testimony will be limited to about 5 minutes each. Written testimony is also accepted. Each person testifying or providing written testimony needs to send Connie 35 copies of the suggestions they want the Senators to consider by Wednesday morning—March 5th. Please send written copies of testimony to:

Sen. Pete Brungardt
c/o Connie Burns
State Capitol Bldg.
300 SW 10th St., Rm. 522-S Topeka, KS 66612

Thank you all for your support and I hope to see you in Topeka!!!

1 Click HERE to POST or READ the latest comments!!!:

Anonymous,  March 30, 2008 at 11:34 PM  

Wichita Police did a profile study some years ago and when I studied the report, I found that the numbers did not add up. I wrote all the Wichita City Council Members and none of them responded.

I had to move away and could not complete my research.

One of the findings of my study of this report was not just being suspect of profiling citizens but to my amazement the profiling of the type of vehicle you drive.

Your more likely to get pulled over and scrutinized if you drive a later model vehicle. If you drive a newer model, your pull over lottery is less.

The Wichita Police Profile study used what I can semantics with numbers. The didnt add up in contrast to the population as a whole.

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