The Debate Over Racial Profiling - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

The Debate Over Racial Profiling

Montpelier, Vermont - July 17, 2008

"It's our supposition that law enforcement is specifically targeting people of color," said Curtiss Reed.

Reed said he has a file full of stories from people who say they were victims of racial profiling by police. But there is no evidence to prove it.

"Sort of the knee-jerk response on the part of law enforcement is we don't racially profile. When you ask, well provide us with the data that proves that you don't profile, they say, well we don't have any data. So there's always that element of suspicion, that we're not really being transparent," said Reed.

Reed chairs the Vermont Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The panel held a hearing Thursday-- exploring whether racial data should be collected during police contact such as traffic stops.

"I believe Vermont does have a problem with racial bias and profiling that must be investigated," said Deputy Defender General Anna Saxman.

Saxman told the panel about an African-American graduate student who had been stopped by police 13 times in one year but never given a traffic ticket. So there was no paper trail.

"One problem is much of what may be profiling is virtually invisible because many of the people who are the subject of racial profiling aren't charged with anything and they don't complain or come forward," said Saxman.

But Bill Sorrell, D-Vt. Attorney General, said collecting such data raises issues of privacy.

"When the legislature has considered this issue in the past, there has been a good deal of resistance to recording the information with personally identifiable information in the data if there is no criminal process that ensues from a stop."

The committee will cull through all the testimony and then make recommendations to policy makers.

The chairman said only two states-- Vermont and Mississippi-- don't collect racial data during traffic stops. A Vermont Law School professor who testified said we may be late, but we can learn from the experiences of other states.

Kate Duffy - WCAX News

Related Story:

Hearing on Racial Profiling in Vermont

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