Last year around this time, Democrat State Representative Tyrone Brooks (along with Democrat State Representatives Pedro Marin, Keith Heard, Roberta Abdul-Salaam, Gloria Frazier and Al “paperwork oversight” Williams proposed HB 53, an alleged effort to, as Brooks termed it, stop law enforcement from “racial profiling.” If Brooks was being truthful, he should have stated his real goal: to handicap law enforcement in the performance of their duties.
Now, Democrat State Senator Gloria Butler, joined by fellow Democrat State Senators Emanuel Jones, Freddie Sims, Horacena Tate, Valencia “paperwork oversight” Seay and Nan “I’m with Jane Fonda” Orrock, are trying again with their efforts to hurt law enforcement in Georgia over in the Senate with SB 325.
Let’s again review why both of these bills are horrific, shall we?
HB 53, as I’ve covered previously, states that “[l]aw enforcement officers shall not use a person’s race or ethnicity to form probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle but may use a person’s race or ethnicity to confirm a previously obtained description of a suspect.”
Deeper into HB 53, though, Brooks’ real goals become evident. Per his legislation, every time a vehicle is stopped:
to issue a citation or to make an arrest, that officer shall document the following information in a public record whose format shall be determined by the Department of Motor Vehicle Safety: (A) The gender of the driver; (B) The race or ethnicity of the driver; (C) The suspected violation that led to the stop; (D) Whether the vehicle, personal effects, driver, or any passenger was searched and, if any passenger or his or her effects were searched, the passenger’s gender and the passenger’s race or ethnicity; (E) Whether a search was conducted pursuant to consent, probable cause, or reasonable suspicion to suspect a crime, including the approximate duration of the search and the basis for the request for consent or the circumstances establishing probable cause or reasonable suspicion; (F) Whether contraband was found, the type and approximate amount of contraband, and whether contraband was seized; (G) Whether any arrest, citation, or any oral or written warning was issued as a result of the stop; (H) Whether the officer making the stop encountered any physical resistance, whether the officer engaged in the use of force, and whether injuries resulted; (I) Whether the circumstances surrounding the stop were the subject of any investigation and the results of that investigation; and (J) The location of the stop.
If a stop is made and the officer does not issue a citation, “then the officer shall provide the motorist with a card showing the officer’s name, badge number, and the name of the officer’s law enforcement agency. Law enforcement agencies shall maintain the data required to be collected of this subsection for not less than seven years.”
With SB 325, the list of requirements to be noted grows even longer, to include:
(1) The identification of the law enforcement officer, including name and identification or badge number; (2) The agency employing the law enforcement officer; (3) The age, gender, race, and ethnicity of the individual subjected to the stop, based on the observation or perception of the law enforcement officer; (4) The date, time, duration, and location of the stop; (5) Whether the law enforcement officer requested information about the person’s immigration status or country of origin; (6) Whether the law enforcement officer examined a state-issued identification card issued to the person, including the person’s date of birth, state, and country of residence, if available; (7) In the case of a traffic stop, the license plate number and state of registration of the vehicle stopped, and the description of the vehicle, including make, model, condition, and color; (8) The alleged violation that led to the stop; (9) In the case of a traffic stop, whether the law enforcement officer requested the person to exit the vehicle; (10) Whether a search was conducted as a result of the stop; (11) Whether the search was conducted pursuant to consent, probable cause, or reasonable suspicion to suspect a crime, including the basis for the request for consent or the circumstances establishing probable cause or reasonable suspicion; (12) In cases of consent searches, whether consent was given in writing by the individual; (13) Whether passengers were present and, if so, the passengers’ age, gender, race, and ethnicity, based on the observation or perception of the law enforcement officer; (14) Whether any person’s, including the passengers’, property or personal effects were searched (vehicle or other), and the scope of the search; (15) Whether contraband was found, the type and approximate amount of contraband, and whether contraband was seized; (16) Whether any citation or any oral or written warning was issued as a result of the stop; (17) If a warning or citation was issued, the violation charged or warning provided; (18) Whether an arrest was made as a result of either the stop or the search; (19) If an arrest was made, the crime charged; (20) Whether the law enforcement officer making the stop encountered any physical resistance, whether the officer engaged in the use of force, and whether injuries resulted; and (21) Whether the circumstances surrounding the stop were the subject of any investigation and the results of that investigation. The information gathered pursuant to this subsection shall be collected and reported on an annual basis to the Attorney General using a format determined by the Attorney General.
(g) In addition to the information collected under subsection (f) of this Code section, each law enforcement agency shall send to the Attorney General on a monthly basis: (1) All of the forms collected that month regarding motorists or pedestrians who were stopped; (2) Any complaints filed by motorists or pedestrians who believed they were the subject of racial profiling; and (3) Any other information the Attorney General deems appropriate.
Finally, SB 325 requires that the Attorney General of Georgia publish an annual report chock-full of statistics:
The report shall include at least the following information for each law enforcement agency: (1) The total number of vehicles and pedestrians stopped by law enforcement officers during the previous calendar year; (2) The number and percentage of stopped motor vehicles that were driven by members of each particular minority group; (3) A comparison of the percentage of stopped motor vehicles driven by each minority group and the percentage of the state’s population, driving age population, and owners of motor vehicles that each minority group comprises; and (4) A compilation of the information reported by law enforcement agencies pursuant to this Code section.
All this work to prepare this proposed legislation from our fine Democrat legislators would suggest there is rampant racial profiling going on in every corner of Georgia and that people are being pulled over right and left for no darn good reason.
Except nothing could be farther from the truth.
A few months ago, Mark Bell left his Cobb County home after 10 p.m. to go to the grocery store. The political consultant said a police car pulled in behind him. Then pulled up to his right. Then backed up and looked at his license plate. Then followed him to the store. The officer never stopped him, never said a word, but the message was clear.
“It was racial profiling,” Bell said. “Here in 2010, that is unacceptable in Georgia. A black man can’t leave his house after 10 p.m. without being profiled. You become fearful. It is mentally nerve-racking.”
What was nerve-racking? That a police officer ran his plates to see if there were any outstanding warrants? I’ve got a news flash for Mark Bell: get over yourself. Police officers are always running plates for warrants or expired licenses. They do it for all races. Also, Bell points out that the officer never stopped him…but still accuses him of racial profiling (we don’t know what race the officer is, by the way, because it was 10 p.m. and dark outside). So, by not having any warrants on him and having a valid driver’s license and license plate (and thus not being pulled over), Bell is the victim of racial profiling how exactly?
Let’s sample some more lunacy:
“We know that if your skin color is darker than mine or your religion is not Christian, you are likely to be racial profiled,” said the Rev. Tracy Blagec, the vice president of Atlantans Building Leadership of Empowerment (ABLE), which has joined lawmakers, along with the ACLU, to get the measure passed. “People like me don’t get pulled over.”
Super, except there is no way to determine religion from a manner of driving. Blagec sets up a the straw man of racist, bigoted cops patrolling the streets but provides only anecdotal beliefs, not facts.
Sen. Donzella James (D-College Park) said her son was stopped and questioned about why he was driving a nice car and dressed up. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta), who is white, recalled stories of how her son would get stopped when he was riding in cars with young black men.
Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Atlanta) said she didn’t have a personal story to tell.
“But that may be because I look the way I look,” said Benfield, who is white.
Frankly, I strongly doubt James’ recollection of facts that the pullover was conducted simply because he was driving a nice car. And with regards to Nan Orrock, her son Danny Orrock (Website | MySpace | Facebook), the Deputy Director over at Georgia Watch, is hardly a credible source to analyze the actions of law enforcement officers since he shares his mother’s anti-freedom, anti-capitalism beliefs.
And with Stephanie Stuckey Benfield…whatever. The woman is afraid of her own shadow so I’m pretty sure she makes efforts to be home before sunset every night.
So, why is this legislation unnecessary and harmful to law enforcement? Three reasons.
First, law enforcement is already prohibited from pulling over someone unless they have reasonable, articulable suspicion to do so. As I’ve noted before, State of Georgia v. Armstrong, 223 Ga. App. 350, 351; 477 S.E.2d 635, 637 (1996) already lays out what is required for a reasonable, articulable suspicion for a traffic stop. What the Court of Appeals requires, at a bare minimum, is “objective observations, information from police reports, the modes or patterns of certain kinds of lawbreakers, and the inferences drawn and dedications made by a trained law enforcement officer.” Some examples of this can be found in any violation of O.C.G.A. Title 40, Chapter 6, where a variety of traffic violations are listed.
Thus, you can’t just see someone of a specific race and religion and pull them over. There must be some legal indicator of a violation of the law first. And don’t think that looking “odd” is sufficient (i.e., someone wearing a turban).
State v. Winnie, 242 Ga. App. 228, 529 S.E.2d 215 (2000) makes clear that the mere fact that an officer thinks that a driver’s behavior is unusual will not establish a justification for a stop if the driver commits no traffic violation, is conducting no apparent criminal activity and is making no attempt to flee.
So, simply being a member of an ethnic community is insufficient for a stop by an officer and such a case would be thrown out of court if it even made it that far (which, in the real world, we know wouldn’t).
Second, it places an unreasonable burden and expense on every law enforcement agency in Georgia. Both bills require that local law enforcement agencies collect and maintain this exhaustive list of “data” for each citation issued. In metro counties, you are talking about tens of thousands of citations. And just who is going to enter this data? How will the database be paid for?
This is not as simple as just punching a button on a machine and a magical genie gets is all done. Larger counties (all counties, actually) are going to have to develop a system to include new software to collect and refine this data and then have it entered, monitored and maintained by a goodly number of people. That costs money, which, in a big surprise to these Democrats (alleged friends to the taxpayer) might be startled to learn local governments would prefer to use for more police officers instead of back room techs.
Third, this legislation will have a chilling effect on law enforcement officers in Georgia. As I wrote a year ago, this database will be able to be utilized by the Attorney General to pull up, for each officer, the percentages of his traffic stops based upon race (as if that is the only criteria that law enforcement utilizes in its efforts to keep the community safe).
Thus, a white officer working in South DeKalb County is (gasp) going to appear quite racist to these Democrats when his records are run because 90% of those he stops are black! Of course, the black officer in Paulding County who stops whites 90% of the time won’t be racist, mind you. Nor the Asian officer in Rabun County who pulls over 80% whites.
Or would they?
Consider a white officer in Fulton County who sees a car driven by someone with a tail light out. Just as he is about to pull over the vehicle, he notices that the driver is black. He then recalls seeing a recent print out from the Attorney General’s office concerning his department noting that he pulls over blacks 13.7% more than the other officers on his shift. Thus, not wanting to earn the wrath of Democrats in the General Assembly, he doesn’t pull the vehicle over. Maybe if he had, he would have just given a citation for a bad tail light. Or maybe he would have discovered some more serious crime being perpetuated. The officer will never know because he turned around.
Likewise, consider a black officer in Duluth who sees a vehicle driving at 3 a.m. down a two lane road when he decides to run the plates of said vehicle but then notices that the driver and passenger are Asian. Recalling a warning from his shift supervisor to keep his numbers in line with the department because he pulled over more Asians than any other officer in the last six months, he decides to avoid an Attorney General investigation and doesn’t perform his routine check of the plates. Thus, the car rolls on and (perhaps) the driver soon after commits some sort of malfeasance.
Yes, are these hypothetical examples of a potential outcome? Absolutely. And their validity is just as real as the alleged stores from Nan Orrock’s son and others about so-called racial profiling.
Georgia’s law enforcement officers have enough to do keeping us safe without worrying about what percentages of certain ethnic groups they are pulling over for violations of the law. Their supervisors have enough to do without having another time-consuming task like database management to worry about. The Attorney General has plenty on his plate without having to troll through statistics looking for racism where none exists.
I grant that the chances for both pieces of legislation are virtually nil. But the fact that a goodly number of Democrats in the General Assembly feel this way is cause for concern and examination of their true motives.