Civil Rights Groups Sue Governor Davis for Eliminating Key Racial Profiling Data Collection Provisions from State's Budget

November 1, 2001 12:00 am

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SAN FRANCISCO–A coalition of rights groups, racial profiling victims and taxpayers filed a lawsuit today charging that Governor Davis exceeded his authority when he eliminated key racial profiling data collection requirements from this year’s budget.

“”With a stroke of his pen, Governor Davis exceeded his authority under the state constitution and rendered useless an important piece of racial profiling legislation,”” said Michelle Alexander, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California’s Racial Justice Project, which filed the lawsuit together with a local law firm.

“”For several years, Davis has done everything in his power to block data collection legislation and thwart progress on the issue of racial profiling,”” Alexander added. “”Now the governor has actually exceeded his powers under the state constitution in his misguided zeal to block meaningful reform.””

The case, NAACP, et al. v. Davis, et al, was filed in California’s First District Court of Appeal in San by the ACLU of Northern California and lawyers from the law firm of Altshuler, Berzon, Nussbaum, Rubin & Demain, on behalf of the California League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the California Conference of NAACP Branches, individual victims of racial profiling, and taxpayers

The groups are asking the Court of Appeal to issue an immediate order preventing state officials from disbursing money to law enforcement agencies unless they collect all of the data specified by the legislature. Alexander said the case is expected to define with more clarity the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches in California.

On July 26th, Davis eliminated key data collection provisions in the Budget Act of 2001. The Act appropriated approximately $3,000,000 to the California Highway Patrol for grants to local law enforcement agencies for the costs of collecting racial profiling data.

The Act specifically provided that the grants “”shall only be available to local law enforcement agencies that collect all of the following data,”” including the race and ethnicity of the motorist, the reason for the stop, whether a search was conducted, whether contraband was found in the course of the search, and whether an arrest was made.

The funding restrictions were designed to ensure that only those agencies that are collecting the essential data would be entitled to extra funding under the Act.

Although Governor Davis signed the Budget Act of 2001, he struck virtually all of the provisions specifying what types of racial profiling data must be collected in order for agencies to qualify for funding, except for the provision requiring agencies to collect data on the race and ethnicity of the motorist.

“”By striking the data collection provisions, Governor Davis usurped the power of the legislature,”” said Jonathan Weissglass, an attorney at the law firm of Altshuler, Berzon. “”Under the state constitution, the Governor can veto the Budget Act in its entirety or reduce the amount of an appropriation. He cannot, however, rewrite the bill, gutting its relevant provisions. In our democracy, only the Legislature gets to write bills.””

Among the provisions that Governor Davis eliminated is the requirement that law enforcement agencies collect search data in order to be entitled to additional state funding. Search data has proven critical to uncovering patterns of racial profiling here in California and nationwide.

Search data recently revealed in the class action lawsuit, Rodriguez, et al. v. California Highway Patrol et al., showed that drug interdiction officers in the Central and Coastal Divisions were three times as likely to search Latinos as whites, and African Americans were twice as likely to be searched. In response to this data, the CHP issued a six-month moratorium on consent searches — the practice of obtaining consent to search motorists even when there is no probable cause to believe they have engaged in any criminal activity.

“”Racial profiling isn’t simply an issue of who gets stopped, but why they are stopped and how they are treated after they are stopped,” said Alice Huffman, President of the California NAACP. “”There is no way to determine whether racial profiling is occurring without this basic information. It’s mind-boggling that Governor Davis would go so far as to violate the state constitution just to avoid the collection of this important data.””

Mickie Luna, State Director of California LULAC, noted that Latinos are the fastest growing minority group in the nation, and yet throughout California they are disproportionately stopped by law enforcement on California’s highways and roads.

“”We have joined in the lawsuit because we believe that a meaningful racial profiling bill is critical to the future of this state,”” Luna said. Governor Davis has long been an obstacle to real progress on this issue, and this time he went way too far.””

The legal papers in the case and a fact sheet entitled “”The Five Essential Elements of Voluntary Data Collection”” are online at

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