Top Cops Call on Next President to Form National Commission on Police Misconduct

Affiliate: ACLU of Colorado
June 3, 2000 12:00 am

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DENVER — According to a story in today’s Denver Post, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) is calling for the creation of a commission to conduct a comprehensive review of law enforcement nationwide in the wake of police misconduct and racial profiling incidents in a variety of communities.

Association president Col. Michael D. Robinson said the association is asking Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore to establish the commission during the next administration.

“We are standing at a crossroad,” said Robinson, who is also director of the Michigan State Police. “. . . If we lose the public trust we lose the ability to maintain safety.”

“The public is ever more mindful of our actions,” he said. “They are looking at not only what we are doing to protect their safety, but how we are doing so.” Law enforcement must be in contact with the community to gain public trust, Robinson said. The association is holding its board of directors meeting in Denver this weekend.

At their annual convention last November, the IACP passed a number of resolutions condemning racial profiling and calling on their members to address the problem through data collection and other means. (The resolutions are available at: .)

IACP head Robinson has chosen to address community concerns about possible racial profiling in his own agency by instituting a program of data collection on traffic stops designed to spot possible patterns of discriminatory enforcement. The Michigan State Police also commissioned a statewide poll to measure public perceptions about racial profiling.

The Post reported that suspicion of misconduct such as racial profiling lessens public confidence in officers nationwide, including Colorado, said Colorado State Patrol Chief Col. Lonnie Westphal.

“We are all placed under the same umbrella of criticism,” Westphal said. “When (state patrolmen) stop a car there are people who say, “This is the same thing that happened to Rodney King.’ There is a stigma attached to officers who are dedicated to doing their jobs.”

The State Patrol began meeting with 20 minority community members last month to discuss the issue of racial profiling. Another meeting is set for July, Westphal said.

The national commission would conduct a systematic review of all aspects of law enforcement and justice administration, including arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations, Robinson said.

“We need to address those perceptions,” Colorado’s Westphal said. “We need to understand what the public is thinking and they have to understand what our job is.”

Robinson said the idea for the commission was proposed at a directors’ meeting last month in Michigan. There has not been a national review since 1967, under President Lyndon Johnson.

Vice President Al Gore spoke out against racial profiling during a speech on crime in Atlanta on May 2, 2000, saying, “We need to end the unjust practice of racial profiling in America — because it’s not only unfair, it is inconsistent with the successful approach known as community policing.”

In January, civil rights and minority law enforcement organizations wrote Texas Governor George W. Bush calling on him to address racial profiling concerns in his state by requiring his state police to collect traffic stop data.

On February 14, 2000, Bush responded with a letter indicating that the Texas Department of Public Safety was in the process of developing procedures to collect the data. “When this system becomes operational, DPS will have another tool to ensure all Texans are treated equally under the law,” Bush wrote.

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