Washington State Enacts Bill to Combat Racial Profiling

Affiliate: ACLU of Washington
March 24, 2000 12:00 am

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OLYMPIA, WA — Washington State Governor Gary Locke today signed into law a compromise version of a bill initially drafted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State to attack the problem of racial profiling by police.

“This measure is a terrific first step to curb a form of unequal treatment by police – the practice known as stopping motorists for ‘Driving While Black or Brown,’ said Kathleen Taylor, Executive Director of the ACLU of Washington. “The ACLU will work to ensure that local police agencies throughout Washington follow the state government’s lead.”

The law contains three key provisions:

  • The Washington State Patrol (which is responsible for 700,000 of the state’s 1.7 million annual traffic stops) will collect data on race, ethnicity, gender, and age of people stopped and will report to the Legislature at the end of this year.
  • The State Patrol and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) will develop criteria for this kind of data collection, as well as develop training materials for police agencies statewide.
  • WASPC is directed to encourage its members to collect this data voluntarily and to report to the Legislature at the end of the year how many of its member-agencies have agreed to do so.

“The bill’s passage reflects the leadership of Senator Rosa Franklin of Tacoma,” said Jerry Sheehan, Legislative Director of the ACLU of Washington. “She kept pushing the measure tenaciously through the multitude of procedural steps needs to get a measure passed in the legislature. And a number of legislators were clearly moved by dramatic testimony in Olympia from people who had experienced the indignity of racial profiling.”

In gaining passage of the bill, the ACLU worked closely with several civil rights allies: the NAACP of Seattle; the Urban Leagues of Seattle and Tacoma; and the Washington State Commissions on African-American Affairs, Asian Pacific-American Affairs, and Hispanic Affairs. When ACLU-WA state board member Sherri Allen spoke at the NAACP State Convention recently, the audience applauded our efforts on drafting and passing the bill.

Building on the momentum created by the bill’s passage, the ACLU and its allies are planning a statewide campaign to combat racial profiling.

The coalition intend to begin discussions with local law enforcement agencies and the pubic to inform them about the bill and educate them on the importance of this issue. The coalition will also urge all police agencies to voluntarily adopt a system to collect statistics on traffic stops. If, by the end of the year, many agencies have still not agreed to compile the necessary data, the coalition said it will ask the Legislature in 2001 to direct all local police agencies to do so.

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