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Assembly passes racial profiling bill

By Andrew Carden
Staff writer

April 23, 2012
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week announced the passage of legislation prohibiting law enforcement officers from using ethnic and racial profiling as a pretext for determining that a person should be suspected of criminal activity.

The bill (A.2288), sponsored by Assemblyman Keith Wright, D-Harlem, would mandate law enforcement agencies to adopt written policies prohibiting racial profiling and develop procedures to review and take corrective action with respect to individual complaints.

Under the legislation, police would be required to collect data, including race, ethnicity and gender, when conducting a traffic stop or a stop that results in a frisk, pat-down or search. The bill expands standing law by giving individuals or the attorney general the right to pursue legal action against a law enforcement agency for damages specifically for acts of racial profiling.

"Racial profiling has undermined the collaborative relationship between communities of color and New York law enforcement officers," said Silver. "Legislative action taken today aims to restore trust between law enforcement and minority communities and to help ensure that police only stop and question people based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and not on the perceived race or ethnic status of the individual."

Wright said being targeted by law enforcement because of one's race or ethnicity has become an "all too familiar scenario for people of color" in New York state.

"I myself have been subject to racial profiling by a police officer who didn't think an African-American man should be driving a car with New York State Assembly license plates," said Wright. "By taking a proactive approach in New York to prevent law enforcement from engaging in racial profiling, we will not only improve the quality of life in our communities, we will also improve the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color."

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, D-Brooklyn, voted for the bill and said racial profiling practices "divert police attention away from more effective evidence-based law enforcement techniques."

"Racial profiling wastes police resources and causes the distrust of law enforcement in minority communities," said Lentol. "The enactment of this legislation will promote better law enforcement practices as well as community support for the important work that they do."

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