clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

House OKs making Obama-backed, racial-profiling study permanent

SPRINGFIELD-A requirement that police record the race of all motorists during traffic stops — a pilot racial-profiling study originally launched a decade ago by then-state Sen. Barack Obama — would get a permanent lease on life under legislation the Illinois House passed Thursday.

With two minority lawmakers recounting their own recent experiences with racial profiling, the measure sponsored by Rep. Monique Davis, D-Chicago, passed the House 63-46 and moves to the Senate despite opposition from police groups.

“I support police officers. A number of them support me in my community. We realize all of them don’t racially profile,” she said.

But requiring police to keep collecting racial data on motorists is necessary because racial profiling “does continue to exist in our state and because we do want to continue to record, analyze and provide data to the Illinois General Assembly and to the governor on an annual basis,” Davis said.

The original study, initiated by Obama and Davis, began in 2004 and was to last three years. The General Assembly extended the program three more years to 2010 and then voted again then to extend it another five years to July 2015.

Davis’ legislation removes the 2015 repeal date.

But state Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, a Chicago police officer, voted against Davis’ legislation, saying the past decade has shown racial profiling does, in fact, exist and that more data will only confirm what is already known and that federal dollars used to fund the work could be better spent fixing up state roads.

“I think we have done enough studies,” Acevedo said.

A group of civil rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, support Davis’ legislation. But the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, the Illinois FOP, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and Illinois Sheriffs Association oppose it.

The most recent data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, for calendar year 2012, showed that while white and minority drivers generally were pulled over for the same reasons — moving violations being the most common cause — a disparity existed in who wound up being ticketed.

Statewide, cops were tougher on minority drivers who were pulled over, ticketing them 59 percent of the time, compared to 51 percent for white motorists.

White drivers also came out ahead of minorities in terms of getting warning tickets that carry no penalty. Thirty-one percent of white motorists received warning tickets during their traffic stops in 2012, compared to 22 percent for minority drivers, the IDOT data shows.

During Thursday’s debate, Davis’ cause was reinforced by the stories of two minority lawmakers who saw firsthand how those percentages played out.

“Let me tell you a story,” said state Rep. Elgin Sims, Jr., D-Chicago, told his colleagues. “An African-American gentleman was walking in a predominantly white community. This African-American is stopped and accosted by several police officers. The African-American gentleman is questioned why he’s in that community, what his purpose is for being there. But let me also say to you this nameless, faceless African-American gentlemen is me. That just happened to me several weeks ago.

“Please don’t sit here on this floor and say racial profilng does not exist. It happens,” he continued. “It’s very, very real. It’s prevalent in our communities.”

And state Rep. Cynthia Soto, D-Chicago, reported a similar experience.

“Over the summer of last year, I went through the town of Crete. I was stopped, myself and my husband, they stopped us, and there was racial-profiling,” she said. “As soon as they stopped us and we spoke English, they changed their tune.”