Sunday, August 27, 2000

Ky. state police ordered to avoid racial profiling

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT, Ky. — The state Justice Cabinet will announce next week a formal policy discouraging Kentucky State Police troopers from stopping drivers based on skin color.

        Gov. Paul Patton called for rules against the controversial practice in an April 21 executive order.

        The policy will answer half of Mr. Patton's order. The other half called for a study of police data to determine how often state troopers subject minorities to traffic citations, searches and drug-related stops. The study won't be finished until later, because state police forms had to be redesigned to record race, Cabinet attorney Barbara Jones said.

Defeated in Assembly
        Mr. Patton issued his order after the General Assembly killed a bill that would have prohibited racial profiling by state troopers and local police departments. The bill would have made it easier for people to sue police officers for allegedly using skin color as a reason to make traffic stops or arrests.

        In recent years, civil-rights suits have focused national attention on alleged racial profiling. State police agencies in New Jersey, Maryland, Washington and Florida have banned the practice and agreed to study racial data from traffic stops to see whether minority drivers are overrepresented.

        In Kentucky, city police in Lexington, Versailles and Bowling Green are doing similar studies. Lexington police face a racial-profiling lawsuit filed by a black doctor and her nephew.

        Police chiefs in Versailles and Bowling Green said their studies of traffic-stop data revealed no signs of racial profiling. Versailles has a minority population of about 7 percent, including blacks and Hispanics, and that's about the percentage of minority drivers detained by city police, said Chief Allen Love.

        “I'm still collecting data, but it doesn't appear to be an issue that people are stopped because of race,” Chief Love said.

Prohibition sought
        Sen. Gerald Neal, the sponsor of the defeated bill, said the Justice Cabinet's formal policy is a good first step. But Mr. Neal, D-Louisville, said he still wants to see the study of state police data, and he wants the legislature to extend the policy to local police. The Justice Cabinet oversees only the state police.

        “Whether racial profiling is a systemic problem or just something that happens occasionally doesn't matter if it happens at all,” Mr. Neal said. “There is no reason why a prohibition against racial profiling should not be adopted by every police department in Kentucky.”


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