CRP3 Racial Profiling Report Process Excludes Community Residents, Ferguson Report Finds Biased Policing = $$$

This column appears in the September 18 – 25 edition of the Hartford News… Community Update: The controversy surrounding former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and boxer Floyd Mayweather has sparked a national conversation about domestic violence. If you are a victim of an abusive relationship, call the Connecticut Domestic Violence Hotline toll free at 1-888-774-2900. Readers who live outside of Connecticut call 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)… The VoteSmart.org Political Courage Test is a nonpartisan analysis of the policy positions of elected officials and candidates. Be an informed voter on Election Day, November 4. http://votesmart.org/about/political-courage-test#.VBRJ2WPu3IU

Last week the so-called Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project released a report which showed that (surprise) there is a disparity in the rate of traffic stops between people of color and whites in Connecticut. However the CRP3 report does not tell the whole story. Under the current Alvin W. Penn Act state law, patrol officers must provide all drivers who they stop with an information card, which provides instructions on how they can file a complaint if they believe they have been racially profiled. However, there is no way to track whether or not officers are actually giving these cards to motorists. We have received complaints from individuals who were not given a card, and thus were not informed about their rights under the current law. This gaping loophole destroys the credibility of data on the number of racial profiling complaints that have been filed since the current law went into effect. The Community Party’s traffic stop receipt provision was one of three Penn Act amendments that were passed by the Connecticut General Assembly in 2012 and scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2013. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/05/18/2012-cnn-report-on-the-community-partys-racial-profiling-bill/

Last year the receipt provision was repealed due to political pressure by the police. Under the current law, community residents are frozen out of the data collection process: they don’t know if their race has been misrepresented by the patrol officer who stopped them. The Department of Justice investigation of racial profiling by the East Haven Police Department found that officers Dennis Spaulding and David Cari, who were sentenced to 5 years and 30 months respectively in prison for violating the civil rights of Latinos, either filed false traffic stop reports, or did not enter ethnicity data at all. “Our own review of the data showed that a large number of entries reflecting traffic stops were devoid of ethnicity data or appeared to misreport ethnicity data.” http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/easthavenpd.php The New Haven Independent reported on a study by Yale law school students, who provided statistics on how EHPD officers, including Spaulding, were blatantly lying on the traffic stop reports. “They (Yale students) found that police ‘failed to correctly identify the race of vast majority of individuals to whom they issued traffic tickets. Police reported giving tickets mostly to white people. Police recorded Hispanic drivers for only 4.8 percent of tickets, according to the report. An accompanying graph shows that one officer in particular, Dennis Spaulding, is responsible for 97 tickets issued to people with Hispanic names. Another graph shows that Spaulding reported issuing 120 tickets to white people, four to black people, and none to Hispanic drivers in the same period. Spaulding has been accused by name of racial harassment by Latino business owners.” http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/report_tickets_show_east_haven_targets_latinos/ CP’s traffic stop receipt would act as a deterrent against officers falsifying data and provide community residents with access to essential information they would need to guide their decision about filing a complaint.

CP has been pushing racial profiling legislation at the State Capitol since 2010. Every year, the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association has a different reason for opposing our receipt provision. In 2010 they said printers would have to be installed in cruisers, which is false. Officers already have to fill out a traffic stop report every time they stop a driver. We proposed that a carbon copy of the report be given to the driver. In 2011 Office of Policy and Management Under Secretary Mike Lawlor said that there was no money to fund the receipt provision. The most recent explanation is that the receipt would “compromise officers’ safety”, because they would have to spend extra time on the side of the road in order to provide drivers with a copy of the traffic stop report. This assertion is nonsensical, because officers would be creating the carbon copy while they filled out the original form. Nonetheless we responded to that argument by proposing that drivers could receive instructions on how to pick up the receipt in person at the police department, through the mail or online. This proposal has been met with resistance by CRP3.

Mary Sanders, who wrote CP’s bill language, shared her thoughts. “I have spoken with various people who have been stopped and have NOT received the card informing them of their options. I also believe that the same way federal Department of Justice money was secured to implement this electronic data system, funding could be requested to cover the cost of producing traffic stop report copies for motorists. Funding secured was intended to ensure fair and unbiased policing and the motorists’ copies could make all the difference as far as data integrity. The full CRP3 report shows that profiling is indeed happening. http://s429795233.onlinehome.us/september-2014-report/

We still believe it’s underexposed and thus the need for the motorists’ copies of the stop reports.” We are currently trying to find out if we can obtain information from the Office of Legislative Research on the current cost of producing the traffic stop report forms, and what the cost would be if the forms included carbon copies.

The argument about the receipt being too expensive is a smokescreen. Gov. Dannel Malloy and Democratic Party lawmakers “found” money that they didn’t have so they could “balance” the state budget; this fiscal magic trick was performed with less than one week left in the 2014 legislative session. The transportation and tobacco health trust funds were raided, in addition to other slick maneuvers. If the Democrats can “find” money for the sake of political expediency they can do the same thing for people of color, who comprise a large portion of their voter base.

Every 28 hours, Black people in the United States are killed by police, security guards and vigilantes such as George Zimmerman, who made the news last week for threatening to shoot a Black man during a road rage incident. http://www.operationghettostorm.org/ The shooting of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri has led to a grassroots movement in the city that is exposing the link between biased policing and economic justice. Black unemployment, the racial wage / wealth gap, a racist, profit driven criminal justice system and the Democrats’ complicity in these conditions are issues which are finally being discussed in the mainstream media, thanks to fed up Ferguson residents who personify the Democrats’ biggest fear: they are making the connection between the street execution of Michael Brown and the socioeconomic problems in their community. Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman reported on the money cities are making from biased policing.

“As the police killing of Michael Brown has focused global attention on the racial divide in the counties in and surrounding St. Louis, Missouri, a new report may explain why residents’ mistrust of the police runs so deep. It shows how a large part of the revenue for these counties comes from fines paid by African-American residents who are disproportionately targeted for traffic stops and other low-level offenses. In Ferguson, the fines and fees are actually the city’s second-largest source of income, which is expected to generate $2.7 million in fiscal year 2014. We speak with Thomas Harvey, executive director of ArchCity Defenders and co-author of their new report, which has been widely cited — including in a stunning chart in Monday’s New York Times that shows how Ferguson issued on average nearly three warrants per household last year — the highest number of warrants in the state, relative to its size. ‘What my clients have told me since the first day I’ve ever represented anybody is, this is not about public safety, it’s about the money,’ Harvey says.

“So, in Ferguson and the surrounding municipalities, there is a substantial amount of income that’s derived from these low-level ordinance violations. These are the least significant, lowest-level contact with the justice system. They are typically traffic tickets, moving violations. And as a system, as a structural problem, these—revenue from these municipal courts can represent either the second- or third-highest source of income for the municipality. Ferguson is $2.7 million a year. In neighboring Florissant, the adjacent municipality, it’s $3 million a year. It’s a line item on a budget, and enforcement of the laws and ticketing and fine amounts are in keeping with the expectation that that income is going to come in to fund the city.

And our clients believe that they are targeted initially because they’re black, and then they are harassed, and they are exploited because they are poor. And it has led to a level of distrust between the community and law enforcement, that you saw manifested in some of the protests in the last two weeks. I’m not trying to say that traffic tickets are the reason people are on the streets of Ferguson, but it’s certainly a contributing factor when you’ve got the tragedy with Michael Brown and the very same people that my clients believe are targeting them because they’re members of community of color and then exploiting them because they’re poor, are now asking them for patience and trust and promising to get to the right answer involving the shooting. And our clients are skeptical.”

Racial profiling is big business. Are Malloy and the General Assembly resisting true reform of the Alvin W. Penn Act because they are afraid of the effect this will have on the revenue stream currently flowing into Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport? Stay tuned…

Follow CP on Twitter @CommunityParty1 for state, national and global headlines and updates on the Trayvon Martin, Safe Work Environment and Jane Doe Acts. Visit our No Sellout blog for the archive of CP Hartford News columns. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/ Check out the CP Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/CommunityPartyAction Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcement on our social justice platform. Contact us at 860-206-8879 or samuelssloflo@aol.com.

Resources

Democracy Now! report on how the City of Ferguson profits from racial profiling:

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/8/27/is_ferguson_feeding_on_the_poor

CNN report on cellphone video taken 40 seconds after the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. The video shows witnesses saying that Wilson shot Michael after he raised his arms in surrender:

http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2014/09/11/new-information-on-aftermath-video-of-the-michael-brown-shooting/

Ferguson youth provide inconvenient facts about racism:

Community Party 2015 Trayvon Martin Act bill language. CP will add a provision requiring, state, county and local police in Connecticut to wear body cameras:

https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/community-party-trayvon-martin-act-bill-language/

United for a Fair Economy report on racial economic disparity:

http://www.faireconomy.org/state_of_the_dream_2010_fact_sheet

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