David Samuels’ Judiciary Committee Hearing Public Testimony

Community Party founder David Samuels’ testimony for the March 20 Judiciary Committee public hearing on Rep. Matt Ritter’s racial profiling bill, which includes CP’s traffic stop receipt provision.

I am writing in support of H.B 5437 AN ACT CONCERNING THE ALVIN W. PENN RACIAL PROFILING PROHIBITION ACT. The Department of Justice findings in their investigations of the East Haven Police Department, and subsequent convictions of EHPD officers Dennis Spaulding and David Cari for violating the civil rights of Latinos, and the Ferguson Police Department, is proof that racial profiling is not a ‘perception’, as some at the State Capitol have described this issue, but a reality. The DOJ found a culture of corruption at both departments, but the Ferguson investigation has revealed a motive deeper than bigotry. The DOJ report found that the Ferguson municipal government and the police department have conspired to generate revenue for the city through the racial profiling of poor, Black residents. A subsequent investigative report by the New York Times has revealed that while Ferguson has become a symbol of racial profiling in America, there are multiple other municipalities in Missouri with even more egregious patterns of extortion of Black residents: Ferguson isn’t even close to being the worst offender. Several months ago, my colleague Mary Sanders and I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Hartford Police, asking for data on fines for low level offenses in the North, South, West End and Blue Hills neighborhoods. We have not received a response, and will follow up with the City Council about the HPD’s refusal to cooperate.

There are certainly other municipalities outside of Missouri that are using racial profiling as a means of solving their fiscal problems. Legislators at the Capitol are all too familiar with the stress of budget deficits. The added element of profiteering to biased policing makes strong legislation in this state a must. I have worked with Assemblyman Matt Ritter on the racial profiling issue for several years. His bill in its current form is a significant step toward curbing biased policing in this state. This legislation should not be watered down for the sake of political expediency. No longer can racial profiling be explained away as the act of ‘a few bad apples’. The DOJ and NYT findings in East Haven, Ferguson and other municipalities in Missouri are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s time for the General Assembly to acknowledge the fact that biased policing is a layered issue which will require constant vigilance.

David Samuels

Founder

Community Party

Hartford, CT

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