Republican state lawmakers want to do away with a provision in the last state budget that requires police to collect data on the race of drivers and passengers during traffic stops.
The measure was intended to gauge whether law enforcement could possibly be stopping drivers because of their race, but police have been highly critical of the mandate because it has greatly increased the time officers must dedicate to traffic stops. Several agencies have say the extra steps to report the information add up quickly during the course of an officer’s day.
State Representative Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) says those concerns are a good reason to end the requirement, especially when many local departments are already stretched thin and have a hard time keeping enough officers out on the streets. There are also questions about how reliable the information would actually be, after taking into account the wide diversity of racial groups across the state.
Bernier is sponsoring a bill that would undo the mandate. She notes that if local governments are concerned that racial profiling is a problem they still have the power to collect the information on their own.
Supporters of the measure argue it is needed because local governments have not been addressing the concern, and the information is needed to help identify areas where corrective action should be taken.
Even if a profiling trend were discovered because of the data, the Bernier says there are doubts the state could even do anything. She says it’s an issue that would still have to be handled by local officials, so it makes no sense to force the requirement at the state level.
The bill is being considered by the Assembly Criminal Justice committee.