Data Dead End
By Keith Dauch
The Alvin W. Penn Racial Profiling Act came into effect on January 1, 2000 prompted by an alleged incident of racial profiling against Connecticut State Senator Alvin Penn. The law required that a form, developed by the Commissioner of Public Safety, the Attorney General, the Chief Court Administrator, the Police Officer Standards and Training Council, the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association and the Connecticut Coalition of Police and Correctional Officers, be used by police officers when making traffic stops. The purpose of the form who believed they had been targets of a stop based on race, color, ethnicity, age, gender or sexual orientation. The form provided a way for the motorist to give an in-depth account of why he or she felt a victim of profiling, as well as the name and badge number of the stopping officer, and any witnesses who could corroborate the motorist’s complaint. Each of these complaints, then, had to be sent to the Chief State’s Attorney’s office, with the municipal police department’s review and disposition of the complaint. A further stipulation of the law required that by October data, and by January 1, 2002 report the findings of the review to the Governor and the General Assembly, informing them of any instances of profiling.
In December of 2001, the Chief State’s Attorney published his report which found that the differences and nature of the stops for minority drivers were generally small. The report concluded that, “the most notable disparities were found in the issuance of misdemeanor summonses and motor vehicle searches.” But, overall, the report could not definitively confirm or disprove the existence of racial profiling among individual departments or individual police officers.
In order to investigate the matter further, the Senate and House of Representatives tasked the African-American Affairs Commission (AAAC) with reviewing the gathered data, after which they would submit a report to the General Assembly. But due to financial issues occurring in the time between the Chief State’s Attorney’s initial report and when the charge of reporting was handed over to the AAAC, another report has never been submitted.
Quickly confusion set in. No one was holding the individual officers or police departments accountable for not collecting information, so only some collected data. According to an article in the New Haven Register in October 2011, Glenn Cassis, the Executive Director of the AAAC reported that, “only about 65 of the more than 160 law enforcement agencies in the State are providing ethnicity data on traffic stops, and they deliver data only sporadically.” Even the departments who routinely collected the information ran into trouble. In July 2009 an article in the Hartford Courant quoted Cromwell Police Chief Anthony J. Salvatore as saying that his department continues to gather the data, “but nobody’s told us what to do with it.” West Hartford police chief James Strillacci shares Chief Salvatore’s concerns: “We’re collecting them,” he told the New Haven Register in October 2011, “They’re just not going anywhere.” For now, the data simply wastes away in their departments records divisions.
Even worse than the information not getting to the AAAC, was the avalanche of confusion brought down on the AAAC by those departments who did manage to get them the data.
In the same Courant article, Cassis states: “The [annual] reports come in various forms. Some of them come on slips of paper, some on disc . . . some of it’s coded . . .it comes in various shapes and sizes, and it’s difficult to do any kind of comprehensive report.” the manpower to go through and decipher them all at this point,” says Cassis.
The Alvin W. Penn Racial Profiling Act had become hopelessly lost in the weeds and something drastic needed to be done. On July 1, 2012, in an attempt to “ensure a more rigorous application of the initial law,” the General Assembly voted to suspend the requirement that the municipal police departments report traffic stop data until July 1, 2013. They then initiated Public Act 12-74, which requires that each municipal police department record all traffic stop data onto a standardized form, and, further, it streamlines the data Advisory Board, a multi-agency group created by the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy (IMRP) and OPM to help manage the racial profiling study required by PA 12-74, suggested that information be submitted for each individual case instead of as a summary of the data collected, and that the data submissions be made on a monthly basis, or no later than quarterly. The Board also announced its plan to begin “a full- scale public awareness campaign” to help keep the public informed of the State’s desire that no person, regardless of race, should ever be targeted unfairly by a police officer.
Finally, according to the new law, municipal police departments in the state will undergo training to recognize their own possible unconscious bias, and learn a more constructive way to interact with the citizens in their towns, and they will receive an overview highlighting the changes hopes the changes will “prevent the occurrence of racial profiling in traffic stops and enhance trust between communities and law enforcement.” Whether these goals are met with ease, or other needed changes spring up, this is a move in the right direction to ensure that Connecticut’s citizens are treated fairly in all interactions with law enforcement. Some police departments would submit data on a stop-by-stop basis, while others would submit an annual report summarizing all the traffic stops made that year.
“We don’t have the technology and to one source: the Office of Policy Management (OPM).
Public Act 12-74 aims to address the inconsistency of the data coming into the AAAC.
These updates to the Alvin W. Penn Act are a much needed boost to a law that the CT Mirror bemoans as “ignored for a decade.”