Crime and Justice

House approves bill to curb racial profiling by police

The House on Friday concurred with a final version of a bill that requires police to collect race data about drivers during roadside stops.

Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, presented the final version, agreed to by a House-Senate conference committee, to the House. The House endorsed it and sent it to the Senate for final approval.

“I am deeply grateful for the support of the House and Senate for assuring that all law enforcement agencies in Vermont will have fair and impartial policing policies and that we will be collecting race data,” Lippert said.

The point of collecting the roadside stop data is to identify potential police bias and find ways to eliminate it, lawmakers say. The data will be public.

Lippert for years has looked for ways to ensure police do not unfairly target minorities, immigrants and others. He was disappointed to discover a law passed several years ago had little effect.

Lippert has pored over Vermont State Police studies and others that show certain minorities are twice as likely to be stopped by police but less likely to have contraband.

The Legislature is still waiting for a study of statewide police data by the Vermont Center for Justice Research. Lippert originally said he wanted to wait for the results of that study but when it was delayed, he forged ahead with a bill this session.

The advocacy group Migrant Justice this session also lobbied for an update to what they say are ineffective laws.

The bias-free policing bill, whose title was changed to “fair and impartial policing,” is an amendment to a Senate bill, S.184, about recording police interviews with suspects and eyewitness identification. The national policy group, the Innocence Project, backed both measures.

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Laura Krantz

About Laura

Laura Krantz is VTDigger's criminal justice and corrections reporter. She moved to VTDigger in January 2014 from MetroWest Daily, a Gatehouse Media newspaper based in Framingham, Mass. She won the 2013 Morley Piper First Amendment Award from the New England Newspaper and Press Association for her investigation of the Ashland Police Department. She is skilled in the use of public records to find the real story. She is a 2010 graduate of Boston University, where she studied comparative religion.

Email: [email protected]

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