Racial Profiling: Kansas Police Agencies Honor Reporting Law Mostly in the Breach

Only one out of three Kansas law enforcement agencies are reporting racial profiling information to the state attorney general's office, the Kansas City Star reported Saturday. This despite a law signed two years ago by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) requiring them to do so in a bid to end police stops based solely on skin color.

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enter at peril of profiling
The law requires departments to make annual reports listing complaints of racial profiling, but it has no enforcement mechanism. "We don't have any enforcement ability" over those agencies that don't report, said Ashley Anstaett, spokeswoman for Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison. "There's no penalty if they don't report."

"There's no hammer behind the law. No teeth in it," said state Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City), who was an original sponsor of the bill. "It became the proverbial toothless paper tiger."

So toothless that 284 of Kansas' 431 law enforcement entities -- that's 66% -- didn't bother to comply. It doesn't have to be that way. Next door in Missouri, there is a 97% compliance rate, not least because departments that don't comply stand to lose funds. In 2005, the Missouri Department of Public Safety withheld more than $7,000 from 17 non-complying agencies.

Nor is that the only problem with the Kansas racial profiling law. It also called for a 15-member Governor's Task Force on Racial Profiling, which was supposed to quantify the problem and make recommendations for abolishing the practice. But some of the task force's members apparently can't be bothered to actually show up for monthly meetings, leaving it without a quorum at its last one.

Among the critics is the task force's co-chairman. "Up until this point there's been a lot of dialogue, but the truth is, people are looking for action," said the Rev. Allen Smith of Salina. "We're expecting some real results," said Smith, pastor of St. John's Missionary Baptist Church in Salina. "I don't think the issue is going away."

Sen. Donald Betts (D-Wichita), another sponsor of the legislation, said the task force's role was even more critical because of the lack of teeth in the data collection part of the law. He said he would call for the replacement of task force members if something doesn't happen. "It does not take forever and a day to come up with recommendations of data collection," he said. "It's time to stop talking about it and time to be about it. It's time to move… If the task force doesn't do something, I intend to hold the task force accountable."

Racial profiling was identified as a problem in Kansas after a study released in 2003 showed that state troopers were three times as likely to stop black and Hispanic motorists than white ones. Police in some Kansas cities were also found to be twice as likely to stop black or brown motorists.

The 2005 bill was supposed to address that problem, but without the cooperation of law enforcement it will not. As for the task force, it has until 2009 to complete its work. But it may not get that long, especially if the police don't step up and start handing in their numbers.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Racial profiling makes me

Racial profiling makes me sick.  I can't stand to think how often it is happening in our nation today though.

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