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Connecticut strengthens racial profiling laws

April 20, 2012 4:22:25 AM PDT
Connecticut senators on Thursday approved a bill designed to strengthen Connecticut's anti-racial profiling law by changing how police departments collect and report traffic stop information.

The measure passed in the Senate by a 31-to-3 vote and now awaits action in the House.

Urging passage of the bill, Senate Democratic Leader Donald Williams Jr. of Brooklyn said it would help end racial profiling, what he believes is a problem in Connecticut and across the country.

"It's time to re-address that law and it's time to strengthen it," Williams said.

The bill, championed by the late Bridgeport Sen. Alvin W. Penn, would require police officers who make traffic stops to record their perceptions of the person's race, color, ethnicity, age and gender. They would also receive training on traffic stop forms under the bill.

The state Office of Policy and Management and the Criminal Justice Information System Governing Board would oversee the new practice if the bill becomes law. The Senate amended the bill to create a board to advise OPM on standardized methods and guidelines.

Currently, Connecticut police departments must submit annual traffic stop reports and complaints of alleged discriminatory stops to the African-American Affairs Commission for review. But many say the law has been largely unenforced because of budget and staffing concerns.

Supporters of the bill say OPM would be better equipped to process the data and penalize departments that do not comply with the requirements.

Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, who is also a police officer, said new legislation is unnecessary because the law has a data collection and review process in place and just needs to be enforced.

The measure comes after four East Haven officers were arrested earlier his year and accused of waging a campaign against Latinos, including beatings and false arrests.

Mike Lawlor, OPM's undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning, said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration supports the bill and has been working to push it through the legislature.

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