SPOKANE — The city’s Police Department will adopt a policy today that for the first time formally bans racial profiling.
The measure, which would outlaw stopping or detaining citizens based solely on their ethnicity, was drafted after meetings by police officials and members of local minority groups during a series of meetings over the past year.
The timeline for implementation is unclear and may depend on funding. But once the policy takes effect, police will collect detailed information about whom they stop on the streets and why.
"Without trust we are nothing," Police Chief Roger Bragdon said at a June meeting at the Calvary Baptist Church downtown. "We are a bunch of people with guns."
"I think the most important thing is this shows racial profiling will not be tolerated in Spokane," said the Rev. Lonnie Mitchell, who took part in the discussions.
Rick Mendoza, who sits on a police advisory panel, told The Spokesman-Review: "I think it’s a big move for the chief to do this. Is racial profiling prevalent? I don’t think so. But that’s not to say some officers don’t do it."
Racial profiling by police agencies has become a hot-button issue in many communities, including Seattle. In response to those concerns and some lawsuits, hundreds of departments around the United States have started collecting data about whom their officers are approaching and why.
The Washington State Patrol is now required by the state Legislature to gather facts about whom troopers pull over on highways to see whether racial profiling occurs. Early indications have hinted at problems, with data showing minority drivers are more likely to be searched than whites.
The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office implemented a policy against racial profiling last spring. Sheriff Mark Sterk said deputies have not been collecting data, because of possible action in the Legislature that could spell out exactly how it should be done. No bills were passed in the last session.
Bragdon said that in 1999, 900 of 29,000 traffic tickets were given to blacks in the city of Spokane, about 3 percent of the total. Recent census figures show blacks represented slightly more than 2 percent of Spokane’s population.
No Spokane police officer has ever been investigated for racial profiling, Bragdon said.
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