A court decision in New York City focuses attention on Connecticut’s failure to deal effectively with racial profiling.
“So I…pull over to the side of the road
And I heard “Son do you know why I’m stopping you for?”
Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hat’s real low
Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don’t know
Am I under arrest or should I guess some mo?
“Well you was doing fifty five in a fifty four”
“License and registration and step out of the car”
“Are you carrying a weapon on you I know a lot of you are”
– “99 Problems” by Jay-Z,
Racial profiling is illegal, immoral, Unconstitutional and isn’t even an effective crime fighting tool…but it is standard operating procedure commonly used at the national, state and local level.
Connecticut’s anti-racial profiling law is called the Penn Act and was named after an African-American state senator who was the victim of racial profiling.
But a decade later, Connecticut’s law is little more than a toothless symbol of political pandering. Just this year, Connecticut media outlets reported that the Connecticut General Assembly “Unanimously Strengthens Racial Profiling Law.” But that report was far from the truth.
Meanwhile, while Connecticut’s anti-racial profiling law remains a hollow example of fighting this crime, a New York Judge has ruled that the NYPD’s Stop and Frisk policy is unconstitutional, saying that the policy amounted to “indirect racial profiling,” and violated the fourth amendment of the Constitution.
As the Judge explained in her ruling, “No one should live in fear of being stopped whenever he leaves his home to go about the activities of daily life.”
The New York class action was the result of a nine-week trial that determined that African-American and Latino residents are illegally discriminated against by the NYPD’s racially-driven stop and frisk policies.
In Connecticut, where the Hartford Courant reported this past legislative session that the General Assembly, “voted…to expand the state’s racial profiling law to include more police departments,” the 1999 Alvin Penn racial profiling law remains little more than a requirement that certain police departments maintain records and report on the racial and ethnic make-up of the people they stop.
As the Connecticut Community Party wrote in a commentary piece in the Hartford News in May of this year, “The Connecticut General Assembly passed the Penn Act advisory board’s toothless racial profiling bill without adding any of the Community Party’s amendments. Last week this legislation was literally passed by the state Senate under the cover of darkness with no prior notice that the bill was coming up for a vote. The advisory board bill focuses solely on data collection with only a cursory nod towards enforcement, despite the fact that a Department of Justice investigation found that the East Haven police were engaging in racial profiling of Latinos. Instead of crafting legislation aimed at preventing a reoccurrence of this crime, which was the focus of an avalanche of gun control bills that were introduced following the Newtown school shooting, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Office of Policy and Management Under Secretary Mike Lawlor and the CGA continue to portray racial profiling as a theory which must be proven as fact. Our position is that this disparate reaction underscores a racial double standard at the State Capitol. The passage of the advisory board bill kills all of our enforcement language which was passed last year, including our traffic stop receipt provision that was scheduled to go in effect July 1st.”
Even watered-down, the bill’s effective date was set at July 1, 2015, a year after nearly every other new law was scheduled to go into effect.
As the Community Party went on to report, “Blacks and Latinos in this state will continue to be left vulnerable to the type of police abuse which occurred in East Haven because [Connecticut politicians] are more interested in using the racial profiling issue as a political football than in actually protecting people of color.”
So here we are. As a result of yesterday’s bold action by a judge, New York City’s racial profiling policies are thrown out, but here in Connecticut, political games remain the order of the day.
It almost reminds one of the situation we face with Paul Vallas’ attempt to illegally hold onto the superintendent’s position in Bridgeport.
It is a sad commentary that it takes the actions of a judge to force politicians and our government to do the right thing.
For more on the New York Case check out: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/13/nyregion/stop-and-frisk-practice-violated-rights-judge-rules.html and http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/13/opinion/racial-discrimination-in-stop-and-frisk.html?hp&_r=0