California Senate Passes Racial and Identity Profiling Act



The California State Senate this week passed AB 953, the Racial and Identity Profiling Act, following a mass mobilization of California anti-mass incarceration and police accountability organizations to Sacramento lobbying for the passage of the bill.


Now that the bill has passed the Senate and the Legislature, Governor Brown has 30 days to sign or reject the bill before it automatically becomes law.


The bill, authored by Assembly member Shirley Weber of District 79 and co-authored by Assembly member Rob Bonta of District 18, would create a uniform statewide data system for collecting and reporting basic information on law enforcement vehicle and pedestrian stops.


The required information will include perceived race, gender and age of each individual who is stopped, the reason for the stop, the result of the stop and, if arrested, the offense charged.


The bill would also create an advisory board charged with analyzing the data and developing solutions to profiling. The bills expands the definition of racial profiling to include “racial or identity profiling” in order to account for identity characteristics beyond race.


“African Americans and other people of color in California face completely different experiences with the criminal justice system than their white counterparts,” said Assembly member Bonta.


“AB 953 will help reestablish confidence and trust in our justice system by requiring the comprehensive collection of reliable, quantifiable data and establishing a diverse Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board to develop effective, evidence-based solutions to prevent racial profiling,” said Bonta.


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), PICO of California, Dignity & Power Now, along with several other faith- and community-based organizations that sponsored the bill, bused hundreds of supporters to the state capitol last week to demand accountability and transparency in policing practices and the passage of AB 953.


The nearly 800 faith leaders and community members staged a sit-in outside Governor Jerry Brown’s office and occupied the building for two hours, calling for the governor to sign the bill if it were passed by the Senate.


According to the ACLU of California, “Recently, deadly uses of force by police around the nation have given rise to heightened public concerns about police biases and violence. An August 2015 poll of California voters shows that an overwhelmingly majority (65%) believe that police officers discriminate against blacks.”


“To address such concerns, AB 953 places California on a path toward fair policing by developing solutions to the problem of racial and identity profiling,” according the ACLU statement.


Senator Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles challenged her colleagues to “move beyond the rhetoric of our commitment to a racial utopia,” quoted by PICO in a press statement.


“We must invest in humanity now and no longer allow law enforcement to water down our language because perhaps they do not want to be held accountable,” Mitchell said, according to the PICO statement.

Senator Loni Hancock of the East Bay also supported the Racial and Identity Profiling Act and worked with Assemblymember Weber to get it passed by the Senate.


Chauncee Smith, Racial Justice Advocate for the ACLU of California, said organizations supporting the bill are pushing for the governor to sign it as soon as possible.


“This bill is about protecting people of color and other marginalized communities from police violence,” said Smith. “(Brown) considers himself an advocate of civil rights, and this is the most important civil rights bill left this year.”


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