AB 9 53: Sacrificing Public Safety for Race-based Data Entry
California Assembly Bill 953, known as the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015, is a political witch hunt devised by groups that claim community activism in an effort to gather statistical, yet equivocal, data to prove a false narrative.
AB 953 requires that all California law enforcement agencies collect and report detailed information about each stop or contact conducted by all peace officers. It requires the following data be captured and reported:
- The time, date and location of the stop
- The reason for the stop
- The result of the stop
- The perceived race/ethnicity, gender and age of the person stopped
- Whether the peace officer asked for consent to search
- Whether consent was given
- Whether the peace officer searched and the basis of the search
- The type of contraband or evidence found during the search
- Whether the peace officer seized any property
- The type of property seized
- And the basis for seizing such property
With just those bullet points above, we are looking at 15 questions that must be answered after each and every contact with each and every person during a call for service or a proactive stop. Fifteen questions that will take time out of each deputy's shift; take away from their response times and add more paperwork to the already daunting stack of forms and reports that must be completed.
This piece of legislation was authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). It was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown and is slated to go into effect in January of 2018, once the logistics get ironed out. This piece of legislation was authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). It was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown and is slated to go into effect in January of 2018, once the logistics get ironed out. And if those 15 questions were not enough, the people appointed to the committee to carve out the logistical details of AB 953 want to add more. SEBA President Laren Leichliter has attended the hearings on the issue and at last count there were 41 questions that committee members want answered on every stop. Each and every stop. Each and every contact. This legislation is not limited to proactive contacts, such as traffic stops or pedestrian checks. This also comes into play in regard to witnesses who are contacted during a burglary call; or to any person a peace officer talks to in the area of a robbery in progress call. Every reporting party, every witness, every alleged suspect and victim -- a minimum of those 15 questions above will have to be answered. Considering that deputies contact hundreds of people on a regular basis, the addition of this data collection and entry will take hours away from fruitful public safety efforts of our members.
Nobody will argue that racial profiling is wrong. SEBA members know it is wrong to base a contact on perceived race. All California Peace Officers are taught this during mandated POST training in the academy. We are further reminded of the errors of such actions during ongoing official training, as well as informal training given to us by the stories that grace our evening news and cover the headlines of our newspapers.
The arguments surrounding this bill go beyond the ideals regarding racial profiling. The ACLU claims AB 9 53 is needed to enhance public safety, arguing that 'preventing profiling ... facilitates the efficient pursuit of people who actually pose a threat to public safety." But by turning law enforcement officers into data entry clerks, this bill is the antithesis of "efficient;" leaving little to no time to pursue those who pose a risk to public safety. It is also extremely costly to taxpayers who think their hard-earned money is going to pay deputies to keep their neighborhoods safe, not collect and enter data.
Even if we were to accept the ideals of groups like ACLU and Black Lives Matter who have promoted this, AB 953 does nothing to establish what would happen once the data is collected. The data will be analyzed and studied. Proponents will publish studies that allegedly prove pervasive racism in law enforcement and opponents will use the data to disprove the allegations. And then what? We will be at the same stalemate but we will have wasted precious time and money to come to that point.
The topics of conversation raised by the AB 953 committee have spiraled so far away from the intended purpose of the bill that even Weber, the author, has been surprised. When hearing reports of the various off-shoots of data collection, Weber has commented that was never the intent of her bill. But nonetheless, organizations with their special interest to weaken law enforcement agencies are undaunted by the wishes of the bill's author. They are continuing to shove the legislation down the throats of not only the state's peace officers but of the unsuspecting public that will pay an inflated cost for indefinite and ambiguous data collection.
In an effort to stymie opposition, proponents of this legislation strike back with cries of racism or allegations of dirty cops. Undaunted by these tactics, SEBA will continue to attempt to be a voice of reason for the committee tasked with finalizing details of this legislation.
By Lolita Harper