The state House of Representatives granted final legislative approval Thursday to strengthen the state\’s racial profiling law by adding more police departments to monitor the race of drivers who are stopped by officers.
The vote on racial profiling was taken with lightning speed on an issue that has previously been controversial through the years at the Capitol.
The bill, which was previously approved 36 to 0 by the state Senate, passed the House unanimously by 130 to 0 with 20 members absent.
The debate originally started on Wednesday night, but it was temporarily postponed so that the House could begin debating over a controversial bill that would begin the steps for allowing drivers licenses for as many as 54,000 illegal immigrant drivers in the state.
The racial profiling bill expands the current law to cover the police forces at the state Capitol, the University of Connecticut and the Connecticut State University system, among others. If the update is signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, those departments would now be required to provide information on traffic stops and complaints so that officials could analyze the race, age, ethnicity, and gender of the drivers being stopped over the course of the year.
There has been disagreement over whether police are following the original profiling law, which was passed more than 10 years ago. The Senate Democrats said last year that only 27 of the 92 local police departments had complied with the law. Some small communities among the state\’s 169 cities and towns do not have a full police department and instead are patrolled by a resident state trooper.
But the then-president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, Douglas Fuchs of Redding, did not agree at the time that few departments were complying, adding that racial profiling data do not \”accurately portray how Connecticut law enforcement across the state conducts business.\”
After the racial profiling law was passed initially, the state\’s then-top criminal prosecutor said the initial statistics compiled by police did not show a demonstrated pattern of bias against minorities.
\”We did not find a pattern of racial profiling,\” Chief State\’s Attorney John M. Bailey said at the time. \”Minority drivers do not appear to be treated systematically any different than non-minority drivers.\”
The issue became hotly debated in the legislature in the mid-1990s when Sen. Alvin Penn, an African American from Bridgeport who died in 2003 at the age of 54, said that he was racially profiled while driving his van on a dead-end street after he getting lost in Trumbull. By 1999, the state had passed a profiling bill that later became known as the Alvin Penn racial profiling law.