What’s your race? What’s your ethnicity? Do you know the difference? Will a cop?
If you’re in Virginia, someone’ll need to provide answers.
As reported by The Washington Free Beacon, a new law mandates that police record both of those details, plus one’s gender (not sex) whenever they make a traffic stop.
The state’s changing its ways for the good of the Republic via its Community Policing Act, which went into effect last Wednesday.
The law — passed during the General Assembly’s March legislative session — applies to sheriffs, state police officers, and local law enforcement.
Here’s more from D.C.’s WTOP:
According to the bill’s sponsor, Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince William County, the legislation will help shed light on whether certain groups of people are being disproportionately targeted by police stops.
“The Community Policing Act prohibits law enforcement officers from engaging in bias-based profiling,” Torian said during the legislative session.
The officers are also allowed, it appears, to guess. But what if they misgender you or misidentify your race? Better to inquire.
Here’s the exact wording from HB 1250:
The bill requires that each time a local law-enforcement officer or State Police officer stops a driver of a motor vehicle the officer collect the following data based on the officer’s observation or information provided to the officer by the driver: (i) the race, ethnicity, age, and gender of the person stopped; (ii) the reason for the stop; (iii) the location of the stop; (iv) whether a warning, written citation, or summons was issued or whether any persons were arrested; (v) if a warning, written citation, or summons was issued or an arrest was made, the warning provided, violation charged, or crime charged; and (vi) whether the vehicle or any person was searched.
From the official press release:
The data collected during traffic and investigatory stops will be reported to the Department of State and included in the Community Policing Reporting Database. Access to this database will be provided to the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) for the purpose of analyzing data to determine the existence and prevalence of the practice of bias-based policing and the prevalence of complaints alleging the use of excessive force.
“Members of the public should be aware of the new information collected,” the release says, so they’ll be prepared to answer.
The law has some company: The D.C. Council previously passed a similar package, which — according to WTOP — resulted in “a scathing report last month, claiming that black people are disproportionately likely to be stopped in almost every police district in the nation’s capital.”
What will Virginia’s records reveal?
I betcha we’ll find out soon.
But here’s a question: If it’s determined that a particular demographic is stopped more than another (which, given the mathematically imperfect nature of existence, it surely will be), what then?
How would a perfect traffic-stop mirror of the state’s racial, ethnic, and gender distribution be achieved?
Such are the burning questions in a society searching for equity rather than equality.
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