A crucial piece of legislation C AB 1264 C aimed at documenting the apparently widespread practice of racially motivated vehicle stops by California police officers is currently scheduled to be heard by the state Senate Appropriations Committee on August 3.

The bill, formally titled the "California Traffic Stops Statistics Act," but more commonly known as the "DWB" C Driving While Black or Brown C bill, was introduced in June by the Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Murray of Los Angeles. The measure would provide the first comprehensive data on routine traffic stops in California, showing the extent to which discriminatory enforcement patterns may exist. The bill would require law enforcement to collect and report statistical information on motorists pulled over for a three-year period.

The bill has garnered strong support from minority law enforcement organizations such as the National Black Police Association, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the National Latino Peace Officers' Association and the California organization Minorities in Law Enforcement.

"Passage of the bill is crucial in addressing the long-standing problem of racial discrimination in traffic stops," said Ramona Ripston, Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California. "DWB stops continue to erode public confidence in law enforcement."

"The phenomenon of `Driving While Black' is a disturbing trend affecting African Americans, Latinos and other minorities across the nation," Assemblyman Murray said. "The fact that we do not know how many drivers are being pulled over or how many law enforcement officers are engaging in racial profiling is truly disturbing."

Murray's bill would require that the data be reported to Sacramento and summarized as part of an existing statistical report released annually by the California Department of Justice. Murray himself was celebrating winning a primary election for Democratic nomination to the state Senate on June 2 when his Corvette was inexplicably pulled over by a Beverly Hills police officer.

Other high profile African American public figures pulled over in questionable traffic stops in California, include actors Wesley Snipes and LeVar Burton; athletes Marcus Allen, Al Joyner, Jamaal Wilkes and Shawn Lee; and renowned former prosecutor Christopher Darden.

AB 1264 mirrors a bill introduced last year in Congress. The federal bill, HR 118 (the federal Traffic Stops Statistics Act), has passed the House but is currently stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.