The ACLU condemns Governor Davis's veto of SB 78 - known as the "DWB - Driving While Black or Brown Bill," which requires law enforcement to collect data regarding the race and ethnicity of all drivers stopped by the police. The bill (formally "California Traffic Stops Statistics Act"), authored by Senator Kevin Murray, overwhelmingly passed the Assembly 61-16 and the Senate 29-0.
"By vetoing this historic bill Governor Davis is turning his back on California's communities of color" said Ramona Ripston, ACLU-SC Executive Director. "For decades, motorists have been stopped by police simply because of the color of their skin. This bill would have been a small, but important step, in putting an end to racist police practices throughout the state."
In his veto message, Governor Davis tried to take credit for "ordering" the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to collect similar data. In fact, the CHP had already publicly volunteered to collect this data - following similar moves by state police agencies in Florida, New Jersey, Michigan, Oregon and elsewhere.
In addition, Governor Davis' belated statement encouraging voluntary data collection by law enforcement agencies comes almost four full months after President Clinton issued the same challenge. In fact, 34 California agencies have already answered the President's challenge with voluntary data collection programs, but hundreds of other California agencies - including those with some of the most severe police-community relations problems in the state (Los Angeles, Riverside) - have stubbornly refused.
"Those agencies who still remain in denial on this issue are simply not going to respond to the Governor's timid encouragement," said Ripston. "That is why a comprehensive statewide bill was crucial. His veto amounts to a `wink and a nod' to law enforcement that they don't have to take this issue seriously."
Ripston called it "disingenuous" that Governor Davis would publicly claim that requiring statewide data collection on traffic stops would set a "bad precedent" of the state placing mandates on local agencies. For decades the state penal code has required local law enforcement agencies to collect and report a dizzying array of statistics on various activities. This bill would have simply added four new categories of data on traffic enforcement practices for just two years to a detailed statistical report long-published by the state on an annual basis.
"In fact, it is the Governor's veto that is establishing the horrible precedent," added John Crew, Director of the ACLU Police Practices Project. "Governor Davis is sending a message to local law enforcement agencies across the state that the issue of racial profiling is not important enough for the state to assert its authority to protect the civil rights of all
Californians against racist police practices" he said. "Decades ago, southern sheriffs like Bull Connor argued that local officials should be left to voluntarily address any local civil rights problems on their own. We are stunned that Governor Davis would be claiming -- in 1999 -- that it sets a `bad precedent' for the state to require local agencies to even study a crucial and widespread civil rights problem."
The ACLU announced it is continuing its statewide hotline 1-877-DWB- STOP. (The Spanish language hotline is 1-877-PARALOS, 1-877-727-2567). Since the hotline's initiation in October 1998, more than 2000 persons have called to report their stories of race-based police traffic stops.
The bill was supported by the American Bar Association, the California Attorney General, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, NAACP, and over fifty leading civil rights organizations in the state. Minority law enforcement organizations including the National Black Police Association, National Latino Peace Officers Association, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives also supported the bill.