A new NAACP report points out that 20 U.S. states do not clearly forbid police from racial profiling. It also appears that there is some correlation between bans and political affiliation. For example, strong conservative states like Texas and Alabama have the legislation that stands against racial profiling. However, liberal states like Vermont and New York do not.
However, it seems the law has its variations and gaps even if the states have banned racial profiling. After taking a look at the 30 states forbidding racial profiling, the NAACP discovered 17 states criminalize these kind of violations, while three states allow people to seek a court order that forbids police departments and their officers from racial profiling. These three states are Kansas, Tennessee, and Rhode Island.
Currently, 30 states in the country have one or more anti-racial profiling law on the books. However, not one adequately meets all the provisions required for an effective law, making them inadequate tools to significantly curb the practice of racial profiling. Most state laws do not include a definition of profiling that is inclusive of all significantly impacted groups. They also tend to lack a ban on pretextual stops of pedestrians and motorists — where officers use minor violations such as not using a seat belt or jay walking as a pretext to search for illegal contraband. In addition, most state laws do not include a provision allowing individuals to seek court orders to stop police departments from engaging in racial profiling or obtain remedies for violations.
State laws tend to vary widely, from that of Connecticut and Rhode Island, which are amongst the most comprehensive — yet Connecticut lacks a specific private right of action and Rhode Island lacks a good enforceable definition — to that of Kentucky, which basically lacks all of the necessary components for a good law. Consider some of the following facts about the current status of state anti-profiling laws:
• 20 states do not explicitly prohibit racial profiling
• 17 states ban the use of pretextual traffic stops
• 17 states criminalize violations of their anti-profiling laws
• 3 states allow individuals to seek injunctive relief to stop police departments from racial profiling
• 17 states require mandatory data collection for all stops and searches; 15 require analysis and publication of racial profiling data
• 17 states require the creation of commissions to review and respond to complaints of racial profiling
It is important to note that separate from the state laws, many localities have passed anti-racial profiling measures to end the practice in their jurisdiction. Local efforts are crucial and often help bolster reform efforts on the state level. The states are called to adopt rigorous anti-racial profiling regulations and programs. These would consist of provisions for gathering information and monitoring what police departments are doing, more funding for police officers to get trained on profiling, and more sanctions and remedies for when violations take place. In the meantime, “No states meet all of the NAACP criteria of an effective racial profiling law.”