Alabama state legislator introduces bill to bring racial profiling to a full stop

Birmingham Sen. Rodger Smitherman wants to require documentation of every police stop, including racial identity of drivers, to bring the problem to an end

Racial Profiling
Alabama State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

“Enough!” That’s what one Black Alabama state senator is saying to racial profiling.

Alabama Sen. Rodger Smitherman, a democrat from Birmingham — the cradle of not taking it anymore — is proposing legislation to target and block the act of racial profiling by police, The Birmingham News reports.

Smitherman told the news organization that one key piece of his proposed legislation is that it would require police to document details for every traffic stop that they make, including the race of the driver and why police stopped them. And it doesn’t matter if there is no ticket issued as a result of the stop — Smitherman wants all of them documented.

“You want to make sure that when you stop someone you have a justifiable reason and you are able to substantiate that reason,” Smitherman told the News.

This is not Smitherman’s first go-round with this type of bill. He first introduced such legislation 15 years ago but believes — even though some people will say that times have changed — that it is even more important now to have such a law because tensions are heightened between police and civilians.

A previous version of his bill passed the Senate 27-0 but failed in the Alabama House. Police opposed the bill, expressing concerns about being required to keep more records than they already must complete, the News reported.

Smitherman believes his bill is necessary because pedestrians and motorists can be profiled by police. He is a lawyer serving his sixth term in the Alabama state senate said he’s been profiled several times in Birmingham and in other cities too. And it isn’t just limited to people of color, he said.

“If you’re in a predominantly African American community, you can be non-African American and get stopped because you’re there as well,” he told the News.

Despite the prior failures, Smitherman said he is not giving up. He said he believes police can collect the necessary data without it being too cumbersome.

“What we’re trying to do also is identity where the problems exist and give them the flexibility to provide the necessary training and whatever they need to do to correct that problem,” he told the News.

The state legislative session in Alabama begins March 5.