Many Illinois law-enforcement officials remain unclear a new state law requiring collection of data related to possible racial profiling, reports the Chicago Tribune. Police officers doing traffic stops must record the name, address, sex, and race of the driver, whether or not a ticket is issued. The data will be sent to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for a four-year study that lawmakers believe will determine whether police target people because of their perceived race or ethnicity.
Some police criticized the agency’s actions as confusing and cumbersome. Rather than using IDOT’s long “stop sheet” questionnaire, some departments will comply with only the letter of the law by gathering limited data. IDOT says it met with law-enforcement officials and the final list of questions comes after comments from local chiefs. Said Brad Alewelt of IDOT’s traffic safety division: “I’m confident that, at the end of this study, it’s going to be a model for the country.”
Suburban police officials said they had insufficient time to train their patrol officers between the Dec. 10 release of IDOT’s regulations and Jan. 1, when the law became effecctive. So rather than answering 17 questions on the IDOT survey, many police will provide information for only the 10 questions spelled out by law.
Police will be expected to judge a driver’s race from among Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Native American/Alaska Native, or Asian/Pacific Islander. Beginning in March 2005, all police departments in Illinois will be required to submit traffic stop data annually to IDOT. Northwestern University researchers will seek “statistically significant aberrations”–including high numbers of stops involving minority motorists in predominantly white neighborhoods or municipalities, or a higher number of traffic tickets issued to minority drivers than white drivers. The first report from Northwestern is due by July 1, 2005. Reports will follow in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
A similar statewide study is under way in Missouri, while more limited racial-profiling surveys have been conducted in Washington, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, and Florida. Rhode Island recently performed a statewide survey.