When I served on the Auburn City Council, it was heartening to observe a dedicated group of volunteers as they assisted the Auburn Police Department. Many of these volunteers are seniors and you can see them at various public events, such as the annual Fair. Inside the police department building, these volunteers help with paperwork and other time-consuming administrative tasks that result in freeing up police officers to get back on patrol. As the scourge of methamphetamine, heroin and prescription opioid drug abuse expands in the foothills, we want our law enforcement officers in the community identifying problems early on, taking smart preventive actions and responding when crimes do occur. These volunteers are an important part in keeping Auburn residents safe.

But a new state law will soon endanger California residents. Governor Brown signed AB 953 (Weber), the “Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015,” which will force every police department, sheriffs’ office, California Highway Patrol, college and university police units to collect racial and demographic data when officers stop people and send it to the California Attorney General (AG). Every law enforcement officer in the state will have to submit detailed “stop data” that will be compiled by their department and forwarded to the AG. Assemblywoman Weber, the ACLU and “Black Lives Matter” proponents argued that this law is necessary because law enforcement officers in cities like Oakland racially profile African-Americans and stop and search them at disproportionate rates.

A few days ago, AG Xavier Becerra’s office released the regulations on how the law will work starting next year. I read through the 23 pages of regulations. More and more of our police officers and deputy sheriffs with guns strapped to their waists and years of taxpayer-financed training in their heads will be spending countless hours before computers and typing in a detailed record of almost every stop they make, including vehicle stops, pedestrians and people on bicycles. At the time AB 953 was being debated, Lt. Steve James with the Long Beach Police Department told a Los Angeles Times reporter, “We have contact with the public all the time that requires no documentation, no paperwork. The extra work will cut into the time officers spend on community policing.” Because the law requires that the stop reports be completed during the officer’s shift, taxpayers will be paying a lot of overtime for officers tapping in front of a computer screen.

To carry out the “Racial and Identity Profiling Act” and filling out the stop report, law enforcement officers will have to do a lot of guessing. They will have to guess the “perceived race of ethnicity of the person.” Guess their “perceived gender” (including “gender nonconforming”). Guess their age and their “perceived disability,” including distinguishing between mental and intellectual disabilities. That’s not easy for anyone to do. The law enforcement officer will be prohibited from asking the person or making comments designed to elicit this information. They will have to when the stop actually began as multiple officers arrive on the scene with multiple suspects and witnesses jumbled together.

Already stretched law enforcement agencies will have to train officers about when to submit a stop report and when not to. For instance, according to the regulations, a CHP officer stops a speeding SUV containing a woman and her two small children. During the stop, the officer learns that the woman’s license has been revoked. The officer then orders the family to exit the vehicle and sit on the curb while the officer questions the woman. In this case the officer will submit a stop report for the women and each of her two children because the regulations say if you order a person to sit on the curb you have to submit a report.   But in a similar case where the officer instead learns that the vehicle is stolen and arrests the women, the law enforcement officer who ordered the two children to exit the vehicle will have to submit a stop report on the woman but won’t have to submit a stop a report on them because it involves vehicle impoundment. Get it?

A better solution than AB 953 would have been for local elected leaders and their law enforcement agencies to solve local problems. If Oakland has a problem with racial profiling, Oakland should fix it. My greatest concern is that laws like this change behavior. As we’ve seen from the “Ferguson Effect,” when politicians irresponsibly label entire law enforcement agencies as “racist” without proof, law enforcement officers pull back from stops and searches and crime escalates and the lives of innocent people are damaged or destroyed. No more idiotic laws. Protect law-abiding citizens. Get a clue. Repeal AB 953.

 

Published in the Auburn Journal on August 9, 2017.