New bill hopes to stop racial profiling during traffic stops

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A bill moving through the state house in Montgomery hopes to reduce racial profiling during traffic stops. It’s part of a larger conversation on relations between law enforcement and the community.

State Senator Rodger Smitherman’s bill will make police departments to create new policies and require them to send information like age, race and gender to the state every year. It plays nicely with series of discussions happening in Birmingham this week.

Violent protests springing up after an incident of policy brutality exposed. It’s a scene that has played out in many cities across the country. That’s the reason Smitherman is pushing his anti-racial profiling bill.

“I think that it first takes legislation to set the frame work and address the concerns that are taking place,” said Smitherman. He said it would be nice if those changes would just happen.

“In an ideal world, yes, but we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a realistic world,” Smitherman continued.

The topic of civil rights and law enforcement is being talked about at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The BCRI is hosting a series with local law enforcement and community members.

“Legislation is important, but you can’t legislate what’s in the heart,” said Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper.

“It’s important that as police officers we bring a heartful policing and a heartful community into the work,” he continued. One hopeful outcome from the series is that more conversations are had between police officers and community members.

“I hope that when the statistics come out to sustain a higher level of training, I hope that takes place,” said Smitherman.

Smitherman’s bill is expected to be debated on the senate floor this week. The conference at the BCRI runs through Monday afternoon.

Here’s a rundown of the scheduled discussions:

Sunday Night
6:00 p.m.
“Reflections on the Legacy of Bonita Carter and Community Policing Today.”
The program will touch upon how the 1979 shooting of Bonita Carter instigated change in Birmingham’s Police Department.

The conference continues on Monday, May 18 at BCRI from 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. with registration and continental breakfast from 8-8:30 a.m. After opening remarks, morning sessions will focus on human trafficking, an area of growing concern for the FBI and local law enforcement.

The discussion begins with a panel on “What is Human Trafficking?” moderated by Ms. Tajuan McCarty, founder, The WellHouse Inc. with presenters Scott Santoro, special agent, Department of Homeland Security; Brian Ozden, special agent, FBI, Atlanta Division; and MacArthur Butts, intelligence analyst (IA), FBI, Atlanta Division. Captain Cathy Peoples, commander, Community Services Division, Birmingham Police Department, will moderate a presentation on “Current Trends in Human Trafficking” by Benjamin Hawk, trial attorney, Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, U.S. Department of Justice.

A “Lunch and Learn” session will feature presentations about how other federal agencies deal with related issues, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Department of Labor, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The afternoon program, “After Ferguson, Implications for Police and Community Engagement,” will be moderated by Delois Smith, vice president for Diversity at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. The featured presenter is Christy Lopez, Deputy Chief of the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, who will share insights from her oversight of the investigation of the practices of Ferguson, Missouri Police Department. She will be joined by Stephen Kam, Unit Chief of the FBI’s Civil Rights Unit; Richard Dickerson, president of RAD Communications; and Corey Ray of Hands Up Birmingham to share community perspectives.

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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