Updated at 3 p.m. with comments from Nasheed, Dogan and others - Police departments in Missouri that continually engage in racial profiling could be stripped of their certification under legislation introduced in Jefferson City on Tuesday.
The “Fair and Impartial Policing Act,” sponsored by state Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, and state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, would be the first significant update to the state’s anti-racial profiling law, which originally passed in 2000. In addition to tightening enforcement for failure to collect data, the new law also requires departments to document pedestrian as well as traffic stops and expands the information collected during the stops.
"This is not an attack on law enforcement," said Nasheed, who has been one of the leading voices for police reform and racial issues since the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown. "This bill will weed out the bad cops for the betterment of our community and law enforcement alike."
As drafted, the Fair and Impartial Policing Act requires yearly reviews of data at the department and individual officer level. Officers who are found to be engaging in racially motivated policing would be removed from duty and have to undergo additional training before returning to the streets. Departments would also be required to establish community/law enforcement partnerships and offer yearly training around implicit bias and the civil rights movement.
Police departments first began collecting traffic stop data in 2000. Every year, said Dogan, the data have shown evidence of racial profiling.
"Disparity in traffic stops has actually increased over the last 15 years," he said. "Racial profiling is already illegal, but we just haven't been taking action on it."
In addition to collecting additional information about drivers and passengers in a traffic stop, police would for the first time be required to document pedestrian stops.
"Michael Brown was a pedestrian stop. VonDerritt Myers was a pedestrian stop," said Denise Lieberman, a senior attorney at the Advancement Project and the co-chair of the Don't Shoot Coalition. "Pedestrian stops are precisely the place where our youth and some of our most marginalized citizens are likely to have encounters with police."
Jeffrey Mittman, the executive director of the ACLU, said he would encourage the state to adopt New York City's pedestrian check form. It's a two-sided document that won't add add much more work to an officer's day, he said.
The proposed law offers departments a small carrot - they'll get more flexibility in selecting how their data are analyzed. Disparity numbers are calculated based on the population of the city where the stop took place, even if a driver isn't from the area. It's a common complaint from departments in cities with small African-American populations that their stop data are skewed to look like they're doing something wrong.
Asking the driver who is stopped where he or she is from will help address that issue, Nasheed said, adding that she was willing to fight to keep that in the final product.
"That gives us a far greater outlook on the racial disparities of policing and racial profiling," she said.
Perhaps the biggest proposed change is to the law’s enforcement mechanisms. Currently, departments that fail to comply with any provision of the law can lose funding from the state. Nasheed and Dogan’s bill makes that mandatory.
A department that shows consistently high racial disparities for three years would enter a three-year period of review. That boosts the frequency with which departments have to submit data and could eventually lead to the attorney general forcing policy changes. If traffic stop numbers are still out of whack in the third year of that review, the attorney general could ask the Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission to strip the department of its accreditation, though it’s not immediately clear whether the commission has the authority to do so.
Departments that don’t lose accreditation would remain under review indefinitely, until their numbers improve.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Koster said the legislative team was reviewing the proposal. Kevin Ahlbrand, a sergeant with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the president of the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, said he had not gotten a chance to review the legislation. Ahlbrand was a member of the Ferguson Commission. The executive director of the Missouri Sheriffs Association did not return a call for comment,
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