By Brian Haynes Staff Writer February 20, 2001, Tuesday Copyright 2001 Capital-Gazette Communications, Inc. The Capital (Annapolis, MD) February 20, 2001, Tuesday
(ANNAPOLIS, Md) -- Police Chief Joseph S. Johnson can't wait for legislation to pass that would require police state wide to report the race of every driver they stop.
Chief Johnson predicts it would prove once and for all what he's been saying all along -- that his officers don't use racial profiling.
"I'm going out on a limb and saying there's absolutely no racial profiling" by city officers, Chief Johnson said. "If there is, it's isolated."
A bill that would track racial profiling is moving through the General Assembly with strong support from Gov. Parris N. Glendening and many police agencies.
Under the new bill, data recorded by officers for each stop would be analyzed for patterns of discrimination by police agencies or individual officers.
Supporters hope the data tracking would help to identify and prevent racial profiling, the use of race as the sole reason for pulling over a driver.
"The chiefs of police are tired of saying we don't do it," Chief Johnson said. "I think in a year we'll have the data that shows we don't do it."
County Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan, who has combated racial profiling in his department with increased sensitivity training, said police should have started tracking racial data long ago.
He strongly backs the bill, which is co-sponsored by 56 delegates, including David G. Boschert, R-Crownsville.
Mr. Boschert sits on the House Judiciary Committee, which expects to vote on the bill later this week.
Last week, the committee heard testimony from Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, state police superintendent Col. David Mitchell, county Sheriff George F. Johnson IV, and others who back the bill.
Leaders in the local African American community also support the bill, even though they hear few, if any, complaints about racial profiling by city officers.
"I just think (Chief Johnson) would not tolerate it one iota," said Carl O. Snowden, special assistant to County Executive Janet S. Owens and a longtime Annapolis civil rights activist.
Gerald Stansbury, president of the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Chief Johnson has a "good handle" on preventing racial profiling.
Mr. Stansbury said the bill would keep racial profiling in check.
"It does exist," he said. "We know it exists, and this bill will help us identify it."
Chief Johnson said the department has had two racial profiling complaints since he became chief in 1994. Both came about five years ago, he said.
One of the complaints led to an internal investigation. Neither one was substantiated, but they prompted the department to sample a year's worth of traffic tickets. The study showed that the percentage of tickets given to African Americans was lower than their percentage in the city population, which is about 32 percent, Chief Johnson said.
That finding supported the chief's belief that his officers don't single out African-American drivers, an act that would violate their constitutional rights.
"If racial profiling in our community was a problem, I would hear about it," he said.
He would also see problems in related areas such as excessive force complaints, but he doesn't, he said.
"If I felt it was happening I would have jumped on it a long time ago," he said.