COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)–When the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board meets in January, one of the items on the agenda will be the collection of demographic information from all police traffic stops.
The goal is to find and eliminate incidents of bias-based policing. The same issue is the subject of proposed legislation at the Ohio Statehouse.
Sen. Charleta Tavares, a Columbus Democrat, is co-sponsoring Senate Bill 256, which would require law enforcement officers to collect data and maintain information from all motor vehicle stops, questionings, and delays. The proposal calls for the data to go to the Ohio Attorney General’s office to be evaluated for patterns of discriminatory practices that stem from bias-based or status-based tactics.
Tavares says the change is needed to make sure the state is doing everything it can to find and address the problem.
“I’ve been told and other legislators have been told about certain communities across the state that target African- Americans and other people of color when they drive through certain communities,” Tavares said.
Under the proposed legislation, if an agency is found to have practiced bias-based policing, the Attorney General could seek legal action against the offending officers’ law enforcement agencies.
“If there’s a perception, if there’s a reality of profiling based on race, ethnicity, orientation or cultural community that residents of our community come from – then we need to address it,” Tavares said.
Jay McDonald, president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police says statistics alone don’t show racial profiling or a particular bias. He said it would be wrong to draw hard conclusions about an individual officer or police department based solely on traffic stop data.
But Sam Gresham at Common Cause Ohio says data reveals a lot.
“Data can be synthesized to see a pattern of behavior,” Gresham said. “It can be used to tell what officers have a propensity to do certain things.”
The Columbus police department is one of many across the state that already collect demographic data during traffic stops. The Ohio Highway Patrol goes a step further by regularly analyzing their data to look for examples of possible bias and then reviewing dashcam videos to determine whether additional training or discipline is warranted.
The legislation would also require the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission to include bias-free policing tactics as a part of their basic training. If an officer is deemed to be using bias-based policing, as determined by the collected and reviewed data, the officer could be required to be re-trained in bias-free policing tactics.