|Racial profiling? Not here, says HCSO lieutenant|
|Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor|
Feb. 13, 2004 -- Hopkins County Sheriff's Department presented a summary Tuesday of its first year's activity in accordance with legislation enacted to stop or prevent racial profiling by law enforcement agencies.
HCSO Lt. Henry Turner presented county commissioners statistics accumulated from traffic stops by deputies over the past 12 months. That information indicated traffic stops were not based on race or ethnic background.
Turner said the data his department collects will help to eliminate a number of the civil lawsuits stemming from traffic stops based on race or ethnic background.
"It does keep officers honest about whether or not they have probable cause to stop a vehicle," Turner told commissioners. "Also, it keeps them honest by not stopping people based on their race."
Hopkins County's statistics for the past year show that African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian or Native American are all treated fairly and not being stopped because of their race.
A breakdown of the statistics shows 74 percent of the traffic stops involved Caucasians, with Hispanics a very distant second at 14 percent and African-Americans at 12 percent. Two people of Asian descent were stopped and only one of American Indian descent.
The statistics further indicate traffic stops involved a wider gap in gender than racial or ethnic backgrounds. The report indicated only 23 percent of the stops involved females while the remaining 74 percent were male.
A major factor faced by officers involved the war in Iraq, as well as the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C.
"That was really borderline in the racial profiling," Turner said. "We cannot stop an individual based solely on race."
Racial profiling, as identified by Texas Senate Bill 1074, pertains to persons who are viewed as suspects or potential suspects of criminal behavior and does not preclude the use of race, ethnicity or national origin as a factor in making an arrest. A person's race, however, cannot be used as the determining factor in a traffic stop or investigation.
Examples listed in the county's policy as examples of profiling include stopping a driver because of the driver's race, ethnicity or national origin who is speeding in a stream of traffic where most other drivers are speeding; detaining the driver of a vehicle based on the determination that a person of that particular race is unlikely to own or possess that specific make or model of vehicle; or detaining a person based upon the determination that a person of that race, ethnicty or national origin does not belong in a specific part of town or specific place.
Along with the close monitoring of records of all traffic stops, Lt. Turner supervises the training and education of officers on racial profiling.
Turner and Sheriff Butch Adams said the department will accept complaints from anyone who believes he has been stopped or searched as a result of racial profiling, and deputies are required to report any allegation of racial profiling before the end of their duty shift.