MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – State Senate Bill 91 passed in the Senate with a vote of 19-7. Now it moves on to the House for a vote. If made law, the bill would define racial profiling, and would prohibit officers from pulling someone over strictly because of their physical appearance.
“This is a situation where people did nothing wrong, people haven’t received any charges, any citations, anything,” Bill sponsor Senator Rodger Smitherman said.
Senator Smitherman said his motivation to push the bill is his own experiences being profiled. Some in his home in Jefferson County, other times in Montgomery as he travels to work.
“In the real world, that’s what happens every day,” Sen. Smitherman said. “The vast majority of [officers], they don’t do this, but those are the ones that create the problems you’ve been seeing happen all over the country.”
The bill would also require law enforcement officials to keep records of their traffic stops, noting a person’s age, race, gender and more.
The information would then be passed to the state Attorney General, who could then recommend withholding funds should it be confirmed racial profiling is a trend.
In Madison County, Public Information Officer Brent Patterson said the Sheriff’s Office is in favor of any bill that would improve law enforcement-community relations.
“I know what we see nationwide, I know what people probably seen locally, but we strive to be the best that we can be,” Investigator Patterson said.
Patterson said the bill would not change much in the day-to-day MCSO Deputies conduct their traffic stops, other than potentially making them take slightly longer. Patterson said this lack of change is because they already report traffic stop statistics as accredited members of the nonprofit watchdog agency CALEA.
“If they pass [the bill,] great, we’re already ahead of the curve. We’re already doing it. If we have to make some modifications or adjustments to what’s put in the bill, we’ll do it,” he said.
Patterson said they have Internal Affairs Investigators who are in charge of making sure the deputies abide by CALEA standards. He added The Madison County Sheriff’s Office is one of a handful of agencies in Alabama to be CALEA-accredited.
“They don’t look at burglaries, they don’t look at robberies, they don’t look at theft, all they look at is making sure the standards of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department are in accordance with CALEA standards,” he said.
Smitherman said holding each other accountable is a great start, but implementing a uniform approach to prevent racial profiling for all law enforcement agencies is one of his top priorities.
“We have to continue addressing these problems and it’s going to take all of us to do it together,” Smitherman said.
If the bill is passed, the new guidelines would be implemented January 1, 2022.
Another requirement of law enforcement listed in the bill would be to keep record of injuries to law enforcement officers and then report those to the Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission and ALEA.
This bill is similar to a 2019 version that passed in the Senate but died in the House. Smitherman said if it is passed over this year like it was the last, it will be one of the first things on his agenda next year.