A new proposal in Wisconsin would require police departments in that state to record the race of people they pull over starting in 2011. Lawmakers believe the initiative will help address the fact that the state has a 43 percent Black prison population even though only 6 percent of Wisconsin residents are African Americans.
The state’s Joint Finance Committee wants all state and local police agencies to collect the data and send it to the state’s office of Justice Assistance. The office will then assess the statistics and determine whether or not there is a problem with racial profiling.
"Racial profiling does happen in Wisconsin," said Rep. Tamara Grigsby, an African-American Democrat and one of the supporters of the plan. "I will tell you unequivocally that is the case."
The original proposal introduced by Wisconsin’s Governor Jim Doyle would have only required Police Departments in major cities with larger Black populations, like Milwaukee, to collect the data. With the new proposal drawn up by Wisconsin’s majority-Democrat legislature, every local and county police department will have to participate.
Some Republican lawmakers oppose the requirement, citing high costs and calling it "unnecessary" in places where they say there is no profiling problem.
We should use our discretion and target the areas where we think we have a problem," said Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling. "We want to make sure that our law enforcement is focused with a laser beam on public safety."