Gov. Ventura says he opposes mandatory collection of racial profiling data. The governor's comments came on the same day as a House committee heard testimony on several racial profiling bills. Most of those who appeared before the Crime Prevention Committee urged passage of a mandatory study to determine whether to what degree, if any, law enforcement officers make stops based on race.
GOV. VENTURA WEIGHED IN on the racial profiling issue just as the debate over whether to require or merely encourage data collection has begun to heat up at the Capitol. And while his comments to a group of visiting law enforcement officials fell short of a veto threat, he clearly signaled he sides with those pushing for voluntary study of traffic stops.
"The issue of racial profiling is a statewide issue that requires leadership at all levels. However the solution to this issue lies at the local level," Ventura said . (Hear comments)
As the governor was making his comments, the Crime Prevention Committee heard testimony on three bills proposing racial data collection during traffic stops. One, authored by Maple Grove Republican and Minneapolis Police Inspector Rich Stanek would make collection voluntary. Two DFL proposals would require collection, one for a two-year study, the other indefinitely.
Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton testified in favor of the mandatory approach. The Minneapolis police department voluntarily began collecting racial traffic stop data from May to November last year. Stanek asked the DFL mayor if the city would continue to collect the data regardless of whatever racial profiling law the Legislature passes. When the mayor said she would Stanek offered a follow up.
"Then how would you as a local elected official, the mayor of a large city, how do you feel about the state government forcing a mandate back on the local unit of government?" Stanek asked.
The mayor countered that sometimes it's appropriate for state government to intervene in the affairs of smaller municipalities.
"If there was a major problem going on in the city of Minneapolis and I as the mayor of the city of Minneapolis chose to ignore it, and it was having some adverse impact on the citizens of my community, I would expect the Minnesota Legislature to be outraged," the mayor said.
"Last year my brother, 43, who works for the city of Minneapolis, driving in Edina, was stopped - no probable cause. It was mainly just to ask who's car he was driving."
- Rep. Neva Walker
Many who testified at the hearing emphasized that without thorough data collection and corrective measures, public confidence in law enforcement would shrink. And for others racial profiling was a much more personal problem.
"Every single one of the grown men in my family have been profiled,"
said Rep. Neva Walker, DFL-Minneapolis. She offered testimony of how racial profiling has affected her family.
"Last year my brother, 43, who works for the city of Minneapolis, driving in Edina, was stopped - no probable cause. It was mainly just to ask who's car he was driving. It was a Mercedes," Rep. Walker said.
No one at the hearing denied that racial profiling exists. Director of the Police Officers Standards and Training Board, Neil Melton said his organization already has a strict policy against officer discrimination.
"Peace officers shall not knowingly restrict the freedom of individuals whether by arrest or detention in violation of the Constitution and law of the United States and in the state of Minnesota. And there are procedures currently in place to investigate such complaints," Melton said.
Melton says the POST board doesn't support mandatory data collection, because it would pose too much of a burden on smaller police departments. Melton says most Minnesota police forces have less than eight officers.
Brandt Williams covers Minneapolis and Saint Paul for Minnesota Public Radio. Reach him via e-mail at email@example.com.