Racial-profiling debate continues in Nevada legislature

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Nevada Assemblyman Wendell Williams said Wednesday he'll sponsor a racial-profiling bill that includes continued data collection on traffic stops, officer retraining and follow-up evaluations of their actions.

Williams' bill would differ from one by Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, that was killed in the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this session.

Neal's bill would have made it a criminal act for a police officer to use racial profiling. Williams, D-Las Vegas, said he wants to target the source of profiling and help fix it.

"It is my position that to deal with this issue, law enforcement should not be treated in a punitive way," Williams told the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Williams said he doesn't believe racial profiling happens because officers are necessarily racist. He said their training may have led them to make certain conclusions and take certain actions.

Another concern, Williams said, is an officer's actions once a traffic stop has been made. An interim study on traffic stop data showed blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be handcuffed at sometime during a stop than whites and Asians.

Williams said he hopes to address this disparity, but couldn't immediately say how he would do so.

Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said Neal's bill "had some problems." She's pushing another bill requiring an ongoing collection of traffic stop data and the inclusion of racial profiling information in booklets distributed by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Williams also wants to continue the collection of traffic stop data, and hopes to include the identity of the officer and the location of the stop.

Neal said his bill's defeat in committee "sends a cold message" to minorities who feel targeted by police.

The 2001 Legislature banned racial profiling, but imposed no penalties against officers or departments that do.


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