Local police react to racial profiling reform bill

We're wrapping up our two-part series on policing in Greater Lafayette. Part two takes a look at proposed legislation to end racial profiling by police.

Posted: Jan 14, 2021 9:19 PM
Updated: Jan 14, 2021 9:39 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI)  Democratic State Rep. Chris Campbell is supporting a bill designed to end racial profiling by police. 

"The videos that we saw last summer really highlight that this issue is happening in our own communities, and when our police officers present a video to justify deadly force, it really highlights that this issue needs to be addressed," Campbell explained.

The incident Campbell is referring to happened in May of 2020. As we previously reported, Lafayette police were called to a fight at a home. They found Richard Bailey who was suspected of battery. He reportedly resisted arrest and a K-9 officer was used to subdue him.

Bailey's lawyers said he was in a coma for six days afterward.

"I expect safety from our officers, but I don't expect deadly force," Campbell added.

Bailey's lawyers believe excessive force was used because he is Black. This is one of many incidents that led Campbell to co-author the Byron Ratcliffe Sr. racial profiling reform act.

"We are not treating people equally when it comes to law enforcement," Campbell said.

The proposed legislation prohibits officers from racially profiling or making unlawful stops leading to an arrest for another unrelated crime, also known as an unlawful pretextual stop.

It also requires police agencies to create a policy defining racial profiling, and agencies would also collect certain data of stops made by officers. Another requirement would be cultural diversity awareness training.

"We shouldn't have to have a law that tells us, right? That should be common knowledge," said West Lafayette Police Chief Troy Harris. "That should never be permitted or accepted. This bill I think is a good start."

However, Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly has some concerns.

"Is this the right venue? Is this the way that we need to make these changes?" asked Flannelly.

Flannelly thinks Campbell should have met with local law enforcement before co-authoring the bill.

"It would have been nice to maybe talk about why we think this is a need or something that's going to affect the constituents here in Tippecanoe County," Flannelly explained.

Campbell said she didn't think it was necessary.

"I hope that they will go down and if this bill does get a hearing, they certainly should come down and give their input," Campbell said.

However, Campbell said this issue goes beyond Greater Lafayette.

"I commend them for the work that they're doing, but we need to do more," she added.

Harris has concerns that language in the bill regarding unlawful pretextual stops will hinder police.

"An example would be, stopping a driver for no headlights, and then your interaction with that driver shows that they're impaired," Harris explained. "So, you have then stopped somebody for an infraction that has led to an investigation of a crime. If that is no longer permitted, then that's a problem."

Campbell said the language of the bill is written that way for a reason.

"It does leave it a little broad at this point so they can address these issues at a local level," Campbell said.

Both Harris and Flannelly said they've already adopted the policies listed in the bill.

"I can't speak for other agencies, but I am confident that in Tippecanoe County that these are not issues," said Flannelly.

Campbell said she commends both agencies for their work to end racial profiling.

However, she believes the bill is a necessary step towards fixing what she says is a nationwide problem.

This isn't a personal attack of our officers," explained Campbell. "This is let's do what's right, let's come together, let's do what's right for our communities and our citizens."

The bill is authored by Democratic State Rep. Cherrish Pryor. She said she's been proposing the bill for at least three years.

It's based on NAACP research that studied racial profiling legislation from across the country.  

The bill has been referred to the Veterans Affairs and Public Safety committee. So far, it has not had a hearing during this year's legislative session.

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