Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council

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Stand against records exemptions

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Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle's proposed budget includes a provision instructing law enforcement officers in most Wisconsin counties to begin collecting information on traffic stops, as a way to gauge whether racial profiling is occurring. The proposal calls for these records to be exempt from the state's open records law.

According to this article in the Appleton Post Crescent, the measure was crafted without input from the office of state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen; he opposes the measure, in part because of the additional demands it will place on officers and the Justice Department.

Given that this is Sunshine Week, I would urge supporters of the public's right to know to take strong public stands against this measure, as well as language in the budget bill to purge the state's online court records system of information about people who are evicted when banks foreclose on their rental properties.

The Appleton Post Crescent story on the secret traffic stop records:

http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20090315/APC0101/903150421/1979

An earlier AP article on proposed to shield evictions:

http://www.wisconsinrapidstribune.com/article/20090216/WRT0101/90216127/1806&located=RSS

Explanation of the budget proposal on traffic stops:

This bill requires a law enforcement agency to collect the following information concerning motor vehicle stops made in any county having a population of 125,000 or more (populous county) on or after January 1, 2011: 1) the name, address, gender, and race of the vehicle operator; 2) the reason for the stop; 3) the make and year of the vehicle; 4) the date, time, and location of the stop; 5) whether a law enforcement officer conducted a search of the vehicle, operator, or any passenger and, if so, whether the search was with consent or by other means; 6) the name, address, gender, and race of any person searched; and 7) the name and badge number of the officer making the stop.

The information that is collected is not subject to inspection or copying as a public record, but must be submitted to DOJ. DOJ must then compile and analyze it, along with any other relevant information, to determine, both for each law enforcement agency and as an aggregated total for all law enforcement agencies in populous counties, whether the number of stops and searches involving

vehicles operated or occupied by members of a racial minority are disproportionate compared to the number of stops and searches involving vehicles operated or occupied solely by persons who are not members of a racial minority. If DOJ finds that the number of stops and searches involving racial minorities is disproportionate compared to the number of stops and searches involving nonminorities, DOJ must then determine whether it is the result of racial profiling, racial stereotyping, or other race-based discrimination or selective enforcement. DOJ must prepare an annual report that summarizes the information submitted to it and describes the methods and conclusions of its analysis of the information.

Under current law, no person may be appointed as a law enforcement officer unless the person has been certified by the Law Enforcement Standards Board (LESB) after completing a training program approved by LESB. This bill requires additional training on cultural diversity, including sensitivity towardracial and ethnic differences, to prevent racial profiling, racial stereotyping, or other race-based discrimination.

 

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