Prince William police will begin collecting demographic data pertaining to traffic stops beginning July 1 as a result of a new law aimed at banning racial or “bias-based” profiling by law enforcement.
The new law, known as the Community Policing Act, was sponsored by Del. Luke Torian, D-52nd, of Woodbridge, and approved by the General Assembly in March. It prohibits the Virginia State Police and local police and sheriff’s departments from engaging in bias-based profiling and requires officers to collect and report additional data pertaining to motor vehicle or investigatory stops that will be compiled in a statewide database.
Currently, police officers in Virginia are not required to report the race, ethnicity or gender of drivers during traffic stops. They are also not required to provide written documentation or report “warnings” that produce no arrest or summons. Starting in July, police officers across Virginia will begin documenting the following information of individuals on all traffic stop encounters:
- the race, ethnicity, age, and gender of the person stopped
- the reason for the stop
- the location of the stop
- any warnings, written citations, summons or arrests as well as the violations or charges cited
- whether any vehicles or persons are searched
Prince William County police said Monday that some of this data was previously collected on stops that resulted in an arrest or a court summons. But, they said, some of the questioning that will be done by police during traffic stops is new for the police department.
That includes the reporting of written warning notices, something the department has not done in the past. The written warnings are not tickets and don’t require any action by recipients.
“These notices are considered only a warning of an infraction and are not meant to serve as a citation of a violation requiring a court appearance or payment of a fine,” said police spokesman 1st Sgt. Jonathan Perok. “No action by the recipient will be needed following the issuance of a warning notice by an officer.”
Perok added that the police department “remains committed to ensuring all community members are treated fairly and impartially.”
The data gathered from traffic stops and police investigations under the new law will be collected in a database maintained by the state police for the purpose of monitoring any evidence of bias-based profiling. The Virginia State Police will annually report the findings and analysis of the data to the governor, General Assembly and attorney general.
Reach Daniel Berti at firstname.lastname@example.org