With the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, police unions and members of the NAACP, Ann Arbor Police Chief Daniel Oates has solidified the department”s racial profiling policy to state that race and ethnicity will not be factors in law enforcement decisions.
“It”s one of the leading issues in law enforcement,” Oates said.
The new policy is one of several changes within the department resulting from the AAPD”s 18-month study on the issue of racial profiling which will conclude in March. Oates said progress concerning the issue has been a communal effort.
“We”re all in this together,” he said. “I know it”s an important issue in the community.”
Since he took the position as chief, Oates said he has been trying to get a handle on issues facing the department. Racial profiling has been a powerful subject for members of the community and police officers.
The policy states that race and ethnicity will never be used as the sole basis for probable cause or reasonable suspicion. According to the policy, “officers must be able to articulate specific facts and circumstances that support reasonable suspicion or probably cause for investigative detentions, traffic stops, arrests, nonconsensual searches and property seizures.”
Ellen Rabinowitz, president of the Washtenaw County ACLU, said her group has assisted AAPD in the study and will continue to be involved throughout the process.
“I think it was imperative that the police come out and said that racial profiling is unacceptable,” Rabinowitz said. In addition, the annual training of officers on racial profiling is a positive step taken by the department, she said.
In the past three months alone, officers have participated in 3 1/2 days training.
“Cops don”t want to be known for racial profiling,” Oates said. “They will do anything they can to dispel that myth. They are appreciative of the training they”ve received.”
Rabinowitz said AAPD has been successful in uniting community members and leaders to address this issue.
“I think Chief Oates and the leadership of the department are really ahead of the game on this issue,” Rabinowitz said.
Oates said racial profiling is not only a priority issue for AAPD leadership but also for its officers.
“I know it”s important with the cops because they talk about it,” Oates said. “They don”t want the labels (of having racial bias) they need clear guidance. The policy provides guidance to police officers on how to behave on traffic stops.”
Oates said he looked at references in the existing policies about racial profiling to form the policy.
“One of the leading chief associations strongly recommends that each department have a single statement on this a single, clear, unambiguous statement about this issue,” he said.
Oates approached union leadership before implementing the new policy, said Ann Arbor Police Command Association President Sgt. Andrew Zazula.
“We”re not going to be in the practice of using race as a deciding factor. We want to continue that message,” he said. “It”s a serious issue to address and the department is making a serious issue to address it.”