ST. PAUL (AP) -- A House panel rejected a proposed mandatory statewide study of racial profiling by police, opting instead for a plan to require Minnesota's 502 law enforcement agencies to screen and train officers to prevent the alleged practice of stopping motorists based on their race.
The alternative plan, backed by all major statewide police organizations and approved Tuesday behind strong bipartisan vote, would also require agencies to adopt policies against the practice.
Gone from the bill, sponsored by Rep. Rich Stanek, R-Maple Grove, is any mention of collecting data on profiling. Stanek removed a provision Tuesday that would have offered funding for police agencies undertaking voluntary studies.
About 30 agencies have conducted or are planning studies, including those in Minneapolis and St. Paul and some outstate cities with significant minority populations, such as Willmar and Worthington. Most have no such plans.
"My district has a 3.6 percent minority population," Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, told the committee. "Racial profiling isn't a problem there, according to our local law enforcement officers. I totally dislike mandates."
A bill to require statewide collection of racial data about police stops, introduced by Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, was voted down 14 to 4, with four DFLers joining all 10 Republicans in opposition. The Stanek bill then advanced to the House Judiciary Finance Committee on a voice vote.
It would appropriate $300,000 to develop training guidelines, materials and seminars on racial profiling, plus $100,000 for a public-awareness campaign, including how to file a complaint.
Required studies of the issue would be much more expensive, the committee was told, as well as burdensome for the hundreds of police departments and sheriff's offices with only a few officers.
"It would be a very, very chilling experience for them," said Stanek, a Minneapolis police inspector. Supporters of the Stanek plan said that instead of studying the issue, resources should be directed at addressing it.
The Senate Crime Prevention Committee expected to consider the Stanek and Mariani bills Wednesday as well as one that would require studies that identify individual officers.
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