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Lawmakers share stories during racial profiling bill debate

By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

MONTGMERY, Ala. (AP) — African-American lawmakers on Wednesday shared stories of being stopped by police as they debated a bill that would require police agencies to collect data on race and traffic stops.

The House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on the bill by state Sen. Rodger Smitherman, a Democrat from Birmingham. The bill, which was approved by the Senate in January, would require the officer to record the race of a person pulled over in a traffic stop. Police agencies would submit data annually to the state attorney general’s office.

“In the world I live in it’s: DWB— Driving While Black,” Smitherman said. He described being stopped by police while driving one of his luxury vehicles in predominantly white neighborhoods when he was sure he had not committed a traffic offense. He said in one instance he was riding with his wife, who is a circuit judge.

Rep. Merika Coleman, a Democrat from Pleasant Grove, said “every person of color in this room” knows what it is like to stopped for “absolutely no reason but for the color of our skin.”

“I wish every last one of you could walk a mile in our shoes,” she said. “There is a conversation that we have with our children, that some of you don’t have to have with your children.”

Coleman had unsuccessfully pushed to require the state to collect racial information on police shootings.

Coleman said she would not let her 17-year-old son drive until he had a Fraternal Order of Police tag on his car so “somebody could know that he had a police officer in his family.”

The bill drew opposition from some law enforcement representatives who said departments have policies against racial profiling and the bill would require additional paperwork.

“This bill adds a whole lot of paperwork that we don’t have the personnel to do,” said Bobby Timmons of the Alabama Sheriffs’ Association.

The committee is expected to vote next week.

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