The Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Legal System
Salt Lake City- Public Meeting
Calvary Baptist Church
September 24, 2003
6:00 pm- 9:00 pm
|Commission Members Present:
Judge William Thorne, Chair
Representative Duane Bourdeaux
| Advisory Council:
ChairLarry Houston, Co-Chair
Jan Saeed, Exec Committee
54 community members, officers, city officials
* Introduction by Larry Houston, on behalf of Calvary Baptist Church
* Welcome from Judge Thorne, Commission Chair
* History of the Task Force by Judge Medley
* Summary of Task Force recommendations and Commission Progress Report by Michael Zimmerman
* Feedback Session facilitated by Judge Medley
Salt Lake Tribune Article
Deseret News Article
Feedback from prison inmate (GET FROM LARRY)
Feedback from community member 1 (Housekeeper)
Feedback from community member 2 (Chung)
COMMUNITY FEEDBACK (SUMMARY)**(1)
Community Member 1: The legal system needs to work with people and communities, even those that are perceived to be participating in crimes. After 9-11 Muslims were being profiled and monitored. Blacks have always been profiled. There needs to be solution that helps people, while making officers feel safe, while respecting people who look or dress differently.
Chief Dinse (response): The Salt Lake City Police Department has decided against using race as a profiling tool. There is no "magic potion" to tell who is/is not a criminal. Officers must constantly be vigilant. The SLPD follows four core values: integrity, reverence for the law, respect for individuals, and community service. SLPD has no tolerance for racial discrimination.
Larry Houston: Larry asked about racial profiling in Salt Lake City.
Chief Dinse (response): Salt Lake City has been collecting racial data on traffic stops for the past three years. However, data collection is not enough. Currently the African American population is between 2-3% however they represent 5-7% of the traffic stops in Salt Lake
Community Member 2: What is the cause for this disparity in stops?
Chief Dinse (response): SLPD does not know the cause. There are many factors are variables that need to be examined. SLPD is very concerned and is looking into this closer. It could be that more information needs to be gathered. The Chief then offered to form an Advisory Council for community members to offer suggestions.
Michael Zimmerman (response): Michael voiced his opinion that this is a great opportunity for the community. Job #1 for law enforcement will never be racial and ethnic fairness. Law enforcement's job is to catch criminals. An African American community advisory board is important because the board will have the department's ear.
Community Member 3: Will it be more workload to gather the needed info?
Chief Dinse (response): Yes it will mean a larger work load but it is better to take care of the problem now than to wait for a disaster.
Bonnie Dew (Director, Office of Black Affairs): Bonnie's office often looks at racial data as well. Her office spoke with the city prosecutors recently. She asked them to explain their position nd how cases are chosen for prosecution.
Sim Gill (Salt Lake City Prosecutor, response): Decisions on prosecution are race neutral. Though race is available in the booking sheets, race is not looked at. Prosecutors should generally look at the body of the text not race identifiers.
Mechanisms are available if race is the motivating factor for an arrest. The prosecutor's office directs defendants to internal affairs.
Plea bargaining is based on the strength of the evidence.
Community Member 4: If someone were to look at the prosecution caseload what would the numbers show in terms of race?
Sim (response): There currently is no mechanism for gathering data. This is a technological issue. The prosecutors office does not have the system available to track such data.
Community Member 5: Than how does the prosecutor's office know if there is a problem of not?
Sim (response): There is not way to track the data currently. There is not office policy or objection to the collection or analysis of such data. The prosecutor's office does not have the resources to do so.
Michael Zimmerman (response): The Commission knows that there is an over representation of minorities in the legal system. The Task Force found that this is no way of following groups of people throughout the entire system.
Representative Bourdeaux sponsored the racial profiling law to collect such data and his efforts were supported by the Commission. The information collected by the law is completely confidential and the data can be used to follow groups of people through the entire system. All that is needed for this effort is for people to check their race on their drivers license registration forms.
Community Member 6: Federal law requires that the law be collected. This is nothing new. Since the sixties we have known about this problem yet the answer is always that more data needs to be collected. What has been done with racial and ethnic fairness since the Commission has started its work?
Judge Medley (response): Racial and ethnic fairness is an issue of on-going concern. The Commission has implemented cultural competency training. There is additional compensation for employees that use a second language in the course of their work. Currently strategies for increasing minority recruitment are being worked on. Also important, the Commission has committed stakeholders.
Community Member 7: He recognizes that heavy workload put on officers. His son's stop rate by officers compared with his white friends was 8-1. He gives an example of his son being cited for underage drinking but Judge Gill (SL Justice Court) recognized that his son was in fact not drinking and dismissed the case.
The Community Member said that the problem was not being stopped or cited. The problem is with the process. More money needs to go into improving the system. Time is a problem.
James Yapias: Law enforcement is not following the law and they are not reporting the officer's race during traffic stops. Salt Lake City PD maybe following the law but others are not. If the Commission is to have "teeth" than the Commission needs to get police agencies to follow the law.
There are been a lot of talk about profiling post 9-11. Officers and prosecutors must be educated on profiling. Immigration is also an important issue. Local law enforcement should not be doubling as deputized INS officers.
Community Member 13: "No one has an easy life." This individual expressed that he teaches his son to never fight with an officer. He expressed the view that sometimes minority officers are even worse to deal with because they have something to prove. He expressed how he had been targeted on many occasions. He noted he has especially had problems in Beaver. Despite these examples he noted that he is not offended because it means that the officers are doing their job. He stated that 'I don't want people to change to my culture. I'm a foreigner.'
Community Member 8: This community member had a question as to hiring or minorities to law enforcement.
Chief Dinse (response): SLPD is representative of the population of Salt Lake City, with the exception of Hispanics. However, it is not enough that SLPD has a proportional percentage of minorities in law enforcement, there is a need for SLPD to have a representation of all minorities and for minorities to be visible.
James Yapias: There are not enough minorities hired into the system. The typical reason given is always that there are not enough qualified applicants. This reason is not an excuse for the lack of minorities in the system. There are plenty of qualified minorities at the University of Utah, at BYU, at Utah State University, etc.
Ron Stallworth (Office of Black Affairs, Advisory Council- response): The problem is that a viable pool of candidates is needed. There are standards that automatically disqualify a potential candidate (ie prior felonies, drug use, etc).
*Later discussion involved debate around the issue of whether or not a viable pool of minority candidates could be found. The general consensus was that not minorities are drug addicts or have prior felonies and that the justice system needed to devise strategies that could target potential minority candidates (including: targeting students at a young age to give them an awareness of career options, advertising positions to minority communities, etc).
Ron Stallworth: POST has a minority scholarship program. Each year five full ride scholarships are given out for minorities to join the Department of Public Safety.
Dan Becker (Response): Dan agrees with James Yapias. There is a need for more minorities. Having not enough candidates is not an excuse. The Courts is working on the problem and as an example there are currently two minority Trial Court Executives. The Court Executives are in charge of hiring for particular regions in Utah. There are high expectations that these TCEs will set a tone.
(LOOK AT AUDIO TAPE FOR EXCHANGE BETWEEN SIM, BOURDEUAX AND DINSE)
Community Member 9: The legislature needs to appropriate funds to fix the problem.
Mike Zimmerman (response): In the real world checking a box on a driver's license application is not costly and it's relatively easy. Asking the legislature for money is very different politically, however (*Agreement from Representative Bourdeaux). To be honest it is hard to get money from the legislature and it is especially hard to produce money for a cause that will make people uncomfortable. The driver's license data alone can help to change behavior. MOVE TO PROFILING SECTION!
Community Member 10 (Self identified as Carole Hansen, Equal Opportunity Employment Advisor): Just having minorities on the police force is not enough, that is just a bandaid. She expressed the feeling that she does not care what race an officer is as long as she is treated fairly.
Chief Dinse (Response): Communities say that a representative force is good and what they want to see. Salt Lake PD has is a representative of the population, EXCEPT with the Hispanic community. The representation is significantly lower with respect to Hispanics on the force. However proportions are not enough. There needs to be visibility.
Community Member 12: There are a lot of good officers. However, there are some that need to change their behavior
Community Member 14: He stated that he works for the military and noted that at least with respect to the military community there are enough qualified minorities. What needs to be made clear in recruitment efforts is that minorities need to know that they don't need to jump through hurdles. There needs to be education so that the process does not appear so intimidating. Also, efforts have to made to search out qualified individuals, they are there.
Keith Hamilton: The Commission is trying to understand why there are disparities in the system. The positive that he has heard today is that the community is willing to help with not only the diagnosis but also the treatment.
Officer: Expressed frustration that they can't get people to apply.
Mike Zimmerman (response): Utah traditionally has not had a large minority community, that however, is changing rapidly. At the higher levels there is a commitment from the Commission. This public hearing and other events are opportunities to affect the system.
Zimmerman also noted that minorities in a room change behavior over time. He gave the example of working with Justice Durham, the only female justice on the supreme court at that time. Simply having her in the room changed the tone of discussion.
Community Member 16: This individual raised several issues of concern.
1) There has been a grave injustice with black college students. She gives examples of traffic stops. In one incident an officer asked 'do you know why I stopped you?' The officer response was ' I was looking for someone else.' This individual was then given a fix-it ticket.
2) There is a responsibility for agencies to let minority communities know of job openings. Potential applicants need to be primed at a younger age so that they are prepared when the time comes to apply.
3) This public hearing is a healthy process. Dialogue is important and agencies should not be criticized. However, there is something wrong when you look at the panel here tonight. There is one female, one Asian and maybe two Hispanics.
4) She felt that minorities are not treated fairly. White youth are taken to there parents after an offense. Black youth are taken to jail after an offense.
5) There is also a problem with reporting in the media but she recognized that this topic was a separate issue.
Community Member 17: Job positions need to be advertised to communities. Youth need to be prepared at a younger age on what to expect. Education is important.
Community Member 11 (Muslim Male): He states that he understands where officers are coming from and thanks Chief Dinse for being sentitive. However, there are 25,000 Muslim community members from Provo to Salt Lake City and many are refugees that are use to a different legal system. There needs to be a way to educate communities on the legal system and citizen's rights.
Jah-Juin Ho (response): The Advisory Council to the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness partially serves the purpose that is being requested. At each meeting there are presentations meant to educate Advisory Council members as well as the public on different parts of the legal system. The date of the next Advisory Council meeting was announced.
Jan Saeed (Advisory Council): There is not the question of how to heal racism. She noted that she was impressed with SLPD's 4 core values of: integrity, reverence for the law, respect for individuals, and community service.
Community Member 15: Is there a way for a poor person to get the same treatment?
Judge Gill (SL Justice Court, response): Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association is a very good resource. There is a perception that legal defenders are less educated and care less. This is not true with SLLDA.
Judge Thorne (response): There are some difference between private attorneys and public defenders but pound-for-pound SLLDA is just as competent as private practioners. The problem is with caseload.
Judge Medley (response): Salt Lake City is very fortunate to have a good Legal Defenders Program; it is one of the top notch firms. The problem is with caseload.
The Judge also noted that one of the Task Force recommendations was the creation of a statewide LDA. There are many barriers for this recommendation however.
Larry Houston: Addressed a concern from a letter that was sent to him from a prison inmate. (See Attachment for Letter)
* The names and identifying information on the
complaints have been removed.
**A full copy of the town hearing is available on audio tape. This summary is organized topically rather than chronologically.