At a forum last night, Howard County Police Chief Wayne Livesay promised residents of a mostly black community that he will not tolerate racial profiling -- stopping motorists because of their race.
"Racial profiling is wrong," Livesay told about 50 people at the First Baptist Church of Guilford. "I have told that to every officer in the department. It is as wrong as wrong can be."
The meeting was part of Livesay's plan to open a "dialogue" with minority residents about racial profiling.
Although Howard police officials insist no cases have been documented involving racial profiling, and Livesay has lectured on the subject at training sessions, he has said he is not "naive" enough to believe that it does not occur.
During the 45-minute meeting, Livesay talked about plans to track officers' actions to get rid of those who use racial profiling in deciding whom to pull over.
"If we don't have the public trust, we are no good to anybody," the chief said. "It is no good to have an 'us against them' mentality."
Some listeners questioned Livesay about the plan and others sought advice on what to do if they are stopped by police.
Livesay said he has not worked out all of the details of the plan.
However, he said officers would be required to record the race of people they stop under any circumstances to develop a database on traffic stops. The chief said he expects the plan to be in operation by January.
Hazel Taylor of Owen Brown village in Columbia angrily told Livesay that she was tired of officers stopping her 28-year-old nephew as he walked to work.
"This constantly happens, and we are tired of it," she said.
Some said Taylor's nephew should get names of the officers.
Taylor said that is "easier said than done."
"Maybe an older person would ask that," she said. "But he is on his way to work, and he just wants to get these people out of the way."
Livesay told Taylor she should speak with internal affairs investigators and promised to let her know of internal affairs' findings in writing.
Racial profiling became a national issue after several police departments -- including state police in Maryland and New Jersey -- were accused of stopping motorists because of their race.
Maryland State Police are required by a court settlement to keep records of traffic stops. The Howard County department is among the first in the nation to compile such data.
In Montgomery County, law enforcement officials are studying ways to develop an anti-profiling program.
Departments in California, North Carolina, Connecticut and Massachusetts have proposed anti-profiling programs.
In April, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno asked police departments to compile racial data at traffic stops to buttress police claims that they do not use profiling.
In May, police chiefs from across the country, including Livesay, met in Washington with community leaders and agreed to develop a national standard for traffic stops.