A significantly weakened proposal to combat "racial profiling" was approved by a Senate committee yesterday, as a feud among black legislators continues to endanger the measure in the session's final days.
A bill that passed the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee yesterday calls for a task force to study the issue of racial profiling and allows law enforcement agencies to volunteer race-based data on traffic stops.
A stronger measure that passed the House would have required police to keep detailed records of each traffic stop, including information about the driver's race, and submit them to the University of Maryland, College Park for analysis.
But that bill was killed in the Judicial Proceedings Committee Thursday, falling victim to a dispute between the legislation's sponsor, Baltimore Democratic Del. Howard P. Rawlings, and several black city senators, all Democrats.
Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, upset the city senators last year by trying to start a performance audit of Morgan State University, and the issue carried over to budget negotiations last week.
Baltimore Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, who led the effort to kill Rawlings' bill in committee Thursday, said yesterday the weaker racial profiling legislation does enough to address the issue for now.
Mitchell said it is unnecessary to force police agencies to keep records of their traffic stops, as African-American leaders across the nation have been urging in an effort to address alleged racism. "I'd much rather go on existing data" on traffic stops, Mitchell said, arguing there is enough information already for the proposed task force to study.
Baltimore Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, another leader in the effort to kill Rawlings' legislation, said he wants a bill that would require police to keep records of traffic stops -- as long as Rawlings' name isn't on the legislation. "It's very important to the community and we will have it," McFadden said.
The legislation's future, though, is in doubt with the end of the session approaching Monday night. The bill could pass the Senate today, but it then must negotiate treacherous ground in the House, where Rawlings is expected to try to strengthen it.