Bill will track race profiling

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HURON, S.D. - Legislation to require law enforcement to track the race of everyone pulled over at traffic stops will be used to analyze racial profiling.

Rep. Ron Volesky, D-Huron, said he would introduce the bill at the next legislative session. Police officers would be required to record personal information on each person. Also included will be the reason for the stop, the result of the stop and whether the person was given a warning or was arrested.

Volesky said the bill is necessary because racial profiling has come under serious discussions with regard to American Indians. "It's a serious issue that should be addressed by the Legislature."

The information collected can verify whether police are, in fact, carrying out racial profiling, Volesky said.

He said the support for the bill should be bi-partisan. "The bill will offer the Legislature a chance to move forward on reconciliation. It is an attempt to root out any racism in the state and rid it if it exists."

A similar bill passed the North Carolina Legislature. "If it can pass in North Carolina, it can pass in South Dakota," he said.

A strong complaint on racial profiling emerged from the Yankton Sioux Reservation in Charles Mix County. The major complaint was launched against the Wagner Police Department.

Wagner Police Chief Ed Zylstra told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader in April that his officers were told to run license plate checks on all vehicles parked or moving that were owned by American Indians. His reason was to determine if there were any outstanding warrants.

The county has suspended all arrests on outstanding warrants until Oct. 1. Julie Weddell, Yankton tribal attorney, said a meeting between the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division and Madonna Archambeau, tribal chairwoman, brought awareness to the problem.

Volesky told the state Legislative Human Rights Committee he would suggest a task force made up of a cross-section of people from throughout the state should be formed to look into race relations.

"Get beyond the rhetoric and procedures. Take the report (from the U.S. Civil Rights Commission) and find out how we can establish something to get to the facts.

"The question is, is there racism in the justice system? Let's get to the facts," Volesky said.