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Panel set to revisit racial profiling bill

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Utah's minority community felt jilted in May by a legislative committee that recommended scrapping an existing law aimed at pinning down the issue of racial profiling.

Today the Interim Transportation Committee will take a second look at that decision, which was made after the committee heard the state's current methodology isn't working.

When it meets at 9 a.m. at the Capitol Complex, the committee will hear recommendations for a change in how the state evaluates potential cases of racial profiling.

A community survey will be suggested as a replacement of the current system, which requires officers to collect race data during routine stops and gives people the option of including their race on their driver's license, said Mike Haddon, director of research for the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

"The data we are collecting is not the right type of data," Haddon said. "A survey is an approach that is not as encumbering on law enforcement."

Haddon said he envisions a random survey, based upon a federal model, asking individuals about contact with law enforcement during the prior year.

If such a survey were funded, data could become available within a year of that funding, Haddon said. The information gleaned in such a survey could be incorporated into developing training for law enforcement, he said.

Haddon originally recommended keeping the driver's license provision in place so the data could be used in other areas. But he now says, by law, that data can only be used for racial profiling evaluation and isn't useful for that purpose.

Palmer DePaulis, executive director of the Utah Department of Community and Culture, had asked for more time to present a new option and said Tuesday things were still falling into place.

"This is a really, really important issue," DePaulis said. "We want to get (lawmakers') support for changing the methodology. ... It is something that will be very usable."

However, former Rep. Duane Bourdeaux, who sponsored the law in 2002, said letting the existing law expire isn't the answer. Instead, he suggested building upon the current law to make it more viable.

"Even without all the data, there are ways to track certain aspects," he said, pointing to examples such as using the data to track individuals through the justice process.

"What you can measure, you can manage. If you don't have the data, you can't manage it," he said. "Right now we've invested in the Volkswagen model. If we want the Cadillac model, we need to step it up."

Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake Branch NAACP, agreed.

"It sounds to me like what they are trying to do is to get away from not doing it at all," she said. "They need to go ahead and put some things in place and say, 'This is what we need to do."'

E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com