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HPD Invites Reviews of Racial Profiling Data, Seeks New Legislation

March 7, 2005 -- In response to a just released report of racial profiling data compiled by the Houston Police Department for 2004, Police Chief Harold L. Hurtt emphasized that the department welcomes and seriously considers any and all reviews of its racial profiling statistics and policies.

Chief Hurtt announced today he is leading a delegation supported by police chiefs from the state's six largest cities in proposing legislative changes to racial profiling laws. The chief is urging more collection of useful data and less of irrelevant data, such as tabulating data where police officers have no discretion as to who they will detain when called to a particular location on a dispatched call. Chief Hurtt has asked a state senator and a house representative to carry a bill in Austin on the proposed changes that include the following:

  • Require all police agencies to collect data on traffic stops whether a citation was issued or not.
  • Require all police agencies to send racial profiling data annually to the Department of Public Safety.
  • Eliminate some data collection and modify other data into a revised Code of Criminal Procedures. Such changes would eliminate data collection for pedestrian stops.

Pedestrian stops include data collected by police officers for activity that is not discretionary. Those include detentions based on warrants, request for police service to a location resulting in a detention or arrest, and arrests by officers after a person has been detained by another citizen or security guard. Collection of this type of data calls into question the reliability and validity of any information collected as a result of racial profiling laws.

The proposed changes to the legislation will require all police departments in Texas to collect data where abuse has been discovered in other states -- namely in traffic stops, the impetus behind the original racial profiling laws.

Previous studies, like the one released one year ago, indicated that "aggregate statistics alone cannot prove or disprove racial profiling." Those findings also hold true in the recently released Racial Profiling Statistical Report. "We in the Houston law enforcement community welcome more research, more collected data and greater in-depth analysis collected at a statewide level to help determine what the numbers really mean," said Chief Hurtt.

Chief Hurtt said data collected in the 2004 report does not indicate that racial profiling is occurring in the city. "Our early and still ongoing analysis has shown a strong correlation between pedestrian stops and searches in areas that have a high volume of street-level narcotics activity compared to those areas that do not," the chief said. "It's also important to note that of the more than 785,000 detentions/stops our officers made in 2004, there were only five complaints received alleging racial profiling by our officers."

Chief Hurtt feels it is important for the public to realize that HPD mandated the collection of racial profiling data before this was required by law. Moreover, HPD supported the legislation that currently requires all law enforcement agencies to collect and report racial profiling data.

"We are urging the state legislature to pass these amendments we're proposing to help collect data that is useful for proper analysis, less burdensome for police departments and more meaningful to the public," Chief Hurtt concluded.

JFC/CEF 3-7-05

For additional information, please contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200.