The Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Legal System
Ogden Public Meeting
Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership
July 29, 2003
6:00 pm- 9:00 pm
|Commission Members Present:
Sidney Groll, POST
Sheriff Brad Slater
Judge William Thorne
Judge Michael Zimmerman
| Other State Agency Members Present:
Bonnie Dew, Office Black Affairs
Tony Yapias, Office Hispanic Affairs
Judge Brent West
Larry Houston, Advisory Council
Lou Ann Bessinger
* Introduction by Lou Ann Bessinger, Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership
* Welcome from Judge Thorne, Commission Chair
* Summary of Task Force recommendations and Commission Progress Report from Judge Zimmerman
* Feedback Session facilitated by Diane Hamilton
*Closing Remarks by Judge Zimmerman
COMMUNITY FEEDBACK (SUMMARY)*
*A full copy of the town hearing is available on video tape.
*The Commission acknowledged that the perception of racial profiling is a public relations problem. Sheriff Brad Slater , President of the Utah Sheriff's Association, reminded the community that the Racial Profiling bill, that the Commission helped pass, is a long-term project and that it will take time to collect and analyze the data collected from people's drivers licenses. In the short-term cultural competency training is being provided through POST and the Sheriff's Association.
*Sheriff Griener brought up the point that the Racial Profiling bill is offensive to some officers because it requires them to report their race. Judge Thorne brought up the point that that amendment was not in the original house bill and had been put in at the last minute. The Commission supports the removal of the language requiring officers to report their race.
*James Yapias stated that though the profiling law may not be popular with law enforcement, it is still a law and must be followed. He noted that some law enforcement agencies are not requiring their personnel to report their race.
Feedback Summary: Complaints process needs to be: customer-friendly and timely. Feedback needs given with results and documentation. Community feedback should be considered by agencies as helpful not resented.
*Sheriff Slater pointed out that most law enforcement agencies have a complaints mechanism in place; the process varies from agency to agency, however. Sheriff Griener stressed his view that citizens should follow and use the procedures in place for complaints when they have issues with law enforcement.
*Larry Houston (Black Male): It is understandable that complaints take time to process but law enforcement needs to provide people with feedback on the status of their complaints. A citizen's inquiry should not be a source of offense to law enforcement.
*Citizen 1 (Latino Male): Processes are going to take time, everything takes time. When will there be any results? How long does the complaints process take compared to how long it takes an officer to write a ticket?
*Sheriff Slater's Response: There are two tracks a citizen can take, the criminal track and the administrative track. Citizen should always follow the criminal track but they also has the option of the administrative track to review complaints.
*Citizen 2 (Latina Female): What is the complaints process? Communities want to know how to work within the system.
*Slater's Response: Brochure's available at the Sheriff's office or by calling 801-778-660 (Weber Co. Sheriff). Any employee can process a complaint.
*Judge Thorne: Within the year, the Commission will have a formal/ uniform complaints process to present to agencies.
*Citizen 2: Is there any accountability? How can the community be assured that their concerns are taken seriously?
*Griener Response: Any citizen can walk in and fill out a form or call 801-629-8020. All legitimate complaints are assigned to Internal Affairs for investigation.
*Citizen 2: What are the standards for legitimacy?
*Griener Response: The majority of complaints stem from respect (the officer was not respectful enough/ not friendly enough). Sometimes it is a bully/ power issue with the officer. About 1/100 cases are serious enough to warrant investigation by a neighboring agency.
*Slater: Most sheriffs and chiefs will sit down with a citizen to listen to their complaints if there is a request. Someone needs to notify the sheriff or the chief that there is a problem though.
*Sid Groll: Most agencies are willing to learn how to communicate with communities. Agencies want to improve communication and dialogue.
Traffic Stops and Immigration
*Citizen 3 (Latina Female): Can law enforcement ask about a person's immigration status on a traffic stop?
*Citizen 4 (Latina Female): If a person broke a law, that person should be ticketed for the crime but that person's immigration status should not be an issue.
*James Yapias: Law enforcement should not be cooperating with immigration officials to the extent that they do. Immigration should not be disguising themselves as local law enforcement. Immigration should not be wearing local law enforcement uniforms to mislead people. The Hispanic community is more likely to be profiled as committing a crime.
*Judge West: It is quasi-legal for officers to inquire immigration status. A person is free to ignore the question but must face the consequences.
*James: Cops show a consistent pattern of asking for papers, even when a person shows proof of identification and insurance.
*Judge Zimmerman: Our country does not have a clear immigration policy. Our country does not prosecute illegal immigrants 90% of the time because it has an unofficial policy of wanting cheap labor. Police and the community are put in a box because of this policy and there are problems because everyone is debating a crazy policy.
*Citizen 5 (Latino Male): Citizen gives example of police harassment.
The highway patrol issued him a citation for illegal lights when there was actually no problem with his lights. After the citizen had changed his lights, he was once again stopped and issued another citation for the same problem. The Ogden PD said the Highway Patrol was "crazy" and that there was nothing wrong with his lights. When he went to court his case was dismissed because there was nothing wrong with his lights.
'What do I have to do to not get pulled over? Change the color of my hair? Change my name?'
*Citizen 6 (Black Officer for Metro Gang Unit) Response: Vice-Chair of the Office of Black Affairs Advisory Council.
From the officer's standpoint the reason for the stop was for the lights. From the person's standpoint it maybe racially motivated. If an officer thinks that a person is illegal and he pulls that person over than in his perception he is doing his job.
Disproportionate Confinement/ Sentencing
Tony Yapias (Director, Office of Hispanic Affairs): If a white kid and a Hispanic kid commit the same crime the white person will be more likely to get off without detention.
Tony use to be a Juvenile Probation Officer, he saw more cases of a Judge asking why a white kid was not detained than Hispanic kids and more incidents where a Judge asked why a Hispanic kid was detained than why a white kid was detained.
Citizen 7 (Latina Female): Specific example of disproportionate sentencing:
Carlos Mendez an 18 yr old was given 5- life for simply being at the scene of a stabbing. Two other Weber State kids received lesser sentences for actually stabbing the victim to death.
Judge West: Judges can not comment of the rulings or other judges. There are many factors involved and it depends on the circumstances of that specific case.
Interpreters/ Minority Recruitment
*Tony Yapias: There are very few bi-lingual and when positions do open up they are given to returned missionaries instead of qualified minorities with experience and cultural competency.
There is also a problem with the retention of minorities
There are no raises for bilingual employees
Minorities are not promoted at the upper levels
*Griener Response: Minority communities do not support officers from their own ethnic communities when they are hired. Communities chastise the officers for selling-out to the other side.
*Citizen 2: Then the relationship between the community and law enforcement needs to be improved and Citizen 2's agency is willing to help in a dialogue to improve those relations.
Not all community comments and questions are included in this summary. For a complete review of the Ogden Hearing see the video tape.