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Colo. lawmakers weigh electronic police citations

The proposal includes a new optional system of people self-reporting their ethnicity when they get a driver’s licenses

Associated Press

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers studying ways to collect data on racial-profiling by law enforcement said Monday they would consider having some agencies issuing citations electronically to make it easier to compile information.

Their proposal would include a new optional system of people self-reporting their ethnicity when they get a driver’s licenses to try to get more accurate information.

Lawmakers are drafting the bill for next year. The measure would start as a test pilot for up to five years, with six yet-to-be named agencies and the state patrol participating through a grant program. Besides the state patrol, lawmakers said they want the agencies that participate in the pilot to do so voluntarily. But they also want to have a mix or rural and urban departments and in larger and smaller population areas.

The idea comes from a legislative committee that has met this summer with the goal of proposing bills on how to collect demographic data on arrests, stops, and searches to determine if there are troublesome trends.

“The whole idea here is to collect the data that we need to determine to what extent profiling is occurring in our state and make it as automated as possible,” said one of the lawmakers on the committee, Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver.

The proposal is a work-in-progress, and the committee still needs to approve a bill draft in the coming weeks. The measure could be amended further when all lawmakers consider it in the session that begins in January.

States including Alabama, Oregon, and Maryland have already been using e-ticketing systems for law enforcement.

Jeffrey Zuback, the research chief for the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, said one reason for implementing the system there was to reduce the time it takes to conduct a traffic stop. It has also helped strengthen data collection, he said.

Some Colorado law enforcement agencies are already using electronic summonses for traffic stops only. In Weld County, sheriff’s deputies scan a person’s driver’s license to automate information on a ticket, said Republican Sen. John Cooke, another member of the committee who was sheriff in Weld until last year.

Cooke said electronic tickets have reduced the time traffic stops take to just under four minutes, down from about 10 to 15 minutes.

The committee studying racial profiling was created this year as part of a package of legislation lawmakers passed to place greater oversight on police in the aftermath of high-profile incidents of alleged misconduct nationwide. Some of the new laws include expanding the use of officer-worn body cameras through a grant program and giving law enforcement agencies access to an officer’s disciplinary history before hiring them.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press