Florida lawmakers are leery of a bill that would allow police to pull someone over simply for not wearing a seat belt. They're afraid it could lead to racial profiling, but the Highway Patrol says it has data that shows their traffic stops mirror the general population.
Since concerns over racial profiling were raised in 1999, the Highway Patrol has documented two and a half million traffic stops. The results: 15.75 percent of the stops made were black motorists. Blacks make up 14.6 percent of the population. The patrol says that's within norms.
Florida was one of the first states to start keeping traffic stop records. With the record keeping came sensitivity training for all troopers. Since the training began, there have been only two complaints of racial profiling. Both proved unfounded.
Even the ACLU agrees the training has made a difference.
Fears of racial profiling continue to block a tougher seat belt law. Opponents of the seat belt law say that police will use it to racially profile motorists, but supporters of the bill say that police already have all the tools they need to stop someone when they want to.
The seat belt legislation has already cleared the state House, but the Senate has pulled the bill over to the side of its agenda.
FHP is the only agency in Florida that keeps complete records of traffic stops. Legislation creating a statewide reporting system was derailed by local police and sheriff's agencies.
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