(Host) For the past six months, police officers in four Chittenden county communities have been recording the race of each person they stop for a traffic violation.
Their efforts are part of a community and law enforcement collaboration called Uncommon Alliance.
The group formed four years ago, and back in January worked with police chiefs from Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski and the University of Vermont to begin collecting data.
Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition, South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple said police eventually will be able to combat even a perceived bias if officers record their perceptions of someone’s race.
(Whipple) "We now will have that data available, so that we can go back to that stop, we can look at the officer’s notes, at their documentation about why did you stop that individual, what was the outcome of that stop, and then we can look at all the activity of that officer to say, is there an ongoing problem? Is there something we need to address? Or is it a perceived problem?"
(Host) Christine Longmore says racial profiling is a problem in Vermont.
She’s one of the founding members of Uncommon Alliance, and says she wanted the group to find a way to go beyond just talking about the issue.
(Longmore) "This group as itself certainly isn’t going to be able to eliminate the societal problem of racism, but we have to create tools to be able to use, and if we’re going to ask the police chiefs or the criminal justice system to be accountable, we have to have some sort of tool to use." (18 seconds)
(Host) Vermont’s Director of Human Rights, Robert Appel, supports the group. He says he sees Uncommon Alliance as a pilot project for the entire state, and he hopes similar programs will eventually begin throughout Vermont.