New Virginia law requires racial questions to be asked at traffic stop

New Virginia law requires racial questions to be asked at traffic stop
Police officer filling out a form. (Source: WHSV)

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — New laws went into effect across the commonwealth Wednesday; one will help shed light on whether certain groups are targeted by police.

Through House Bill 1250, also known as the Community Policing Act, law enforcement across the state are required to record information about a driver’s race, ethnicity, age, and gender during a traffic stop.

The purpose is to stop law enforcement from engaging in bias-based profiling while performing their jobs.

52nd District Delegate Luke Torian said when he introduced the bill earlier this year he had hoped it would help determine if there even is an existence of bias when profiling drivers through data.

“We don’t want to be involved and there be accusations of bias-based policing,” Torian said. “So we want to get rid of that impression and inception that that’s out there and one of the ways to do that is to collect the data.”

The data collected from officers will later be entered into a community policing reporting database. The information will then later be reviewed by the Department of Criminal Justice Services.

“After the data is collected and analyzed the reports are given to the attorney general, to the governor, and members of the General Assembly,” Torian stated.

Most of the information required through the law can be found on a driver’s license. Virginia State Police told WHSV the information filled out will be based on an officer’s observation.

Some information like your ethnicity is not included on a license and may be asked by an officer to someone who is pulled over. You do not have to answer the officer if asked the question but the officer does need to record it.

Torrian says this is just another barrier to protect drivers and officers: “It’s all about providing protection for not only those who have been stopped by law enforcement but for law enforcement as well. This law is going to be helpful to all of us.”

Each local law enforcement agency is also required to report to Virginia State Police the number of complaints the agency receives alleging the use of excessive force.

“I think this law is coming right at quite an appropriate time given what the climate has been over the last few weeks across the nation,” Torrian said.

The law requires the Department of Criminal Justice Services to present the information gathered starting July 1, 2021.

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