Robey tackles racial profiles

Executive plans dialogue with black leaders

A `landmark' effort

October 20, 1999|By Larry Carson and Kris Antonelli | Larry Carson and Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

In an attempt to prevent racial profiling incidents involving Howard County police, County Executive James N. Robey is to announce today what he calls a "landmark" effort to talk about the touchy subject with African-American leaders.

"We think there's a problem [generally] in law enforcement," said Robey, a former county police chief, about his perception of racial profiling, although he said he's not reacting to any specific incident in Howard County.

He and county Police Chief Wayne Livesay have scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m. today in Ellicott City with the Rev. John L. Wright of the First Baptist Church of Guilford to talk about ways to improve community understanding of the issue.

"Racial profiling does happen in Howard County, just like it happens across the rest of the country," said Wright, a civil rights activist.

"Things have gotten worse and there is a double standard in society -- police can stop you for anything."

Wright said he hopes that the community outreach initiative will provide residents an "opportunity to raise their concerns about police performance."

Howard County police union Vice President Pfc. Dan Besseck said Livesay has made it clear to officers that he will not tolerate racial profiling. He spoke about the ills of racial profiling for about an hour during police training sessions over the past few months, Besseck said.

"He said he will take appropriate actions against officers who are caught doing it, including termination," Besseck said.

Besseck, a 13-year police veteran, said he cannot recall any complaints from the community about racial profiling.

He said Livesay told officers he is looking for a more efficient method to track traffic stops so that department officials will be able to determine quickly how many minorities are stopped.

"Right now, there is no specific way to do that," he said. "They [department officials] have done a preliminary check through District Court records which found that the department is within an acceptable level. They did not find anything to suggest there was racial profiling going on."

Robey declined to explain his ideas before the conference, but said yesterday that it doesn't stem from any incidents in Howard County. "We want to be pro-active," he said. He said the idea for the community dialogue comes from conversations between him and Livesay.

Sun staff writer Jamal E. Watson contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 10/20/99

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