Racial-profiling bill caught in Assembly political feud

Black senators vote down Rawlings-sponsored law

April 07, 2000|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

A bill designed to crack down on the use of racial profiling by police officers is caught in the middle of a growing feud between a powerful black delegate from Baltimore and a group of black senators.

The legislation, backed by Baltimore Del. Howard P. Rawlings, was voted down 6-4 by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee yesterday at the urging of Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV of Baltimore.

Mitchell said a majority of the nine black senators had decided to add the provisions of the racial-profiling bill to a different measure with a different sponsor, a slap at Rawlings.

Bill `at great risk'

"It's putting the bill at great risk," said Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "I think it's regrettable that the senators are playing games over there with something as important as how the police relate to the black community."

Rawlings' racial-profiling bill, which had passed the House, would have required local police agencies to keep detailed records of each traffic stop, including information about the driver's race, and submit them to the University of Maryland, College Park for analysis.

Senators said the measure would be incorporated into a different racial-profiling bill to be voted on today by the Judicial Proceedings Committee. If approved, the bill would have to pass the Senate and the House before the legislative session ends Monday.

The legislative maneuvering reflects a simmering dispute between Rawlings and black senators from Baltimore over Morgan State University. Rawlings riled senators last year by trying to start a performance audit of the school, and the issue carried over into budget negotiations last week.

Rawlings assailed

Monday night, city senators Clarence W. Blount and Nathaniel J. McFadden made the feud public on the Senate floor. McFadden, in particular, blistered Rawlings before a final vote on the state budget.

"Unfortunately we have to air our dirty laundry with a gentleman who thinks he is the emperor of the African-American community for the entire state of Maryland, the city of Baltimore, Prince George's County and anywhere there are more than two or three African-American senators assembled," McFadden said. He added that his "consternation" with Rawlings dates to last summer.

"It's alleged that the chairman of the Appropriations Committee runs roughshod in the House of Delegates," McFadden said. "The African-American senators want to make it clear that his power does not extend to this chamber."

Yesterday, McFadden was grinning broadly as he discussed the plan to pass a racial-profiling bill without Rawlings' name on it. Asked whether the senators were sending a message to Rawlings, he laughed and said, "Can't we all get along?"

Rawlings hinted that he could retaliate if he wanted to, but then said he was above the "childish games" of the senators.

"It moves beyond a disagreement over Morgan, and it focuses on me personally, which I can't understand. Some of my friends think it's jealousy," he said. "I think it's outrageous, and it's not in keeping with the dignity and the decorum of the Senate."

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