(Chicago, IL) – Illinois lawmakers concerned about incomplete demographic profiles of arrestees have created a panel to develop a comprehensive system to collect and analyze police data.
On August 16, Governor Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 2271, which creates the Racial and Ethnic Impact Research Task Force. This panel will develop a method for the standardized collection and analysis of data on racial and ethnic identity of arrestees by law enforcement. The bill was sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) and State Representative LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago).
The panel came about following the recommendations of the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, a statewide, bipartisan group established in 2008 to examine the impact of Illinois drug laws on racial and ethnic groups. Through its independent research efforts, the Commission found gaps in relevant data that would allow for a comprehensive statistical analysis of the impact of these laws.
As an example of data gaps, 99 percent of Illinois State Police arrestees currently are classified as either Black or white, with unknown percentages of people of Latino or other ethnic origins.
“We know it’s essential for public policy to be built on data and research, not on anecdotes and intuition,” said Pamela Rodriguez, president of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC). “The absence of a standardized method to collect and analyze arrestee data impedes both a fair assessment of the extent of the problem and a rational basis for a sound solution to advance racial justice in Illinois.”
The new task force will also work on the development of a process that will provide Racial and Ethnic Impact Statements to state legislators. Such statements will provide a prospective analysis of the likely racial and ethnic identity of arrestees under any proposed future changes to the state’s criminal laws.
“I would like to congratulate Governor Quinn, Senator Hunter and Representative Ford for their leadership and support,” said Rodriguez.
In addition to Representative Ford, House sponsors included State Representatives Mary Flowers (D), Esther Golar (D), and André Thapedi (D).
The task force, which will be staffed by TASC’s Center for Health and Justice, will hold at least one public hearing and will provide a final report with policy recommendations to the Illinois General Assembly.
TASC, Inc. has a 35-year history of promoting social justice and providing alternatives to incarceration in Illinois. TASC’s Racial Justice Initiative, including dissemination of the findings of the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, has received generous support from The Chicago Community Trust.