Friday, June 21, 2019

Bill to Eliminate Profiling in Maine Now Law

Governor signs measure into law on Juneteenth Day, which observes the end of slavery in the United States

AUGUSTA – Bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Craig Hickman of Winthrop to prohibit profiling by law enforcement in Maine is now statute. Governor Janet Mills signed the measure into law Wednesday, coinciding with Juneteenth Independence Day, or Emancipation Day, which observes the end of chattel slavery in the U.S.

“We must prohibit profiling in order to maintain the confidence of Maine communities in our state and local law enforcement,” said Hickman. “Our faith in the American criminal justice system is challenged when we cannot walk down the street, drive down an interstate or go through an airport without being stopped merely because of the color of our skin or who we are perceived to be.”

The bill, LD 1475, prohibits stops, detentions, searches or asset seizures and forfeitures efforts based solely on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, socioeconomic status, age, national origin or ancestry by members of a law enforcement agency and requires anti-profiling training for law enforcement officers. The measure also directs the state attorney general to create a complaint process for people who believe they were profiled and to convene a group of stakeholders to explore techniques for the collection and compilation of profiling data.

Members of law enforcement, the Governor’s office, John Rogers, director of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, and Attorney General Aaron Frey worked with the Judiciary Committee and the bill’s sponsors in drafting the final language of the legislation. 

“A century and a half after the slaves of Galveston, Texas, finally received word that the Civil War had ended and they were free at last, Americans recognize Juneteenth as a symbolic milestone on our journey toward a more perfect union,” Hickman said. “I am proud and inspired that today the great state of Maine took another step on that journey by supporting liberty and justice for all.”

Hickman’s proposal builds on past efforts to eliminate bias-based profiling in the state. 

“Over the past decade, there has been a concerted effort to address racial disparities in our criminal justice system and profiling in particular,” said Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross of Portland, a cosponsor of the bill. “This measure codifies that work in Maine law and will allow all Maine children to grow up in a state that affirms their safety, dignity and humanity.”

The legislation received unanimous consent in both the House and the Senate on the way to Governor Mills’ desk. With her signature, Maine becomes the third state in New England and the 31st in the nation to prohibit profiling by law enforcement. The measure goes into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.