The Massachusetts Senate today voted in favor of a compromise bill to ban people from using handheld electronic devices while driving. Rahsaan Hall, racial justice program director at the ACLU of Massachusetts, today released the following statement in response to the bill:
“For decades, the ACLU has advocated to make roads and highways safer by collecting race data for all motor vehicle stops and ensuring equity in traffic enforcement. Without data on all stops, police departments cannot have a complete picture of their practices, and where reforms may be necessary. This version of the bill continues to require data collection only for the subset of traffic stops that result in a warning or citation, as required under current law.
"We appreciate that the bill creates new affirmative processes for the analysis and publication of the collected information in the aggregate, as well as public hearings to consider the findings. We hope these will be important steps toward increased understanding of racially disparate treatment in the Commonwealth, and we look forward to seeing the reports that are generated.
"At the same time, we are deeply concerned about the precedent set by provisions that impose new secrecy requirements on public records access that go well beyond protecting personally identifying information. Public information about ordinary government activity should not be treated like a state secret. In practice, we hope that EOPSS will facilitate maximum public access to this critical data, so we can collectively ensure public safety and equitable treatment for all drivers.
"The ACLU will continue to fight racial injustice and racial profiling, and to insist on transparency and accountability. To that end, we will be monitoring the implementation of this legislation and continuing to encourage a robust public conversation.”