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Virginia Police Officers Will Now Ask Racial Questions At Traffic Stops
Policeman giving driver traffic citation - stock photo
Ariel Skelley via Getty Images

Anyone who gets pulled over in Virginia will now be subjected to a series of racial questions thanks to a new law called The Community Policing Act.

For years we have been told that asking about race is considered a microaggression — not exactly racist, but with racist undertones. Now police officers will be required to ask such questions each time they make a traffic stop in order to collect information to prove whether or not their department is racist.

WTOP reported that sheriffs, local police officers, and state police officers will now ask drivers about their race, ethnicity, and gender to compile data that will be used to determine if police departments disproportionately target certain groups.

The politician who sponsored the bill, Del. Luke Torian (D-Prince William County) told legislators while considering the bill that it would prohibit “law enforcement officers from engaging in bias-based profiling.”

“A similar law passed by the D.C. Council yielded data that led the ACLU of D.C. to issue a scathing report last month, claiming that Black people are disproportionately likely to be stopped in almost every police district in the nation’s capital,” WTOP reported. When black people were stopped by police, they were “more than six times as likely to undergo a pat-down or search of their person when compared to white people who were stopped,” the outlet reported on June 17.

In addition to asking information about drivers’ race, ethnicity, and gender, police officers will also have to record “the reason for the stop, the location, whether anyone was searched or arrested and whether a warning or citation was issued,” WTOP reported.

Police departments have already started issuing press releases in an attempt to warn drivers about the new questions. For example, Arlington, Virginia, released a statement on Tuesday explaining what would be asked during a traffic stop:

Members of the public should be aware of the new information collected, as it may involve the officer asking them additional questions on a traffic stop. On each stop conducted by a local law enforcement officer or State Police officer, the following information will be collected, based upon the officer’s observation or information provided to them by the driver:

  • Race, ethnicity, age and gender of the person stopped
  • The reason for the stop
  • The location of the stop
  • Whether a verbal warning, written citation or summons was issued or whether any person was arrested
  • If a verbal warning, written citation or summons was issued or an arrest was made, the violation or crime charged
  • Whether the vehicle or any person was searched

The data collected during traffic and investigatory stops will be reported to the Department of State and included in the Community Policing Reporting Database. Access to this database will be provided to the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) for the purpose of analyzing data to determine the existence and prevalence of the practice of bias-based policing and the prevalence of complaints alleging the use of excessive force. In addition to the reporting required by the Community Policing Act, the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility will continue to conduct internal audits on all allegations of misconduct and fully review and investigate incidents involving use of force.

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