Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Cooley Declares Opposition to Proposition 54; Says Measure Is Vague, Needs More Exemptions
By a MetNews Staff Writer
By a MetNewsStaff Writer
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley yesterday urged voters to reject Proposition 54 next Tuesday.
The proposal, whose proponents have dubbed it the Racial Privacy Initiative, “has the potential of undermining law enforcement, harming our ability to provide public safety,” the district attorney said in a statement.
The initiative would largely restrict the ability of state and local agencies to collect racial data. But according to its terms, it would not “prevent law enforcement officers, while carrying out their law enforcement duties, from describing particular persons in otherwise lawful ways” and would allow “ lawful assignment of prisoners and undercover law enforcement officers.”
Cooley, however, described the exemption language as vague, predicting “years of litigation” to clarify it if the measure becomes law. The district attorney also noted that the state Department of Justice is not exempt.
“The measure would restrict DOJ from performing a core responsibility, i.e. analyzing, tracking and reporting on various crimes, including hate crimes,” the district attorney wrote. “Many annual crime reports would be prevented from capturing and compiling racial data related to homicides, hate crimes, juvenile justice and crime prevention. This would hamper legitimate law enforcement strategic planning and crime prevention programs.”
Cooley also commented that the content of initiatives “oftentimes has not had the benefit of the scrutiny and analysis usually afforded laws that have gone through the traditional legislative process.” The RPI, he said, “does not address an extraordinary situation that merits an initiative as the solution.”
Diane Schachterle, spokeswoman for the Yes on 54 campaign, disputed Cooley’s assertions.
“Proposition 54 will not make anyone unsafe,” she told the MetNews. “Law enforcement [officers] will be able to do their jobs.”
While acknowledging that the initiative “will go through a process of interpretation,” Schachterle said the exemptions were clear and that the initiative “will not hamper the prosecution of hate crimes” or other types of crimes. She also challenged an assertion by Cooley that the measure is ambiguous with respect to whether crime suspects can be identified by race.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company