New racial profiling measure could clash with U.S. program

Early this year, Connecticut became one of the first states to adopt a federal program that helps law enforcement agents deport illegal immigrants more easily.

But when the state legislature approved a new measure prohibiting racial profiling by police departments, that inadvertently set up a clash with the federal program.

The federal measure, Secure Communities, calls for an effort between local and federal officials to share information, such as fingerprints, to help identify illegal immigrants jailed in the United States.

At Thursday’s first meeting of the Racial Profiling Prohibition Advisory Board since the state measure passed, board members, including the state’s criminal justice policy chief, Michael P. Lawlor, discussed how to work within the federal law.

“A lot of the drama surrounding the new federal initiative … deals with police decisions on the ground,” Lawlor said.

“Whether or not the fact that every arrestee’s fingerprints are going to be sent to the FBI and ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] would potentially provide an incentive” to target individuals who appear to be Hispanic, Lawlor said.

Lawlor, an East Haven native, said this issue was a central theme for the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation of racial profiling by East Haven police earlier this year. They could empirically show that police were stopping Latinos at a much higher rate than others, Lawlor said.

“In part, the theory was that would allow them, the police, to call ICE and hopefully result in some people being taken into custody,” he said.

Lawlor said that he hopes this concern remains in the forefront as the new advisory board continues to work on a way to develop a new method targeting profiling by local police departments.

— Nicholas Rondinone