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SPLC report: Louisiana law enforcement agencies must collect, publish data on police activity

The state of Louisiana and its law enforcement agencies have failed to comply with Louisiana law requiring data collection and publication on traffic stops, according to a report that the SPLC released today.

The report, “Police and Data Collection: Why Louisiana Needs Reform,” analyzes the nearly universal disregard among Louisiana law enforcement agencies for keeping mandatory records on traffic stops. These records should include the number of stops made, demographics of the people who are stopped, the nature of the alleged traffic violations, and the results of the stops.

“Law enforcement agencies are responsible for enforcing and upholding our laws, but for the last 17 years they have blatantly disregarded a law that mandates data reporting,” said Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “It is time to require data collection, so we can hold Louisiana’s law enforcement and state officials accountable and bring transparency to policing efforts.”

A law that the Louisiana Legislature passed in 2001 requires law enforcement agencies to collect data on traffic stops, and to report data on those stops that result in citations to state officials. It also requires the state of Louisiana to publish annual data. The law exempts agencies that have policies against racial profiling from having to collect and publicize the data. However, there are no standards for such racial profiling policies.  

In September, the SPLC released, “Racial Profiling in Louisiana: Unconstitutional and Counterproductive,” a report that analyzed the lack of detailed racial profiling policies at law enforcement agencies across the state.

The SPLC made requests to 331 law enforcement agencies in Louisiana to identify which ones have policies against racial profiling. Of those, 201 agencies responded. Among the agencies that responded, 109 reported that they had no policy on racial profiling and are therefore required to collect traffic citation data, according to the report.

The SPLC made additional requests to those 109 agencies regarding their compliance with data collection; 87 responded. Of those, only two – Forest Hill and Grosse Tete police departments – submit traffic citation data to the state, but not to the department listed in the 2001 statute, the report found. Despite its legal obligation to do so, the Department of Public Safety and Corrections has never written an annual report on traffic citation data. The department claims that no Louisiana law enforcement agency has ever submitted the data required by law, according to the report.

“We should require data collection of all agencies – regardless of their policies,” said Jamila Johnson, senior supervising attorney for the SPLC. “Comprehensive data collection would give Louisiana a valuable resource that could reduce crime, save tax dollars, promote professional police work, and build trust between communities and law enforcement. Without data, agencies are operating blind and the public is left in the dark.”

The SPLC’s report includes recommendations for the state legislature and law enforcement agencies. The recommendations include requiring comprehensive data collection and publication on police activities – including but not limited to traffic stops – creating standardized forms for data collection, the purchase of equipment that would enhance law enforcement agencies’ data collection capabilities, and the enactment of penalties for departments that fail to comply with the law.