ISS: take action against racial profiling

By Sky Opila

The Illinois Student Senate released a report about racial profiling within the three police departments on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

The report, available online at www.iss.uiuc.edu/rights, addressed issues students expressed during a town hall meeting last spring. After hearing concerns, the ISS created a task force that explored racial profiling and how each of the three major police departments works against it.

“We created a task force made up of a handful of people we picked that had posed initial interest through volunteering,” said Ryan Ruzic, student body co-president.

In addition to contacting police departments, the task force also explored the Illinois Department of Transportation report. This report documents people who have been pulled over, their racial background, car type and many more details, Ruzic said.

“Although police departments have training about diversity, students must feel that they need to take it more seriously if they see it as a persistent problem,” he said.

Alan Tangney, junior in Communications, said he feels students need to have knowledge of their rights so they know how to act in a situation where one may be subjected to racial profiling.

“Racial profiling should not be happening, at least students who are knowledgeable about their rights will know how to act and file complaints when they are being wronged,” Tangney said.

There are many plans to raise awareness about how students should react in situations of racial profiling, according to the ISS report. The report offers ideas such as third party police review boards, informational Web sites and aggressive student rights campaigns.

“We have been working on plans to distribute cards to students about how to react to police confrontations, as well as, plans to distribute door hangers that will give students the chance to see their exact rights when it comes to police activity,” Ruzic said.

Hassen Al-Shawaf, student rights co-chair, said these plans have already gone into action.

“We have already sent the cards to the printer and started making plans to distribute door hangers in dorms,” Al-Shawaf said.

Police review boards are an aspect of the ISS report still in development. The boards would allow some civilian representation to review cases of discrimination and other problematic cases. The Urbana and University police departments have been very receptive to the idea of a review board, Al-Shawaf said.

“The Urbana Council has been very supportive,” said Jennifer Walling, graduate student senator for the ISS. “The mayor has appointed people to a task force that hopes to create a police review board once all the details have been gathered.”

The ISS is currently working on a referendum for a University police review board based on student response.

“We are trying to get a ballot out to see if students feel it would be a good idea to have a complaint and policy review board,” Walling said.

The ISS will create a plan to find out exactly how and when racial profiling exists, Al-Shawaf said.

“Since there is no written documentation, this process will allow us to better establish how big of a problem this is,” Al-Shawaf said. “From there, we can develop a plan of action and make a major improvement to the situation.”

Amanda Lerner, freshman in Business, said she feels the ISS plans are beneficial to everyone.

“The University of Illinois has a pretty diverse campus,” Lerner said. “Increasing awareness is never a bad thing and everyone can benefit from it.”

Ruzic said he feels the actions this report takes on are vital to giving students knowledge of their exact rights.