Tennessee bill would mandate law enforcement policy against profiling

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Tennessee state lawmakers are weighing in on police profiling after a bill sponsored by State Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown.

"Our police officers and Sheriff's Deputies need to be fully trained on insuring that they are not racial profiling on their jobs," Kelsey,  a Republican from Germantown, said.

The Racial Profiling Prevention Act makes it mandatory that state law enforcement agencies adopt a written policy against racial profiling by employees, including detaining, stopping, or treating someone differently based on race, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

The law was first introduced in Tennessee back in 2008 and was only a recommendation; now it would be a mandate.

"What spurred me to really start thinking about this issue again since we haven't visited it since six years ago was seeing the different perspectives we have seen among African-Americans and White-Americans, and their reaction to what's taking place in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere," Kelsey said.

The law would apply to all law enforcement agencies, including those on college campuses.

"It's like getting pulled over just for driving while black. There have been instances where I have been pulled over," University of Memphis senior Lawrence Matthews said.  "Having the law may protect people who are victims of this. Then they can have somewhere to go to."

"Especially with what's going on in Ferguson right now you cannot sit there and differentiate between people. That's not fair," University of Memphis freshman Jacquelyn Joosse said.

The bill comes as protests around the country and in Memphis continue.

Tennessee Representative John DeBerry, a co-sponsor, said it's not about singling out police departments, but making sure the law is clear.

"Before someone says the laws weren't clear, before someone says I didn't understand how I was supposed to do it, let's make sure we absolutely spell out the way we want citizens of Tennessee to be treated," DeBerry said.

The Memphis Police Department says it already has a policy against racial profiling.

Still, there are many agencies that don't.

Senator Kelsey says some agencies didn't agree with the policy when it was recommended back in 2008 because they didn't think it was needed.

With everything going on in the country right now, he hopes the reaction will be different this time.

This time the law will be mandated. The bill goes before the legislature when it reconvenes in January.

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