Sorrell urges training against racial profiling

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(Host) A new report says that racial bias may be a factor in the arrests of African Americans in Vermont.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) The study was conducted by the Vermont Center for Justice Research at Norwich University. After reviewing eight years of police records, the center found a proportionately larger number of African Americans are arrested in Vermont compared to whites or other minorities. African American women, in particular, are more than twice as likely to be arrested. William Clements is executive director of the Center for Justice Research:

(Clements) “The major conclusion is the study suggests that we need to look a little further.”

(Zind) Clements says even though it’s inconclusive, the study suggests police should do more to combat possible racial bias. Attorney General William Sorrell agrees:

(Sorrell) “It certainly gives rise to the concern that there’s racial bias.”

(Zind) Sorrell says police officials are open to efforts to improve training to address racial concerns. Pending legislation calls for the state to study the issue of racial bias in law enforcement, but Sorrell thinks the issue should be addressed now.

(Sorrell) “We can sit back and put money into it and spend a few more years studying the problem, or we can address it more aggressively right now.”

(Zind) Sorrell points to a recent incident at the University of Vermont where a black female student was arrested and handcuffed at gunpoint, despite the fact police were told to look for a male suspect.

He says there’s no evidence of racial profiling in Vermont similar to what has happened in other states, where police targeted African Americans for traffic stops.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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