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Racial Profiling: It's Part Of The Traffic Stop, But Is Law Enforcement Taking It Too Far?

When Nebraska law enforcement makes a traffic stop, officers are required to identify the race or ethnicity of the person being stopped by checking a box on the ticket. But startling numbers from certain Nebraska counties indicate other forms of racial profiling may be alive and well within the state.
Whether we like it or not, race comes up in everyday life. And often, in something as simple as a traffic stop.

"Well, we're forced to racially profile due to the laws that regard the traffic stops," Chris Kleinberg, Dakota County, NE Sheriff.

Dakota County Sheriff Chris Kleinberg says though they have to, some law enforcement are not on board with the idea of racial profiling.

"In my opinion, I have an issue with that because it's a guessing game. I mean, it's like asking someone their religion or their sexual
orientation on a traffic stop. Or, 'what is your race'?" Sheriff Kleinberg said.

Although racial profiling is a part of the job in Nebraska, not everyone seems to be taking it beyond filling out their forms.

In Emerson, Nebraska for example, they make very few traffic stops.  But the town's police chief says one race is making up most of the stops.

"The majority of stops that we make are with white people. We do have a large Hispanic population around here but we do not seem to have
any problems as far as stopping more of them than white people," said Charles Chinn, Emerson, NE Police Chief.

In Dakota County, Nebraska their 2013 numbers show more than half the stops were white people, 30 percent were Hispanic. Those numbers do
closely match ethnic populations within the county, according to U.S. Census Data.

But that's not the case in some counties, where ethnic populations don't match up with traffic stop numbers. 

It's something the Nebraska ACLU is calling a statewide issue.

"Unfortunately, the data shows that people of color are more likely to be pulled over, have their car searched and arrested," says Tyler
Richard, Communications Director for the ACLU.

But Sheriff Kleinberg says there's more to it, though.  Since not everyone has their race listed on their driver's license, it's often
done with guesswork.

In the end, he believes law enforcement is making their stops based on traffic, not skin color.

"I don't know of any law enforcement officer that I've talked to, whether they've been in the business for a long time or not, that has
ever even suggested that because of skin color, they've made contact with this person," Sheriff Kleinberg said.

Check out the Traffic Stops in Nebraska Report here.

Population and ethnicity numbers used were provided with the latest U.S. Census numbers.
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