AUGUSTA – All law enforcement officers in Maine would be required to get training in cultural diversity and bias-based profiling in 2013 under guidelines endorsed by a committee that studied the issue.

The Advisory Committee on Bias-Based Profiling by Law Enforcement and Law Enforcement Agencies was formed in 2009 after a bill to ban profiling was introduced in the Legislature.

Committee members reported back to the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Thursday, recommending training for police officers, a public symposium later this year, and mandatory policies adopted by local police departments.

The bill did not stem from any particular incident, but came about because of federal efforts to ban racial profiling, said Rachel Talbot Ross, president of the Portland branch of the NAACP.

Also, she and others — including Latino advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine — were hearing anecdotal evidence that police in Maine were targeting people because of their race, she said.

No data exists to prove — or disprove — that police in Maine have unfairly targeted minority groups.

Public Safety Commissioner John Morris, who served on the advisory committee with Talbot Ross, said it would be too expensive to gather such data statewide.

Police departments across Maine do not use the same computer systems, with at least 12 vendors providing records management.

Talbot Ross said police in Lewiston and Cumberland County cities including Westbrook would like to participate in a pilot program to begin gathering data about who is being stopped and arrested. But there is no money to pay for it, she said.

Bias-based profiling is defined as stopping, detaining, searching or seizing based on “race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, age or cultural group rather than solely on an individual’s conduct and behavior or specific suspect information.”

Some police reports now list ethnic groups, and some do not. Talbot Ross said it’s difficult for police to ask someone’s ethnicity because it would enhance the perception that police are biased.

“Unless you’re asking every white person what her race is, you can’t justify asking Blanca Santiago what her race is,” she said.

Santiago, a member of the advisory committee, said recent raids on restaurants by federal immigration officials renewed concern in her community about police conduct.

“If I have a car accident, am I going to be treated differently?” she said. “It’s the idea that crime can’t be reported.”

Law enforcement officials who served on the committee said they are concerned about the perception that not everyone is treated the same.

“We can’t serve the people’s needs unless we overcome the perceptions that are out there,” said Doug Bracy, who represents the Maine Chiefs of Police Association.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at

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