A PILOT EDITORIAL - Diversity & police

Wednesday, January 10, 2001

A proposal by Storm Lake Police Chief Mark Prosser for the city to pass a resolution against discriminatory actions is largely symbolic - we believe the police are already doing an exceptional job to serve all nationalities fairly - but it is also a welcome idea.

In a community that has become ethnically diverse as quickly as Storm Lake has, it would be disasterous to have any public perception that one race was being treated any better or worse than any other by police or other city departments.

Passing an anti-discriminatory resolution to be applied to itself not only indicates that we do not have that divisive condition, but that we as a diverse community are prepared to take a leadership role in equity issues. Just as we were prepared early in the diversification process to be the state's leaders by adding multilingual community service officers to the force...

A resolution also means that we are willing to accept the scrutiny that goes with leadership.

Racial profiling - identifying and treating people of one appearance differently than others - is a key concern nationally. A few very ugly incidents involving police in large urban cities on both coasts show that the concern is not an empty one.

In past years, Storm Lake police have as part of an annual report kept stats on arrests by ethnic group, including caucasians. That practice has in fact served primarily to illustrate that despite some public perceptions, no one ethnic group in Storm Lake is responsible for crime. All groups seem to err at about the rate of their slice of the population pie. Every nationality has had its good, its bad, and its indifferent, in our experience.

Police plan to begin tracking public contacts with all the races on services not involving a crime report as well. This is not racial profiling, but a way to ensure that officers are meeting the needs of a diverse community.

If it seems Storm Lake is holding itself to a higher standard, well, what's wrong with that?