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Bill would ban racial profiling

A Florida legislator will introduce the bill this week, with help from the Maryland lawmaker who she says inspired it.

By ALISA ULFERTS

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001


TALLAHASSEE -- Frederica Wilson said she is tired of seeing her son stopped by police for no reason other than, apparently, the dark color of his skin.

So when she read last week about a visiting black lawmaker from Maryland who said he had been refused service in a Perry bar because he is black, Wilson, a state representative from Miami, decided she'd had enough.

Wilson intends to introduce a bill this week to outlaw racial profiling by police, and she's getting help from Talmadge Branch, the lawmaker whose experience in Perry inspired it.

"It doesn't matter who you are or what your status in life is, as long as you have the dark skin, you'll be categorized," said Wilson, D-Miami.

Branch, the head of Maryland's legislative black caucus, has sponsored similar legislation in Maryland. He drafted his bill after police stopped him while he was driving his Mercedes-Benz and asked why his car bore state delegate plates.

The answer was simple, Branch said he told police: He is an elected delegate.

Branch said Friday that he was happy to help Wilson with her bill, which will include a task force to study racial profiling.

"I'm grateful that this is coming to light," Branch said.

Meanwhile, an ongoing probe, ordered by Gov. Jeb Bush, will determine whether Perry Package, the bar Branch said refused to serve him, broke any laws.

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