Pulled over in Virginia? Prepare to answer racial questions

Under a new law that takes effect Wednesday, police officers across Virginia will be required to ask racial questions about the driver every time they make a traffic stop.

The law is called “The Community Policing Act” and was passed during the General Assembly’s legislative session in March.

It applies to sheriffs, local police officers and state police officers.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince William County, the legislation will help shed light on whether certain groups of people are being disproportionately targeted by police stops.

“The Community Policing Act prohibits law enforcement officers from engaging in bias-based profiling,” Torian said during the legislative session.

A similar law passed by the D.C. Council yielded data that led the ACLU of D.C. to issue a scathing report last month, claiming that Black people are disproportionately likely to be stopped in almost every police district in the nation’s capital.

Under the Virginia law, officers will ask drivers about their race, ethnicity and gender.

Officers will need to record the reason for the stop, the location, whether anyone was searched or arrested and whether a warning or citation was issued.

Some departments are already trying to prepare drivers for the new questions.

“Members of the public should be aware of the new information collected, as it may involve the officer asking them additional questions on a traffic stop,” according to a news release from Arlington.

The new law requires each police agency to collect and report the number of complaints they receive alleging the use of excessive force.

Information collected through the law will go into a statewide database controlled by Virginia’s Department of Criminal Justice Services and will be shared annually in a report to the governor and Virginia General Assembly.

“The report shall include information regarding any state or local law-enforcement agency that has failed or refused to report the required data,” the legislation states.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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