Topeka — In a bid to reduce racial profiling, a 2005 state law required law enforcement agencies in Kansas to file annual reports of complaints of race-based traffic stops.
But only 147 of 431 agencies filed the required reports last year, or 34 percent.
Supporters of the law, such as Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison's office, say they have no way to force agencies to comply because there are no penalties or other enforcement powers included in the legislation.
"There's no hammer behind the law. No teeth in it," said Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, who was a sponsor of the anti-profiling bill. "It became the proverbial toothless paper tiger."
Missouri officials, on the other hand, have more tools, such as reporting noncomplying agencies to the governor and withholding state funding. In 2005, the state withheld $7,166 from 17 agencies that failed to turn in their annual traffic stop reports.
Last year, 97 percent of Missouri's 653 law enforcement agencies filed their required reports. Attorney General Jay Nixon reported nine of the noncomplying agencies to Gov. Matt Blunt.
The Kansas law was intended to spark community conversations about the threat posed by racial profiling. Besides the reports, it called for a 15-member Governor's Task Force on Racial Profiling to determine how serious the problem is in Kansas and recommend solutions.
But some are criticizing the group for moving too slowly in its young life - when it's able move at all. This summer, the group has struggled to get enough members together to conduct business and wasn't able to meet in June.
"Up until this point there's been a lot of dialogue, but the truth is, people are looking for action," said the Rev. Allen Smith of Salina, co-chairman of the task force.
"We're expecting some real results," Smith said. "I don't think the issue is going away."
'Time to move'
Sen. Donald Betts, D-Wichita, who also sponsored the legislation, said the group must provide the enforcement lacking in the law, developing a uniform way to collect profiling complaints and making recommendations to the Legislature.
Betts said he's frustrated by what he sees as a lack of progress and may push for new task force members by the end of the year.
"It does not take forever and a day to come with recommendations of data collection," he said. "It's time to stop talking about it and time to be about it. It's time to move. ... If the task force doesn't do something, I intend to hold the task force accountable."
The Kansas Human Rights Commission, which investigates instances of racial profiling, and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said they support the task force. It has until 2009 to complete its work.
"It may not seem to a lot of people that we're doing much, but we're taking baby steps. And that's important," said Danielle Dempsey-Swopes, task force administrator. "It's really slow going. There is so much distrust - both real and imagined - between the police and the public. You have to overcome the historic and stereotypic bias that everyone brings with them."
Four years ago, a study showed that state troopers on some Kansas highways were three times more likely to pull over black and Hispanic drivers than white drivers.
That and other instances have affected the perception of law enforcement for years.
"A lot of law officers just really want to know what the rules are," said Olathe Police Chief Janet Thiessen. "Having a standardized data collection too is a big part of what's needed. That's the linchpin to make this work."
Doyle King, executive director of the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, said the lack of reports is because many departments are wrongfully assuming that if they don't have any complaints of racial profiling, they don't have to file a report.
Morrison's office last month sent an e-mail to police and sheriff's offices, reminding them about the report and plans to make the reporting forms simpler.
The state task force plans to hire a full-time coordinator to help with awareness and conduct police training, but Dempsey-Swopes said it will take some time for Kansas to develop the same traffic stop database used by Missouri.
"That's where we're headed, but it's a long way and a lot of money off," she said. "I would say we're three years and $10 million off."