South Carolina keeps data on 2 million traffic stops a year but doesn't crunch the numbers to get information that would help determine how much racial profiling takes place at those traffic stops.
That was one of many observations made Thursday night by about dozen people at a Columbia Urban League-sponsored meeting on racial profiling.
"We have a law in place that is not being enforced," said Brett Bursey, head of the S.C. Progressive Network.
The two-hour meeting at the Richland County courthouse drew about 40 people. Panelists included: S.C. Public Safety Department director Mark Keel; SLED director Reggie Lloyd; FBI special agent Mike Beauford; Richland County Sheriff's chief deputy Dan Johnson; and Columbia Police Chief Tandy Carter. Columbia mayoral candidate Steve Morrison also attended.
The meeting sparked wide-ranging discussion of racial profiling - from attendees' painful anecdotes of being profiled to legal definitions of racial profiling. Most comments concerned black people being singled out inappropriately for traffic stops and the way in which sensitive law enforcement situations were handled by police officers - white and black.
Racial profiling is "the inappropriate use of race as a targeting mechanism" in investigations, said USC School of Law professor Josie Brown. Yet in certain situations, such as at national borders, officials might be justified in using race and ethnicity as key elements in determining whether someone is worthy of further investigation, Brown said.
SLED chief Lloyd said it's not profiling to question associates of suspected criminals, even if everyone who ends up being questioned is black.
"You can't ask for law enforcement to be deaf, dumb and blind," Lloyd said.
Responding to an assertion that attention to racial profiling issues "waxes and wanes," one citizen said for victims of profiling, "It never wanes for us."