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Calif. Racial Profiling Board Meets Amidst National Police Violence

California DOJ / Courtesy

State Attorney General Kamala Harris swears in new members at the first meeting of the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board on July 8, 2016.

California DOJ / Courtesy

State lawmakers created the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board last year, in response to a rash of shooting deaths of unarmed black men by police officers. Its first meeting Friday comes after two other police shootings gained national attention, and then five officers died from sniper fire in Dallas Thursday night.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris had an emotional introduction. "I have to tell you my heart is breaking," she said. "As a prosecutor, my heart is breaking. As the top law enforcement officer of the state, and as a black woman."

Before swearing in the board members, Harris referenced the high-profile deaths of two black men killed by police this week, and the five officers gunned down last night in Dallas.

She added that the conversation about how to stop the violence is often wrong. "We have to reject it — a false choice that suggests that this is either about the protection of the lives of police officers or the protection of black lives," Harris said. "What we must do as a community is say that we are going to be in the business of the protection of all of those lives.""

State lawmakers created the board as part of a law that requires police and sheriffs to track the stops they make, including the race of the person.

The board has until December to recommend new regulations for how police will collect data about stops, including time, place, reason and race. Harris said, then, the board’s job is to get at the hard truth of why these shootings continue to occur.

"There’s not a black man I know who has not been the subject of profiling or an unreasonable or unfair stop," Harris said.

Law enforcement groups opposed the law that created the board, but sheriffs, CHP and police officers are sitting on it with community advocates and attorneys.