Governments gather data with noble outcomes in mind, but the information serves little public purpose unless it is carefully and thoughtfully analyzed.
That's why it is promising to see the Nebraska Legislature recognize some shortcomings in the state's collection of police-provided data on statewide traffic stops. More could and should be done.
Officers, by law, must record the race of each person they stop.
The information from those stops helps police departments and the Nebraska Crime Commission watch for signs of racial profiling, of traffic stops based solely or primarily on a driver's race.
Such profiling, when it occurs or people perceive it, plants negative seeds of suspicion toward police among law-abiding citizens. It hurts law enforcement credibility, so all parties have an interest in preventing or stopping the practice.
The state's data are limited in what they can relay. Right now, the information provides enough data so the Crime Commission's annual report on traffic stops in Nebraska can confirm that, when compared with their percentage of the population, nonwhite drivers are stopped more often than their white peers.
Not overly helpful.
So the Crime Commission and Legislative Bill 99's advocates, led by Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, are right to look for ways to do more with the data.
LB 99 would provide the Crime Commission needed flexibility to analyze the data or have it evaluated. It would let the commission delve deeper into traffic stop data that raise questions.
Those changes alone would take the annual report beyond confirmation of what people know and move it toward helping lawmakers and law enforcement improve the law and police procedures.
The bill also would require that all Nebraska police agencies adopt policies prohibiting racial profiling. For agencies that haven't taken that step, it is wise to let the Crime Commission create a model policy that promotes sound training on traffic stops in regard to race. It is right, too, to require lawyers and law enforcement to report allegations of profiling.
It is right as well to get rid of the sunset clause that would have ended collection of the traffic stop data. Not enough has been gleaned from it yet.
LB 99 would make significant improvements to current law. It would be a good next step toward giving Nebraska's traffic stops report the depth to effect changes that might be needed.