S. 1038 / H.R. 2581 WOULD CREATE A NATIONAL PROHIBITION AGAINST RACIAL PROFILING BY LAW ENFORCEMENT
The End Racial Profiling Act has now been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Cardin (MD) (S. 1038) and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI) (H.R. 2851). The End Racial Profiling Act comprehensively addresses the insidious practice of racial profiling by law enforcement on five levels: first, it clearly defines the racially discriminatory practice of racial profiling by law enforcement at all levels; second, it creates a federal prohibition against racial profiling; thirdly, it mandates data collection so we can fully assess the true extent of the problem; fourth, it provides funding for the retraining of law enforcement officials on how to discontinue and prevent the use of racial profiling; and fifth, it holds law enforcement agencies that continue to use racial profiling accountable. We need to urge Members of both the House and Senate to co-sponsor and help move the bill through to passage as soon as possible.
As painfully demonstrated over the past months, racial profiling is a serious problem in the United States, and can lead to deadly consequences. It is difficult for our faith in the American judicial system not to be challenged when we cannot walk down the street, drive down an interstate, go through an airport, or even enter into our own homes without being stopped merely because of the color of our skin. Training law enforcement officers how to more efficiently carry out the essential policing without avoid using this counter-productive procedure will not only help our nation’s criminal justice system at all levels, but it will trickle down to other groups as well, such as neighborhood watch organizations and citizens’ community groups, which often model themselves after their local police and which have taken on additional responsibilities in light of the budget cuts being faced by almost every locality and jurisdiction.
The majority of law enforcement officers are hard working men and women, whose concern for the safety of those they are charged with protecting is often paramount, even when their own safety is on the line. However, if and when even one of their colleagues engages in racial profiling, whether it be conscious or subconscious, the trust of the entire community can be, and will be, lost. Law enforcement agents should not endorse or act upon stereotypes, attitudes, or beliefs that a person’s race, ethnicity, appearance, religious affiliation, or national origin increases that person’s general propensity to act unlawfully.
Numerous studies have demonstrated over the past few years that racial profiling is all too prevalent throughout law enforcement today. One study has shown that approximately 72% of all routine traffic stops on an interstate in the Northeast occur with African American drivers despite the fact that African Americans make up only about 17% of the driving population. Another 2004 study showed that approximately thirty-two million Americans, a number equivalent to the population of Canada, report they have already been victims of racial profiling at some point. Other studies have shown similar disparities in stops and searches by federal, state and local law enforcement agents.
We need the End Racial Profiling Act to stop this insidious practice and to help begin to restore the confidence of communities of color throughout the United States in federal, state and local law enforcement and thus restore the necessary trust and integrity necessary to be effective. It is supported by numerous civil rights and civil liberties organizations, as well religious associations and most police unions of color.