Racial profiling is an ineffective and discriminatory policing practice that must stop, civil liberties advocates said today at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
Following a hearing on racial profiling called by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, victims of racial profiling joined members of Congress, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Rights Working Group and the NAACP to call for federal action to ban racial profiling, including passage of the End Racial Profiling Act and reform of the U.S. Department of Justice’s racial profiling guidance.
“Recent national events — including the lack of police investigation in the Trayvon Martin case, the slew of state anti-immigrant laws, and the post-9/11 intelligence gathering and racial mapping of Arab Muslims and South Asians — underscore why we must stop racial profiling in America,” said American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, who also testified at the hearing. “Racial profiling allows law enforcement to use stereotypes when making critical decisions about people's freedoms. It's time we ask, do we want our law enforcement to make decisions based on racial stereotypes, or do we want them to do effective police work?”
Bonita Rhodes-Berg, an African-American grandmother who settled a civil rights lawsuit involving the Drug Enforcement Administration after she was racially profiled while flying, discussed how being profiled affected her.
Also speaking at the press conference was Tiburcio Briceno, a U.S. citizen of Mexican origin who was stopped by Michigan State Police for an alleged traffic violation and handcuffed to await the arrival of a Customs and Border Patrol officer despite his protests that he was a citizen.
Elizabeth Dann, a Muslim New York University law student who was placed under surveillance by the New York Police Department in its effort to monitor where Muslims, eat, shop and pray despite constitutional protections against monitoring religious activities that aren’t tied to any criminal activity.
“We join those frustrated and angered by the serious problem of racial profiling in the call for prompt federal action to ban racial profiling through federal legislation,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Rights Working Group. “In addition, we call on Attorney General Eric Holder to reform the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2003 guidance on racial profiling.”
“Racial profiling has been proven to be an ineffective law enforcement practice,” said Huang. “But, equally important, it continues to degrade and dehumanize millions, particularly people of color, based on who they are and what they look like. Discrimination by law enforcement is unconstitutional and out of step with the nation’s highest moral values.”
“Racial Profiling undercuts the necessary perception of trust and integrity between law enforcement and the communities it serves, and as such it reduces the effectiveness of both crime prevention and solving them when they occur,” said Hilary Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau & Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Policy. “The End of Racial Profiling Act provides a data-based approach to law enforcement, necessary to stop and prevent the awful scourge that has resulted in the distrust between communities and the law enforcement officers and agencies sworn to protect and serve them, ” he said. “If passed, this bill also provides a more efficient and effective approach to law enforcement, which is crucial to the agencies’ success during this era of scarce resources. ”
The End Racial Profiling Act, introduced in the Senate in October and the House in December, has received bipartisan support and would: prohibit the use of profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity or national origin; create a private right of action for victims of profiling; mandate that the attorney general submit periodic reports to Congress on any ongoing discriminatory policing practices by federal, state and local law enforcement; and allow the attorney general to provide grants to law enforcement based on implementation of best policing practices while withholding grants from law enforcement agencies that fail to comply with the Act.
“Racial profiling is not and never will be effective,” said Wade Henderson, president and chief executive officer of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “When law enforcement relies on bias over evidence to protect us against crime and terror, it turns American justice on its head, subverts our Constitution, and ultimately makes us all less safe.”
Advocates at the press conference also called on Attorney General Eric Holder to revise the DOJ’s racial profiling guidance to eliminate loopholes for national security and border security while prohibiting profiling based on national origin and religion.
In addition, to the hearing and press conference, advocates, and victims of racial profiling will meet with senators and members of the House of Representatives and their staffs tomorrow to ask for support of federal action to ban racial profiling. The meetings and press conference were all part of National End Racial Profiling Advocacy Week.
Durbin chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights has prepared a letter with signatures from senators urging Holder to move forward with revising the racial profiling guidance.