The ACLU Urges Members of Congress to Co-Sponsor and Support the End Racial Profiling Act of 2007

Document Date: January 16, 2008

December 10, 2007

The ACLU Urges Members of Congress to Co-Sponsor and Support the End Racial Profiling Act of 2007

Dear Member:

On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a non-partisan organization with hundreds of thousands of activists, members and 53 affiliates nationwide, we strongly urge you to co-sponsor the End Racial Profiling Act of 2007 (ERPA). Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Representative John Conyers (D-MI) will introduce ERPA on Wednesday, December 12th and we encourage you to sign on to the bill as an original co-sponsor.

Despite the efforts of some law enforcement agencies to address racial profiling within their departments and President Bush’s promise in 2001 to “end it in America,” the practice still persists today. If enacted, ERPA would prohibit any local, state or federal law enforcement agency or officer from engaging in the ineffective and un-American practice of racial profiling. ERPA is the crucial first step needed to effectively eliminate racial profiling. Racial profiling occurs when law enforcement rely on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion in selecting which individuals to subject to investigations. This practice not only violates our nation’s basic constitutional commitment to equality under the law, but it violates international principles aimed at eliminating racism.

ERPA would ban the practice of racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal funding to state and local police departments if they adopt policies to prohibit the practice. The legislation would also create an enforcement mechanism to ensure that anti-profiling policies are being followed and victims of profiling are able to report complaints against police officers. Federal law enforcement agencies would be required to collect demographic data on routine investigatory activities, develop procedures to respond to racial profiling complaints and develop policies to discipline officers who engage in the practice.

Every year, thousands of people of color experience the humiliation of being stopped while driving, flying or even walking simply because of their race, ethnicity or religion. They are not stopped because they have committed a crime, but because law enforcement authorities wrongly assume that they have already committed a crime, simply because of their appearance. Racial profiling has been proven to be an ineffective law enforcement tool. An April 2007 Department of Justice (DOJ) survey found that blacks and Hispanics are more than twice as likely as whites to be searched, arrested or threatened or subdued with force when stopped by police. Moreover, of those who had force used against them, 83 percent felt that the force was excessive.[1] A 2005 DOJ survey found that “hit rates”—the discovery of contraband or evidence of other illegal conduct—among minorities stopped and searched by the police are lower than those for whites who are stopped and searched. [2]

Racial profiling has become more pervasive over the past few years, particularly within the Muslim, South Asian and Arab American communities. The widespread use of racial profiling by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies is well documented. A September 2004 report by Amnesty International indicates that one in nine Americans has been victimized by racial profiling- a total of 32 million people nationwide.[3] Data collected in New Jersey, Maryland, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, New York and Massachusetts show that African-Americans and Latinos are being stopped for routine traffic violations in excess of their representation in the population or even the rate at which such populations are accused of criminal conduct.[4] Despite all this evidence, most states have not enacted laws to ban or curb racial profiling.

Racial profiling undermines the trust between the police and the communities they serve and deepens racial rifts in America, fueling the belief by people of color that the criminal justice system and national security policies are unfair. Racial profiling undermines the respect and trust between law enforcement and communities of color that is essential to successful police work—sending the message that some citizens do not deserve equal protection under the law. Police organizations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the world’s oldest and largest nonprofit membership organization of police executives, recognize that racial profiling is ineffective; the IACP has adopted a resolution condemning the practice. Most Americans also reject racial profiling; according to a 2004 Gallup poll, more than half of Americans believed that racial profiling was pervasive and unjust.[5]

Without a comprehensive federal law that includes a strong enforcement and oversight mechanism, racial profiling will continue to plague our communities and our citizens. Federal legislation is key to ending racial profiling in this country. Your co-sponsorship and support are crucial to passing the End Racial Profiling Act of 2007. If you have any question about the ACLU’s support of ERPA, please feel free to contact Jesselyn McCurdy at phone: (202)675-2314 or e-mail:


Caroline Fredrickson
ACLU Washington Legislative Office

Jesselyn McCurdy Legislative Counsel
ACLU Washington Legislative Office

[1] U.S. Department of Justice, Contacts Between Police and the Public: 2005, Office of Justice Programs Special Report (2005).

[2] U.S. Department of Justice, Contacts Between Police and the Public: Findings from the 2002 National Survey, Office of Justice Programs, iv (2005).

[3] Amnesty International, Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling, Domestic Security, and Human Rights in the United States (2004).

[4] Id.

[5] Darren K. Carlson, Racial Profiling Seen as Pervasive, Unjust, (July 20, 2004).