ACLU Applauds Senate Reintroduction Of Racial Profiling Bill, Urges Congress To Finally Pass Comprehensive Legislation Next Year

December 19, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Noting that the corrosive practice of racial profiling has continued despite President Bush’s promise in 2001 to “end it in America,” the American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the reintroduction of the “End Racial Profiling Act” (ERPA) in the Senate late Friday and urged congressional leaders to co-sponsor this important bill and place its enactment at the top of their 2006 legislative agenda.

“Despite widespread condemnation of racial profiling by leaders from across the political spectrum, including the President, previous attempts to pass a comprehensive federal ban have not moved forward,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “It’s time for our leaders to back up their professed indignation with concrete steps to end this offensive and ineffective law enforcement practice. Singling out people for police scrutiny based on their race, ethnicity, national origin or religion does nothing to make us safer, but does a great deal to deepen racial rifts in America.”

An April 2005 Department of Justice survey found that blacks and Hispanics are roughly three times as likely as whites to be searched, arrested, or threatened or subdued with force when stopped by police. A September 2005 report by Amnesty International indicates that one in nine Americans has been victimized by racial profiling- a total of 32 million people nationwide. Nonetheless, 27 states have enacted no law to ban or curb racial profiling.

ERPA was introduced in the House and Senate in 2001 and 2004 and both times languished in committee without ever receiving an up-or-down vote. If enacted, ERPA would prohibit any local, state, or federal law enforcement agency or officer from engaging in racial profiling. It would make efforts to eliminate the practice a condition of law enforcement agencies receiving federal money. ERPA would institute a meaningful enforcement mechanism to ensure that anti-profiling policies are being followed. Law enforcement agencies would be required to collect demographic data on routine investigatory activities, develop procedures to respond to racial profiling complaints and craft policies to discipline officers who engage in the practice. ERPA also would provide victims of racial profiling with the legal tools to hold law enforcement agencies accountable.

“Racial profiling has undermined the respect and trust between law enforcement and communities of color, which is essential to successful police work,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Jesselyn McCurdy. “It sends the message that some citizens do not deserve equal protection under the law. Without a comprehensive federal law that includes a strong enforcement and oversight mechanism, our national dialogue on racial profiling will remain just that — a lot of talk.”

To learn more about racial profiling, read the ACLU report “Sanctioned Bias” at:
/safefree/resources/17017pub20040226.html

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