ACLU Expresses Strong Support for Landmark Racial Profiling Bill, Calls it Best Chance Yet to End National Disgrace

June 6, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today joined with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and law enforcement officials from across the country in pledging support for landmark legislation designed to do away with the national disgrace of racial profiling.

“The federal government should be the advance guard, not a late arrival, in protecting Americans of color from the threats of racially or ethnically prejudiced law enforcement,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office. “We urge President Bush to do the right thing and put the full weight of the White House behind passing this bipartisan legislation.”

Introduced at a news conference this morning, the “End Racial Profiling Act of 2001” would be the most comprehensive measure to date regarding this issue. The bill defines and prohibits racial profiling on local, state, and federal levels, provides legal recourse for victims, and mandates the collection of data to quantitatively determine the extent of racial profiling. Unlike previous legislation, the bill would be particularly effective by tying prohibition and data collection to receipt of federal funds and by providing incentive grants to finance anti-racial profiling tools and activities.

Since the problem of racial profiling entered the public spotlight, the federal government has been sluggish in acting. However, supporters of the proposed legislation are heartened by the recent endorsement by Attorney General Ashcroft of federal data collection to determine the extent of the problem and statements by the Bush Administration calling for an end to the practice.

“Every day, all over the country, too many law enforcement officers identify citizens as criminals for no reason other than the color of their skin,” said Rachel King, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “In no uncertain terms, we say to Congress that it must act now to stop these practices.”

While many law enforcement agencies continue to deny the existence of racial profiling or to downplay its extent, others are embracing legislation to help end racial profiling. Speaking at today’s news conference, for example, were Sheriff Robert Ficano of Wayne County in Michigan who has instituted data collection in his county and Thomas V. Manahan, the Prosecutor of Union County in New Jersey.

“Racial profiling undermines the public’s trust in the criminal justice system, and that is why it is so important to directly and positively address the problem,” Manahan said.

Also present at today’s news conference to show support for the bill were Major Aaron Campbell from Miami Dade County, who was himself a victim of racial profiling and who wrote a book, “And Justice for Some,” and Rhode Island State Rep. Joseph Almeida, a former police officer who sponsored and won passage of strong racial profiling legislation in his state last year.

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