High-Profile Senate Hearing Highlights Dangers of Racial Profiling; ACLU Urges Congress to Pass Comprehensive Ban

August 1, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Only days after President Bush called racial profiling “wrong in America,” the Senate today held a high-profile hearing on legislation that the American Civil Liberties Union said would deliver on the President’s commitment and comprehensively ban racial profiling.

“We are in full agreement with President Bush on this one,” said Rachel King, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “It is high time that Congress rectify this national disgrace and rid the nation of racial profiling.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Federalism and Property Rights held a hearing this morning to examine the “End Racial Profiling Act of 2001” (S. 989), generally considered to be the most thorough fix to racially and ethnically motivated law enforcement encounters to come down the pike in Congress.

The subcommittee heard from a number of high-octane witnesses, including: Dennis Archer, the Mayor of Detroit and the President of the National League of Cities; Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY); Sen. John Corzine (D-NJ); and Ronald Davis, Captain with the Oakland Police Department and representative of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

“The outcry against racial profiling is starting to swell and diversify,” King said. “For the first time since this issue has entered the public spotlight, members of the law enforcement community are beginning to join the opposition side of the debate. Their message is clear: racial profiling is unjust, unnecessary, un-American and just plain bad policing.”

The ACLU has long considered racial profiling, commonly defined as a law enforcement encounter initiated primarily on the basis of race or ethnicity, one of the most pressing criminal justice issues.

The End Racial Profiling Bill of 2001 would define and prohibit racial profiling on local, state, and federal levels, provide limited legal recourse for victims – not including monetary damages — and mandate 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.

“Racial profiling has been decried by the Administration, many in Congress and the general public as a particularly insidious form of police abuse,” King said. “The average person must be able to trust the police to prosecute their jobs without regard for the color of his or her skin.”

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