January 25, 2008

RACIAL PROFILING HAS NO PLACE IN OUR SOCIETY

The use of racial profiling by law enforcement officials has become epidemic in some neighborhoods. While the vast majority of police officers discharge their duties with professionalism and without bias, there are some who use race, nationality or ethnic identity when deciding whom to stop or question.

 

A 2002 nationwide survey by the Department of Justice is very disturbing because it shows that young, male minorities were more than twice as likely to experience some type of police search once stopped than whites.   According to the study, 22% of young African-American males had either their vehicle or person searched after being stopped by police, compared to 17% who were Latino, and 8% who were white.   Subsequent to being stopped for speeding, African Americans and Hispanics were more likely than white drivers to receive a ticket.  

 

Another Justice Department study in 2005 showed that African Americans and Hispanics also were more likely than whites to be handcuffed and to be arrested once stopped.   The study also indicated that African-Americans and Latinos were three times more likely than whites to experience force or threat of force during a police stop.

 

Since 2003, the Maryland State Police (MSP) has been required to compile statistics on the race of the person stopped and must obtain written consent for voluntary searches of a person's vehicle.   This requirement was included as part of a 2003 federal court consent decree in response to repeated complaints of racial profiling against the MSP, and has been used to monitor the department.

 

The use of race, religion, national origin, or religion to determine who is stopped and searched has no place in 21 st Century America. I have cosponsored the End Racial Profiling Act of 2007 (S. 2481 ), which would prohibit the use of racial profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.   The bill would prohibit police officers from using race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion during investigatory activities, unless there is reliable information linking a person to an identified incident or scheme.

 

It also would require federal agencies, and state and local agencies that seek federal funding to implement policies and procedures to eliminate racial profiling.   Similar to the practices of the Maryland State Police, the bill authorizes the Attorney General to require federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to collect data in order to find and address specific cases of racial profiling.

 

Racial profiling is bad law enforcement.   It generates distrust of the police, undermining the ability of the police to fight crime and efforts to promote community policing and civilian cooperation with law enforcement.

 

Our nation was founded on the principles of equality, freedom and justice. Racial profiling is not in keeping with those principles, and it diverts scarce police resources from developing leads and other relevant information that could lead to the apprehension of criminals.  Racial profiling has no place in modern law enforcement and I am committed to ending its use.